The following is a conversation with Yaron Brook,
one of the best known objectivist philosophers
and thinkers in the world.
Objectivism is the philosophical system developed by Ayn Rand
that she first expressed in her fiction books,
The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged,
and later in nonfiction essays and books.
Yaron is the current chairman of the board
at the Ayn Rand Institute, host of the Yaron Brook Show,
and the coauthor of Free Market Revolution,
Equal is Unfair, and several other books
where he analyzes systems of government, human behavior,
and the human condition from the perspective of objectivism.
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As a side note, let me say that I first read Atlas Shrugged
and The Fountainhead early in college,
along with many other literary and philosophical works
from Nietzsche, Heidegger, Kant, Locke, Foucault,
Wittgenstein, and of course, all the great existentialists
from Kierkegaard to Camus.
I always had an open mind, curious to learn
and explore the ideas of thinkers throughout history,
no matter how mundane or radical
or even dangerous they were considered to be.
Ayn Rand was, and I think still is, a divisive figure.
Some people love her, some people dislike
or even dismiss her.
I prefer to look past what some may consider
to be the flaws of the person
and consider with an open mind the ideas she presents
and Jaron now describes and applies
in his philosophical discussions.
In general, I hope that you will be patient
and understanding as I venture out across the space of ideas
and the ever widening Overton window,
pulling at the thread of curiosity,
sometimes saying stupid things,
but always striving to understand
how we can better build a better world together.
If you enjoy this thing, subscribe on YouTube,
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or connect with me on Twitter at Lex Friedman.
And now, here’s my conversation with Jaron Rook.
Let me ask the biggest possible question first.
What are the principles of a life well lived?
I think it’s to live with thought,
that is to live a rational life, to think it through.
I think so many people are in a sense zombies out there.
They’re alive, but they’re not really alive
because their mind is not focused,
their mind is not focused on what do I need to do
in order to live a great life?
So too many people just go through the motions
of living rather than really embrace life.
So I think the secret to living a great life
is to take it seriously.
And what it means to take it seriously
is to use the one tool that makes us human,
the one tool that provides us with all the values
that we have, our mind, our reason,
and to use it, apply it to living.
People apply it to their work,
they apply it to their math problems,
to science, to programming.
But imagine if they used that same energy,
that same focus, that same concentration
to actually living life and choosing values
that they should pursue,
that would change the world,
and it would change their lives.
Yeah, actually, I wear this silly suit and tie.
It symbolizes to me always,
it makes me feel like I’m taking the moment really seriously.
I think that’s really, that’s right.
And each one of us has different ways
to kind of condition our consciousness.
I’m serious now, and for you, it’s a suit and tie.
It’s a conditioning of your consciousness
to now I’m focused, now I’m at work,
now I’m doing my thing.
And I think that’s terrific,
and I wish everybody took that.
Look, I mean, it’s a cliche, but we only live once.
Every minute of your life, you’re never gonna live again.
This is really valuable.
And when people don’t have that deep respect
for their own life, for their own time, for their own mind,
and if they did, again, one could only imagine,
look at how productive people are.
Look at the amazing things they produce
and they do in their work.
And if they applied that to everything, wow.
So you kind of talk about reason.
Where does the kind of existentialist idea
of experience maybe, fully experiencing all the moments
versus fully thinking through?
Is there an interesting line to separate the two?
Why such an emphasis on reason for a life well lived
versus just enjoy, like experience the moment?
Well, because I think experience in a sense
is the easy part.
I’m not saying it’s how we experience the life that we live.
And yes, I’m all with the take time to value what you value,
but I don’t think that’s the problem of people out there.
I don’t think the problem is they’re not taking time
to appreciate where they are and what they do.
I think it’s that they don’t use their mind
in this one respect, in planning their life,
in thinking about how to live.
So the focus is on reason is because
it’s our only source of knowledge.
There’s no other source of knowledge.
We don’t know anything that does not come
from our senses and our mind,
the integration of the evidence of our senses.
Now we know stuff about ourselves
and I think it’s important to know oneself
And I consider that part of reasoning is to introspect.
But I think reason is undervalued, which is funny to say,
because it’s our means of survival.
It’s how human beings survive.
We cannot, see, this is why I disagree
with so many scientists and people like Sam Harris.
You mentioned Sam Harris before the show.
We’re not programmed to know how to hunt.
We’re not programmed to do agriculture.
We’re not programmed to build computers
and build networks on which we can podcast
and do our shows.
All of that requires effort.
It requires focus.
It requires energy and it requires will.
It requires somebody to will it.
It requires somebody to choose it.
And once you make that choice,
you have to engage that choice means
that you’re choosing to engage your reason
in discovery, in integration,
and then in work to change the world in which we live.
And human beings have to discover,
figure out, solve the problem of hunting.
Hunting, everybody thinks, oh, that’s easy.
I’ve seen the movie.
But human beings had to figure out how to do it, right?
You can’t run down a bison and bite into it, right?
You’re not gonna catch it.
You’re not gonna, you have no fangs to bite into it.
You have to build weapons.
You have to build tools.
You have to create traps.
You have to have a strategy.
All of that requires reason.
So the most important thing that allows human beings
to survive and to thrive in every value
from the most simple to the most sophisticated,
from the most material to, I believe, the most spiritual,
So stopping and appreciating the moment
is something that I think is relatively easy
once you have a plan, once you’ve thought it through,
once you know what your values are.
There is a mistake people make.
They attain their values and they don’t take a moment
to savor that and to appreciate that
and to even pat themselves on the back that they did it.
But that’s not what’s screwing up the world.
What’s screwing up the world
is that people have the wrong values
and they don’t think about them
and they don’t really focus on them
and they don’t have a plan for their own life
and how to live it.
If we look at human nature,
you’re saying the fundamental big thing
that we need to consider is our capacity,
like a capability to reason.
So to me, reason is this massive evolutionary achievement
If you think about any other sophisticated animal,
everything has to be coded.
Everything has to be written in the hard way.
It has to be there.
And they have to have a solution for every outcome.
And if there’s no solution, the animal dies typically,
or the animal suffers in some way.
Human beings have this capacity to self program.
They have this capacity.
It’s not a tabula rasa in the sense
that there’s nothing there.
Obviously, we have a nature.
Obviously, our minds, our brains
are structured in a particular way.
But given that, we have the ability
to turn it on or turn it off.
We have the ability to commit suicide,
to reject our nature, to work against our interests,
not to use the tool that evolution has provided us,
which is this mind, which is reason.
So that choice, that fundamental choice,
you know, Hamlet says it, right, to be or not to be.
But to be or not to be is to think or not to think,
to engage or not to engage, to focus or not to focus.
You know, in the morning when you get up,
you kind of, you know, you’re not really completely there.
You’re kind of out of focus and stuff.
It requires an act of will to say,
okay, I’m awake, I’ve got stuff to do.
Some people never do that.
Some people live in that haze,
and they never engage that mind.
And when you’re sitting and try to solve
a complex computer problem or math problem,
you have to turn something on.
You have to, in a sense, exert certain energy
to focus on the problem to do it.
And that is not determined in a sense
that you have to focus.
You choose to focus, and you could choose not to focus.
And that choice is more powerful than any other,
like, parts of our brain that we’ve borrowed from fish
and from our evolutionary origins.
Like this, whatever this crazy little leap in evolution is
that allowed us to think is more powerful than anything else.
So I think neuroscientists pretend they know a lot more
about the brain than they really do.
And that we know. Shots fired.
I agree with you.
And we don’t know that much yet
about how the brain functions and what’s a fish
and what, you know, all this stuff.
So I think what exists there
is a lot of potentialities.
But the beauty of the human brain is it’s potentialities
that we have to manifest through our choices.
It’s there. It’s sitting there.
And, yes, there’s certain things
that are going to evoke certain senses, certain feelings.
I’m not even saying emotions
because I think emotions are too complex
to have been programmed into our mind.
But I don’t think so.
You know, there’s this big issue of evolutionary psychology
is huge right now and it’s a big issue.
You know, I find it to a large extent as way too early
and in storytelling about expo storytelling about stuff.
We still don’t, you know, so for example,
I would like to see if evolutionary psychology
differentiate between things like inclinations,
feelings, emotions, sensations, thoughts, concepts, ideas.
What of those are programmed and what of those are developed
and chosen and a product of reason?
I think anything from emotion to abstract ideas is all chosen,
is all a product of reason.
And everything before that, we might have been programmed for.
But the fact is so clearly a sensation is not a product of,
you know, is something that we feel
because that’s how our biology works.
So until we have these categories
and until we can clearly specify what is what
and where do they come from,
the whole discussion in evolutionary psychology
seems to be rambling.
It doesn’t seem to be scientific.
So we have to define our terms, you know,
which is the basis of science.
You have to have some clear definitions
about what we’re talking about.
When you ask them these questions,
there’s never really a coherent answer
about what is it exactly.
And everybody is afraid of the issue of free will.
And I think to some extent, I mean, Harris has this,
and I don’t want to misrepresent anything Harris has
because, you know, I’m a fan and I like a lot of his stuff.
But on the one hand, he is obviously intellectually active
and wants to change our minds.
So he believes that we have some capacity to choose.
On the other hand, he’s undermining that capacity
to choose by saying it’s just determines
you’re gonna choose what you choose.
You have no say in it, there’s actually no you.
So it’s, you know, and that’s to me completely unscientific.
That’s completely him, you know, pulling it out of nowhere.
We all experienced the fact that we have an eye.
That kind of certainty saying that we do not have
that fundamental choice that reason provides
is unfounded currently.
Look, there’s a sense in which it can never be contradicted
because it’s a product of your experience.
It’s not a product of your experience.
You can experience it directly.
So no science will ever prove that this table isn’t here.
I can see it, it’s here, right?
I can feel it.
I know I have free will because I can introspect it.
In a sense, I can see it.
I can see myself engaging it and that is as valid
as the evidence of my senses.
Now I can’t point at it so that you can see
the same thing I’m seeing,
but you can do the same thing in your own consciousness
and you can identify the same thing.
And to deny that in the name of science
is to get things upside down.
You start with that and that’s the beginning of science.
The beginning of science is the identification
that I choose and that I can reason
and now I need to figure out the mechanism,
the rules of reasoning, the rules of logic.
How does this work?
And that’s where science comes from.
Of course, it’s possible that science,
like from my place of AI would be able to,
if we were able to engineer consciousness or understand,
I mean, it’s very difficult
because we’re so far away from it now,
but understand how the actual mechanism
that consciousness emerges.
And in fact, this table is not real,
that we can determine that it,
exactly how our mind constructs the reality
that we perceive, then you can start to make interesting.
But our mind doesn’t construct the reality that we perceive.
The reality we perceive is there.
We perceive a reality that exists.
Now, we perceive it in particular ways
given the nature of our senses, right?
A bat perceives this table differently,
but it’s still the same table
with the same characteristics and the same identity.
It’s just a matter of, we use eyes,
they use a radar system to,
they use sound waves to perceive it,
but it’s still there.
Existence exists whether we exist or not.
And so you could create, I mean, I don’t know how,
and I don’t know if it’s possible,
but let’s say you could create a consciousness, right?
And I suspect that to do that,
you would have to use biology, not just electronics,
but way outside my expertise.
Because consciousness, as far as we know,
is a phenomenon of life,
and you would have to figure out how to create life
before you created consciousness, I think.
But if you did that, then that wouldn’t change anything.
All it would say is we have another conscious being.
Cool, that’s great.
But it wouldn’t change the nature of our consciousness.
Our consciousness is what it is in respect.
So that’s very interesting, I think this is a good way
to set the table for discussion of objectivism is,
let me at least challenge a thought experiment,
which is, I don’t know if you’re familiar
with Donald Hoffman’s work about reality.
So his idea is that we’re just,
our perception is just an interface to reality.
So Donald Hoffman is the guy you see on Vine?
Yes, I’ve met Donald and I’ve seen his video.
And look, Donald has not invented anything new.
This goes back to ancient philosophy.
Let me just state it in case people aren’t familiar.
I mean, it’s a fascinating thought experiment to me,
like of out of the box thinking, perhaps literally,
is that there’s a gap between the world as we perceive it
and the world as it actually exists.
And I think that’s, for the philosophy,
objectivism is a really important gap to close.
So can you maybe at least try to entertain the idea
that there is more to reality than our minds can perceive?
Well, I don’t understand what more means, right?
Of course there’s more to reality
than what our senses perceive.
That is, for example, I don’t know,
certain elements have radiation, right?
Uranium has radiation.
I can’t perceive radiation.
The beauty of human reason is I can,
discover the phenomena of radiation,
then actually measure radiation.
And I don’t worry about it.
I can’t perceive the world
the way a bat perceives the world.
And I might not be able to see certain things,
but I can, we’ve created radar,
so A, we understand how a bat perceives the world,
and I can mimic it through a radar screen
and create images like the bat,
its consciousness somehow perceives it, right?
So the beauty of human reason is our capacity
to understand the world beyond
what our senses give us directly.
At the end, everything comes in through our senses,
but we can understand things
that our senses don’t provide us.
But what he’s doing is he’s doing something very different.
He is saying what our senses provides us
might have nothing to do with the reality out there.
That is just a random, arbitrary, nonsensical statement.
And he actually has a whole
evolutionary explanation for it.
He runs some simulations.
The simulations seem, I mean,
I’m not an expert on this field,
but they seem silly to me.
They don’t seem to reflect.
And look, all he’s doing is taking
Immanuel Kant’s philosophy,
which articulate exactly the same cause,
and he’s giving it a veneer of evolutionary ideas.
I’m not an expert on evolution,
and I’m not an expert on epistemology,
which is what this is.
So to me, as a semi layman,
it doesn’t make any sense.
And, you know, I’m actually,
you know, I have this Yaron Book Show.
I don’t know if I’m allowed to pitch it,
but I’ve got this Yaron Book Show on YouTube.
I’m a huge fan of the Yaron Book Show.
I listen to it very often.
As a small aside, the cool thing about reason,
which you practice,
is you have a systematic way of thinking
through basically anything.
And that’s so fun to listen to.
I mean, it’s rare that I think there’s flaws in your logic,
but even then it’s fun,
because I’m like disagreeing with the screen.
And it’s great when somebody disagrees with me
and they give good arguments,
because that makes it challenging.
You know, so one of the shows I want to do
in the next few weeks is one of my philosophy,
bring one of my philosophy friends to discuss the video
that Hoffman, where he presents his theory,
because it surprises me how seductive it is.
And it seems to be so,
first of all, completely counterintuitive,
but because, you know, somehow we managed to cross the road
and not get hit by the car.
And if our senses did not provide us any information
about what’s actually going on in reality,
how do we do that?
And not to mention build computers,
not to mention fly to the moon
and actually land on the moon.
And if reality is not giving us information about the moon,
if our senses are not giving us information about the moon,
how did we get there?
You know, and where did we go?
Maybe we didn’t go anywhere.
It’s just, it’s nonsensical to me.
And it’s a very bad place philosophically,
because it basically says
there is no objective standard for anything.
There is no objective reality.
You can come up with anything.
You could argue anything.
And there’s no methodology, right?
My, I believe that at the end of the day,
what reason allows us to do
is provides us with a methodology for truth.
And at the end of the day, for every claim that I make,
I should be able to boil it down to see,
yeah, look, the evidence of the census is right then.
Once you take that away, knowledge is gone
and truth is gone.
And that opens it up to, you know, complete disaster.
So, you know, to me why it’s compelling
to at least entertain this idea,
first of all, it shakes up the mind a little bit
to force you to go back to first principles
and, you know, ask the question, what do I really know?
And the second part of that that I really enjoy
is it’s a reminder that we know very little
to be a little bit more humble.
So if reality doesn’t exist at all,
before you start thinking about it,
I think it’s a really nice wake up call to think,
wait a minute, I don’t really know much about this universe,
I think something I’d like to ask you about
in terms of reason, when you,
you can become very confident
in your ability to understand the world
if you practice reason often.
And I feel like it can lead you astray
because you can start to think,
it’s, so I love psychology
and psychologists have the certainty
about understanding the human condition,
which is undeserved.
You know, you run a study with 50 people
and you think you can understand
the source of all these psychiatric disorders,
all these kinds of things.
That’s similar kind of trouble
I feel like you can get into
when you overreach with reason.
So I don’t think there is such a thing
as overreaching with reason,
but there are bad applications of reason.
There are bad uses of reason
or the pretense of using reason.
I think a lot of these psychological studies
are pretense of using reason.
And the psychologists have never really taken
a serious stat class or a serious econometrics class.
So they use statistics in weird ways
that just don’t make any sense.
And that’s a miss, that’s not reason, right?
That’s just bad thinking, right?
So I don’t think you can do too much good thinking.
And that’s what reason is.
It’s good thinking.
Now, the fact that you try to use reason
does not guarantee you won’t make mistakes.
It doesn’t guarantee you won’t be wrong.
It doesn’t guarantee you won’t go down a rabbit hole
and completely get it wrong.
But it does give you the only existing mechanism to fix it.
Which is going back to reality,
going back to facts, going back to reason.
And getting out of the rabbit hole
and getting back to reality.
So I agree with you that it’s interesting
to think about these, what I consider crazy ideas
because it, oh wait, what is my argument about them?
If I don’t really have a good argument about them,
then do I know what I know?
So in that sense, it’s always nice to be challenged
and pushed and oriented.
You know, the nice thing about objectivism is
everybody’s doing that to me all the time, right?
Because nobody agrees with me on anything.
So I’m constantly being challenged,
whether it’s in, by Hoffman on metaphysics
and epistemology, right?
On the very foundations of analogy and ethics,
everybody constantly, and in politics all the time.
So I find that it’s part of, you know,
I prefer that everybody, there’s a sense
in which I prefer that everybody agreed with me, right?
Because I think we’d live in a better world.
But there’s a sense in which that disagreement makes it,
at least up to a point, makes it interesting
and challenging and forces you to be able to rethink
or to confirm your own thinking
and to challenge that thinking.
Can you try to do the impossible task
and give a whirlwind introduction to Ayn Rand,
the many sides of Ayn Rand?
So Ayn Rand the human being, Ayn Rand the novelist,
and Ayn Rand the philosopher.
So who was Ayn Rand?
Sure, so her life story is one that I think is fascinating
but it also lends itself to this integration
of all of these things.
She was born in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1905
to kind of a middle class family, Jewish family.
They owned a pharmacy, her father owned a pharmacy.
And, you know, she grew up, she grew up,
she was a very, she knew what she wanted to do
and what she wanted to be from a very young age.
I think from the age of nine,
she knew she wanted to be a writer.
She wanted to write stories.
That was the thing she wanted to do.
And, you know, she focused her life after that
on this goal of I wanna be a novelist, I wanna write.
And the philosophy was incidental to that in a sense,
at least until some point in her life.
She witnessed the Russian Revolution,
literally it happened outside.
They lived in St. Petersburg
where the first kind of demonstrations
and of the revolution happened.
So she witnessed it.
She lived through it as a teenager,
went to school under the Soviets.
For a while, they were under kind of on the Black Sea
where the opposition government was ruling
and then they would go back and forth
between the commies and the whites.
But she experienced what communism was like.
She saw the pharmacy being taken away from a family.
She saw their apartment being taken away
or other families being brought
into the apartment they already lived in.
And it was very clear given her nature,
given her views, even at a very young age
that she would not survive the system.
So a lot of effort was put into how did she get out?
And her family was really helpful in this.
And she had a cousin in Chicago
and she had been studying kind of film at the university and…
This is in her 20s?
This is in her 20s, early 20s.
And Lenin, there was a small window
where Lenin was allowing some people
to leave under certain circumstances.
And she managed to get out to go do research on film
in the United States.
Everybody knew, everybody who knew her
knew she would never come back,
that this was a one way ticket.
And she got out, she made it to Chicago,
spent a few weeks in Chicago, and then headed to Hollywood.
She wanted to write scripts, that was the goal.
Here’s this short woman from Russia with a strong accent,
learning English, showing up in Hollywood
and I wanna be a script writer.
In English, writing in English.
And this is kind of one of these fairytale stories,
but it’s true, she shows up at the Cecil B. DeMille Studios.
And she has a letter of introduction from her cousin
in Chicago who owns a movie theater.
And this is in the late 1920s.
And she shows up there with this letter and they say,
don’t call us, we’ll call you kind of thing.
And she steps out and there’s this massive convertible.
And in the convertible is Cecil B. DeMille.
And he’s driving slowly past her
right at the entrance of the studio.
And she stares at him and he stops the car and he says,
why are you staring at me?
And she says, she tells him a story from Russia
and I wanna make it in the movies,
I wanna be a script writer one day.
And he says, well, if you want that, get in the car.
She gets in the car and he takes her to the back lot
of his studio where they’re filming The King of Kings,
the story of Jesus.
And he says, here’s a pass for a week.
If you wanna write for the movies,
you better know how movies are made.
And she basically spends a week in there.
She spends more time there.
She managed to get an extension.
She lands up being an extra in the movie.
So you can see Ayn Rand there is one of the masses
when Jesus is walking by.
She meets her future husband on the sets
of The King of Kings.
She lands up getting married,
getting her American citizenship that way.
And she lands up doing odds and ends jobs in Hollywood,
living in a tiny little apartment,
somehow making a living.
Her husband was an actor.
He was struggling actors were difficult times.
And in the evenings, studying English,
writing, writing, writing, writing,
and studying and studying and studying.
And she finally makes it by writing a play
that is successful in LA and ultimately goes to Broadway.
And her first novel is a novel called We The Living,
which is the most autobiographical of all her novels.
It’s about a young woman in the Soviet Union.
It’s a powerful story, a very moving story,
and probably, if not the best,
one of the best portrayals of life under communism.
And how powerful.
So you would recommend the book?
Definitely recommend We The Living.
It’s her first novel.
She wrote it in the spring of 2000.
First novel she wrote in the 30s.
And it didn’t go anywhere.
Because if you think about the intelligentsia,
the people who matter, the people who wrote book reviews,
this is a time of Durante,
who’s the New York Times guy in Moscow,
who’s praising Stalin to the hills and the success.
So the novel fails, but she’s got a novel out.
She writes a small novelette called Anthem.
A lot of people have read that, and it’s read
in high schools.
It’s kind of a dystopian novel,
and it doesn’t get published in the U.S.
It gets published in the U.K.
U.K. is very interested in dystopian novels.
Animal Farm in 1984,
84 is published a couple of years after, I think,
There’s reason to believe he read Anthem.
And George Orwell read Animal Farm.
Just a small aside, Animal Farm is probably top.
I mean, it’s weird to say,
but I would say it’s my favorite book.
Have you seen this movie out now called Mr. Jones?
Oh, you’ve got to see Mr. Jones.
What’s Mr. Jones?
Sorry for my ignorance.
No, no, it’s a movie, and it hasn’t got any publicity,
which is tragic, because it’s a really good movie.
It’s both brilliantly made.
It’s made by a Polish director.
But it’s in English.
It’s a true story,
and George Orwell’s Animal Farm is featured in it
in the sense that during the story,
George Orwell is writing Animal Farm,
and the narrator is reading off sections of Animal Farm
as the movie is progressing.
And the movie is a true story
about the first Western journalist to discover
and to write about the famine in Ukraine.
And so he goes to Moscow, and then he gets on a train,
and he finds himself in Ukraine,
and it’s beautifully and horrifically made.
So the horror of the famine is brilliantly conveyed.
And it’s a true story, so it’s a very moving story,
very powerful story, and just very well made movie.
So it’s tragic, in my view,
that not more people are seeing it.
I was actually recently just complaining
that there’s not enough content
on the famine in the 30s of stuff.
There’s so much on Hitler.
I love the reading.
I’m reading, it’s so long, it’s been taking me forever,
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.
Yeah, I love it, but.
Well, I’ve got the book to compliment that,
that you have to read.
It’s called The Ominous Parallels.
It’s Lennon Peacock, and it’s The Ominous Parallels,
and it’s about the causes of the rise of Hitler,
but a philosophical causes.
So whereas The Rise and Fall is more of a kind of,
the existential kind of what happened,
but really delving into the intellectual currents
that led to the rise of Hitler, highly recommend that.
Basically suggesting how it might rise another.
That’s The Ominous Parallels,
so the parallel he draws is to the United States,
and he says those same intellectual forces
are rising in the United States,
and this was published, I think, in, published in 82.
It was published in 82.
So it was published a long time ago,
and yet you look around us,
and it’s unbelievably predictive, sadly,
about the state of the world.
So I haven’t finished Iron Man’s story.
I don’t know if you want me to finish it.
No, no, no, but on that point, I’ll have to,
let’s please return to it, but let’s now,
for now, let’s talk.
Let me also say, just because,
I don’t want to forget about Mr. Jones,
it is true, the point you made,
there are tons of movies that are anti fascist,
anti Nazi, and that’s good,
but there are way too few movies that are anti communist,
just almost not, and it’s very interesting,
and if you remind me later, I’ll tell you a story about that.
But so she publishes Anthem, and then she starts,
and she’s doing okay in Hollywood,
and she’s doing okay with the play,
and then she starts on the book The Fountainhead,
and she writes The Fountainhead, and it comes out,
she finishes it in 1945,
and she sends it to publishers,
and publisher after publisher after publisher turn it down,
and it takes 12 publishers before this editor reads it,
and says, I want to publish this book,
and he basically tells his bosses,
if you don’t publish this book, I’m leaving, right?
And they don’t really believe in the book,
so they publish just a few copies,
they don’t do a mat lot,
and the book becomes a bestseller from word of mouth,
and they land up having to publish more and more and more,
and she’s basically gone from this immigrant
who comes here with very little command of English,
and to all kinds of odds and ends jobs in Hollywood,
to writing one of the seminal, I think, American books.
She is an American author.
I mean, if you read The Fountainhead, it’s not Russian.
This is not Dostoevsky.
It feels like a symbol of what America is
in the 20th century, and I mean, probably, maybe you can,
so there’s a famous kind of sexual rape scene in there.
Is that like a lesson you wanna throw in
some controversial stuff
to make your philosophical books work out?
I mean, why was it so popular?
Do you have a sense?
Or is it just?
Well, because I think it illustrated,
first of all, because I think the characters are fantastic.
It’s got a real hero, and I think the whole book
is basically illustrating this massive conflict
that I think went on in America then, is going on today,
and it goes on on a big scale, politics,
all the way down to the scale
of the choices you make in your life.
And the issue is individualism versus collectivism.
Should you live for yourself?
Should you live for your values?
Should you pursue your passions?
Or should you do what your mother tells you?
Should you follow your mother’s passions?
And it’s very, very much a book about individuals,
and people relate to that.
But it obviously has this massive implications
to the world outside,
and at the time of collectivism just having been defeated,
communism, well, fascism,
and the United States representing individualism
as defeated collectivism.
But where collectivist ideas are still popular
in the form of socialism and communism.
And for the individual, there’s constant struggle
between what people tell me to do,
what society tells me to do,
what my mother tells me to do,
and what I think I should do.
I think it’s unbelievably appealing,
particularly to young people
who’s trying to figure out what they wanna do in life,
trying to figure out what’s important in life.
It had this enormous appeal, it’s romantic,
it’s bigger than life, the characters are big heroes.
It’s very American in that sense.
It’s about individualism,
it’s about the triumph of individualism.
And so I think that’s what related,
and it had this big romantic element from the,
I mean, when I use romantic,
I use it kind of in the sense of a movement in art.
But it also has this romantic element
in the sense of a relationship between a man and woman
who’s, that’s very intriguing.
It’s not only that there’s a,
I would say almost rape scene, right?
I would say, but it’s also that this woman
is hard to understand.
I mean, I’ve read it more than once,
and I still can’t quite figure out Dominique, right?
Because she loves him and she wants to destroy him
and she marries other people.
I mean, think about that too.
Here she’s writing a book in the 1940s.
There’s lots of sex.
There’s a woman who marries more than one person,
has having sex with more than one person,
She’s having married, she’s having sex with work
even though she’s not married to work.
This is 1945.
And it’s very jarring to people.
It’s very unexpected, but it’s also a book of its time.
It’s about individuals pursuing their passion,
pursuing their life and not caring about convention
and what people think, but doing what they think is right.
And so I think it’s,
I encourage everybody to read this, obviously.
So that was, was that the first time
she articulated something that sounded like a philosophy
I mean, the philosophy’s there in We The Living, right?
Because at the end of the day, the woman is,
the hero of We The Living is this individualist
stuck in Soviet Union.
So she’s struggling with these things.
So the theme is there already.
It’s not as fleshed out.
It’s not as articulated philosophically.
And it’s certainly then Anthem, which is a dystopian novel
where this dystopia in the future has a,
there’s no I, everything is we.
And it’s about one guy who breaks out of that.
I don’t want to give it away, but breaks out of that.
So these themes are running and then we have,
and they’ve been published,
some of the early Ayn Rand stories that she was writing
in preparation for writing her novel,
stories she was writing when she first came to America.
And you can see these same philosophical elements,
even in the male, female relationships and the passion
and the, you know, in the conflict,
you see them even in those early pieces.
And she’s just developing them.
It’s same philosophically,
she’s developing her philosophy with her literature.
And of course, after The Fountainhead,
she starts on what turns out to be her Magnus Opus,
which is Atlas Shrugged,
which takes her 12 years to publish.
By the time, of course, she brings that out,
every publisher in New York wants to publish it
because The Fountainhead has been such a huge success.
They don’t quite understand it.
They don’t know what to do with Atlas Shrugged,
but they’re eager to get it out there.
And indeed it, when it’s published,
it becomes an instant bestseller.
And the thing about the,
particularly The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged,
but true of even Anthem and We the Living,
she is one of the only dead authors
that sell more after they’ve died
than when they were still alive.
Now, that’s true maybe in music,
we listen to more Beethoven than when he was alive,
but it’s not true typically of novelists.
And yet here we are,
was it 50, 60 years after,
63 years after the publication of Atlas Shrugged,
and it sells probably more today than it sold
when it was a bestseller when it first came out.
Is it true that it’s like one of the most sold books
I’ve heard this kind of statement.
Any Tom Clancy book comes out,
sells more than Atlas Shrugged.
But I’ve read, I’ve heard statements like this.
So there was a very,
and I shouldn’t say this, but it’s the truth,
so I’ll say it,
a very unscientific study done by the Smithsonian Institute,
probably in the early 90s,
that basically surveyed CEOs and asked them,
what was the most influential book on you?
And Atlas Shrugged came out as number two,
the second most influential book on CEOs in the country.
But there’s so many flaws in the study.
One was, you want to guess what the number one book?
But the Bible was like,
so maybe they surveyed 100 people.
I don’t know what the exact numbers were,
but let’s say it’s 100 people,
and 60 said the Bible and 10 said Atlas Shrugged,
and there were a bunch of books over there.
So, I don’t…
That’s, again, the psychology discussion
what we’re having right now.
Exactly, well, and it’s one thing I’ve learned,
and maybe COVID has taught me,
and there are very few people
who know how to do statistics,
and almost nobody knows how to think probabilistically,
that is, think in terms of probabilities,
that it is a skill, it’s a hard skill,
and everybody thinks they know it.
So I see doctors thinking they’re statisticians
and giving whole analyses of the data on COVID,
and they don’t have a clue what they’re talking about,
not because they’re not good doctors,
but because they’re not good statisticians.
People think that they have one skill,
and therefore it translates immediately into another skill,
and it’s just not true.
So I’ve been astounded at how bad people are at that.
For people who haven’t read any of the books
that we were just discussing,
what would you recommend,
what book would you recommend they read,
and maybe also just elaborate
what mindset should they enter
the reading of that book with?
So I would recommend everybody
read Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.
And in one…
In that order?
So it would depend on where you are in life, right?
So it depends on who you are and what you are.
So Fountainhead is a more personal story.
For many people, it’s their favorite,
and for many people, it was their first book,
and they wouldn’t replace that, right?
Atlas Shrugged is a…
It’s about the world.
It’s about what impacts the world,
how the world functions,
how it’s a bigger book in the sense of the scope.
If you’re interested in politics
and you’re interested in the world,
read Atlas Shrugged first.
If you’re mainly focused on your life, your career,
what you wanna do with yourself, start with Fountainhead.
I still think you should read both
because I think they are…
I mean, to me, they were life altering,
and to many, many people, they’re life altering,
and you should go into reading them with an open mind,
I’d say, and with a…
Put aside everything you’ve heard about Ayn Rand.
Put aside any…
Even if it’s true, just put it aside.
Even what I just said about Ayn Rand, put it aside.
Just read the book as a book,
and let it move you and let your thoughts,
let it shape how you think,
and you’ll either have a response to it or you won’t,
but I think most people have a very strong response to it,
and then the question is,
are they willing to respond to the philosophy?
Are they willing to integrate the philosophy?
Are they willing to think through the philosophy or not?
Because I know a lot of people
who completely disagree with the philosophy, right?
Here in Hollywood, right?
Lots of people here in Hollywood,
love The Fountainhead.
Oliver Stone, who is, I think, a avowed Marxist, right?
I think he’s admitted to being a Marxist, he is.
His movies certainly reflect a Marxist theme,
is a huge fan of The Fountainhead,
and is actually his dream project, he has said in public,
his dream project is to make The Fountainhead.
Now, he would completely change it, as movie directors do,
and he’s actually outlined what his script would look like,
and it would be a disaster for the ideas of The Fountainhead,
but he loves the story,
because to him, the story is about artistic integrity.
And that’s what he catches on.
And what he hates about the story is the individualism.
And I think that his movie ends
with Howard Rourke joining some kind of commune
of architects that do it for the love
and don’t do it for the money.
But so, yeah, so he can connect with you
without the philosophy,
and before we get into the philosophy,
staying on Ayn Rand,
I’ll tell you sort of my own personal experience,
and I think it’s one that people share.
I’ve experienced this with two people, Ayn Rand and Nietzsche.
When I brought up Ayn Rand when I was in my early 20s,
the number of eye rolls I got from sort of, you know,
like advisors and so on, that of dismissal,
I’ve seen that later in life about more specific concepts
in artificial intelligence and technical,
where people decide that this is a set of ideas
that are acceptable and these sets of ideas are not.
And they dismissed Ayn Rand
without giving me any justification
of why they dismissed her,
except, oh, that’s something you’re into
when you’re 19 or 20.
That’s the same thing people say about Nietzsche.
Well, that’s just something you do when you’re in college
and you take an intro to philosophy course.
So, and I’ve never really heard anybody cleanly articulate
their opposition to Ayn Rand,
in my own private little circles and so on.
Maybe one question I just wanna ask is,
why is there such a opposition to Ayn Rand?
And maybe another way to ask the same thing is,
what’s misunderstood about Ayn Rand?
So, we haven’t talked about the philosophy,
so it’s harder to answer right now.
We can return to it if you think
that’s the right way to go.
Well, let me give a broad answer
and then we’ll do the philosophy
and then we’ll return to it,
because I think it’s important to know
something about her ideas.
She, I think her philosophy challenges everything.
It really does, it shakes up the world.
It challenges so many of our preconceptions.
It challenges so many of the things
that people take for granted as truth.
From religion to morality to politics
to almost everything,
there’s never quite been a thinker like her
in the sense of really challenging everything
and doing it systematically
and having a complete philosophy
that is a challenge to everything that has come before her.
Now, I’m not saying they’re on threads that connect,
they are, right?
In politics, there might be a thread
and in morality, there might be a thread,
but on everything, there’s just never been like it.
And people are afraid of that
because it challenges them to the core.
She’s basically telling you to rethink almost everything.
And that is that people reject.
The other thing that it does,
and this goes to this point about,
oh yeah, that’s what you do when you’re 14, 15, right?
She points out to them that they’ve lost something.
They’ve lost their idealism.
They’ve lost the youthful idealism.
What makes youthfulness meaningful
other than we’re in better physical shape,
starting to feel, because I’m getting older.
When we’re young,
sometime in the teen years, right?
There’s something that happens to human consciousness.
We almost awakened and knew, right?
We suddenly discovered that we can think for ourselves.
We suddenly discovered that not everything our parents
and our teachers tell us is true.
We suddenly discovered that this tool, our minds,
is suddenly available to us to discover the world
and to discover truth.
And it is a time of idealism.
It’s a time of, whoa, I want to, you know,
the better teenagers, I want to know about the world.
I want to go out there.
I don’t believe my parents.
I don’t believe my teachers.
And this is healthy.
This is fantastic.
And I want to go out there and experiment.
And that gets us into trouble, right?
We do stupid things when we’re teenagers.
Because we’re experimenting.
It’s the experiential part of it, right?
We want to go and experience life.
But we’re learning.
It’s part of the learning process.
And we become risk takers because we want to experience.
But the risk is something we need to learn
because we need to learn where the boundaries are.
And one of the damages that helicopter parents do
is they prevent us from taking those risks
so we don’t learn about the world
and we don’t learn about where the boundaries are.
So the teenage years are these years of wonder.
They’re depressing when you’re in them
for a variety of reasons,
which I think primarily have to do with the culture,
but also with oneself.
But they are exciting, the periods of discovery.
And people get excited about ideas
and good ideas, bad ideas, all kinds of ideas.
And then what happens?
Whether that happens in college
where we’re taught that nothing exists and nothing matters
and stop being an idealist, be a cynic, be whatever.
Or whether it happens when we get married and get a job
and have kids and are too busy
and can’t think about our ideals and forget
and just get into the norm of conventional life
or whether it’s because a mother pesters us
to get married and have kids
and do all the things that she wanted us to do.
We give up on those ideals.
And there’s a sense in which Ayn Rand reminds them
that they gave up.
That’s beautifully, that’s so beautifully put and so true.
It’s, it’s worth pausing on,
that this dismissal,
people forget the beauty of that curiosity.
That’s true in the scientific field too,
is that youthful joy of like everything is possible
and we can understand it with the tools of our mind.
And that’s what it’s all about.
That’s what Ayn Rand’s ideas
at the end of the day all boil down to,
is that confidence and that passion
and that curiosity and that interest.
And if you think about what academia does
to so many of us, right?
We go into academia and we’re excited about,
we’re gonna learn stuff.
We’re gonna discover things.
And then they stick you into sub sub field
and examining some minutia
that’s insignificant and unimportant.
And to get published, you have to be conventional.
You have to do what everybody else does.
And then there’s the tenure process of seven years
where they put you through this torture to write papers
that fit into a certain mold.
And by the time you’re done,
you’re in your mid thirties and you’ve done nothing.
You discovered nothing.
You’re all in this minutia in this stuff
and it’s destructive.
And where’s holding onto that passion,
holding onto that knowledge and that confidence is hard.
And when people do away with it, they become cynical
and they become part of the system
and they inflict the same pain on the next guy
that they suffered because that’s part of how it works.
Yeah, this happens in artificial intelligence.
This happens when like a young person shows up
and with like fire in their eyes and they say,
I want to understand the nature of intelligence.
And everybody rolls their eyes.
Well, for these same reasons,
because they’ve spent so many years
on the very specific set of questions
that kind of they compete over and they write papers over
and they have conferences about.
And it’s true that incremental research
is the way you make progress answering the question
of what is intelligence exceptionally difficult.
But when you mock it, you actually destroy the realities.
When we look like centuries from now,
we’ll look back at this time
for this particular field of artificial intelligence,
it will be the people who will be remembered,
will be the people who’ve asked the question
and made it their life journey of what is intelligence
and actually had the chance to succeed.
Most will fail asking that question,
but the ones that like had a chance of succeeding
and had that throughout their whole life.
And I suppose the same is true for philosophy.
It’s in every field.
It’s asking the big questions and staying curious
and staying passionate and staying excited
and accepting failure, right?
Accepting that you’re not going to get it first time.
You’re not going to get the whole thing.
But, and sometimes you have to do the minutia work
and I’m not here to say nobody should specialize
and you shouldn’t do the minutia, you have to do that.
But there has to be a way to do that work
and keep the passion and keep it all integrated.
That’s another thing.
I mean, we don’t live in a culture that integrates, right?
We live in a culture that is all about this minutia
and not, and medicine is another field
where you specialize in the kidney.
I mean, the kidney’s connected to other things.
You’ve got to, and we don’t have a holistic view
of these things and I’m sure in artificial intelligence,
you’re not going to make the big leaps forward
without a holistic view of what it is
you’re trying to achieve.
And maybe that’s the question of what is intelligence?
But that’s the kind of questions you have to ask
to make big leaps forward, to really move the field
in a positive direction.
And it’s the people who can think that way,
who move fields and move technology,
who move anything, anything is, everything is like.
But just like you said, it’s painful
because underlying that kind of questioning is,
well, maybe the work I’ve done for the past 20 years
was a dead end and you have to kind of face that.
Even just, it might not be true,
but even just facing that reality is just,
it’s a painful feeling.
Absolutely, but it’s, that’s part of the reason
why it’s important to enjoy the work that you do.
So that even if it doesn’t completely work out,
at least you enjoy the process, right?
It was not a waste because you enjoyed the process.
And if you learn, as any entrepreneur knows this, right,
and if you learn from the waste of time,
from the errors, from the mistakes,
then you can build on them and make things even better.
Right, and so the next 20 years are a massive success.
Can we, another impossible task,
so you did wonderfully on talking about Ayn Rand,
the other impossible task of giving a whirlwind overview
of the philosophy of objectivism,
the philosophy of Ayn Rand.
Yeah, so luckily she did it in an essay.
She talks about doing a philosophy on one foot.
But let me integrate it with the literature
and with her life a little bit.
She wanted to be a writer, but her goal,
she had a particular goal in her writing.
She was an idealist, right?
She wanted to portray the ideal man.
So one of the things you do when you want to do something
is what is an ideal man?
You have to ask that question.
What does that mean?
You might have a sense of it.
You might have some glimpses of it
in other people’s literature, but what is it?
So she starts reading philosophy to try to figure out
what do philosophers say about the ideal man?
And what she finds horrifies her
in terms of the view of most philosophers of man.
And she’s attracted, certainly when she’s young,
to Nietzsche, because Nietzsche at least has a vision
of grandeur for man, even though his philosophy
is very flawed and has other problems
and contradicts man in many ways.
But at least he has that vision of what is possible to man.
And she’s attracted to that romantic vision,
that idealistic vision.
So she discovers in writing,
and particularly in writing Atlas Shrugged,
but even in the Fountainhead,
that she’s gonna have to develop her own philosophy.
She’s gonna have to discover what she can do
and she’s gonna have to discover these ideas for herself,
because they’re not fully articulated anywhere else.
The glimpses again of it in Aristotle, in Nietzsche,
but they’re not fully fleshed out.
So to a large extent, she develops a philosophy
for a very practical purpose, to write,
to write a novel about the ideal man.
And Atlas Shrugged is the manifestation of that.
By the way, sorry to interrupt, as a little aside,
she does, when you say man, you mean human.
And because we’ll bring this up often,
she does, maybe you can elaborate
of how she specifically uses man and he in the work.
We live in a time now of gender and so on.
Well, she did that in the sense that everybody did it
during her period of time, right?
It’s only in modern times where we do he slash she, right?
Historically, when you said he, you meant a human being,
unless the particular context implied that it was a…
But in Ayn Rand’s case, in this case, in this one sentence,
she probably meant man.
Not that, because she viewed that there are differences
between men and women, we’re not the same,
which I know comes at a shock to many people.
She’s working on a character.
She was working on a particular vision, right?
She considered herself a man worshiper.
And a man, not human being, a male.
She worshiped manhood, if you will, the hero in man.
And she wanted to fully understand what that was.
Now, it has massive implications for ideal woman.
And I think she does portray the ideal woman
in Atlas Shrugged, in the character of Dagny.
But her goal is, I think her selfish goal
for what she wanted to get out of the novel
is that excitement, partially sexual,
about seeing your ideal manifest in reality
of what you perceive as that which you would be attracted to
fully, intellectually, physically, sexually,
in every aspect of your life.
That’s what she’s trying to bring into it.
So there was no ambiguity of gender, so there was a masculinity
and a femininity in her work.
Very much so.
And if you read the novels, you see that.
You see that.
Now, remember, this is in the context of, in Atlas Shrugged,
she is portraying a woman who runs a railroad,
the most masculine of all jobs you can imagine, right?
Running a railroad, better than any man can run it.
And achieving huge success,
better than any other man out there.
But, but for her, even Dagny needs somebody to,
needs a man, in some sense, to look up to.
And that’s the character whose name I won’t mention
because it gives away too much of the plot.
But there has to be that.
I like how you do that.
You’re not, a lot of practice, a lot of practice.
Because you convey all the important things
without giving away plot lines.
You’re a master.
So she’s, so she’s very much,
she, she described herself once as a male chauvinist.
She very, she likes the idea of a man opening a door for her.
But more metaphysically, she identifies something
in the difference between the way a man relates to a woman
and a woman relates to a man.
It’s not the same.
And let’s not take too far of a tangent,
but I just, as a side comment, I, to me, she represented,
she was a feminist to me.
Perhaps there’s a, perhaps technically,
philosophy, you disagree with that, whatever.
But the, you know, that to me represented strong,
like she had some of the strongest female characters
in the history of literature.
Again, this is, this is a woman running a railroad in 1957.
And not just a woman running a railroad,
and this is true of the Fountainhead as well.
A woman who is sexually, in a sense, assertive,
This is, this is not a woman who, you know,
this is a woman who, who, who embraces her sexuality.
And, you know, sex is important in life.
This is why it keeps coming up, right?
It’s, it was important to Ayn Rand.
It was, it’s important in the novels.
It’s important in life.
And for her, one’s attitude towards sex
is a reflection of one’s attitude towards life.
And it, you know, and what attitude towards pleasure,
which is an important part of life.
And she thought that was an incredibly important thing.
And so she has these assertive, powerful, sexual women
who live their lives on their terms 100%,
who seek a man to look up to.
It’s not, it is psychologically complex.
It’s more psychology than philosophy, right?
It’s psychologically complex and, you know,
not my area of expertise, but this is,
there’s something in, she would argue,
there’s something fundamentally different
about a male and a woman, about a male and female,
psychologically in their attitude towards one another.
Yeah, but as a side note, I say that,
I would say that, I don’t know philosophically
if her ideas about gender are interesting.
I think her other philosophical ideas
are much more interesting.
But reading wise, like the stories it created,
the tension it created, that was pretty powerful.
I mean, that was, that’s pretty powerful stuff.
I’ll speculate that the reason it’s so powerful
is because it reflects something in reality.
Yeah, that’s true.
There’s a thread that at least.
And look, it’s really important to say,
I think she was the first feminist in a sense.
I think in a sense, the feminists have
promoted feminism into something that it shouldn’t be.
But in the sense of men and women are capable,
she was the first one who really put that
into a novel and showed it.
To me, as a boy, when I was reading Alice Shrugged,
I think I read that before Fountainhead,
that was one of the early introductions,
at least of an American woman,
I had examples of my own life of Russian women,
but of like a badass lady.
Like I admire, like I love engineering.
I had loved that she could, you know,
here’s a lady that’s running the show.
So that at least to me was an example
of a really strong woman, but objectivism.
So, and so she developed it for a novel.
She spent the latter part of her life
after the publication of Alice Shrugged
really articulating her philosophy.
So that’s what she did.
She applied it to politics, to life, to gender,
to all these issues from 1957 until she died in 1982.
So the objectivism was born
out of the later parts of Alice Shrugged.
It was there all the time,
but it was fleshed out during the latter parts
of Alice Shrugged and then articulated
for the next 20 years.
So what is objectivism?
So objectivism, so there are five branches in philosophy.
And so I’m gonna just go through the branches.
She starts with, you start with metaphysics,
the nature of reality.
And objectivism argues that reality is what it is.
It’s kind of goes Hawkins back to Aristotle,
law of identity, A is A.
You can wish it to be B,
but wishes do not make something real.
Reality is what it is and it is the primary.
And it’s not manipulated, directed by consciousness.
Consciousness is there to observe,
to give us information about reality.
That is the purpose of consciousness.
That is the nature of it.
So in metaphysics, existence exists.
The law of identity, the law of causality,
things act based on their nature,
not randomly, not arbitrarily, but based on their nature.
And then we have the tool to know reality.
This is epistemology, the theory of knowledge.
A tool to know reality is reason.
It’s our senses and our capacity
to integrate the information we get from our senses
and to integrate it into new knowledge
and to conceptualize it.
And that is uniquely human.
We don’t know the truth from revelation.
We don’t know truth from our emotions.
Our emotions are interesting.
Our emotions tell us something about ourselves,
but our emotions are not tools of cognition.
They don’t tell us the truth about what’s out there,
about what’s in reality.
So reason is our means of knowledge
and therefore reason is our means of survival.
Only individuals reason,
just in the same way that only individuals can eat.
We don’t have a collective stomach.
Nobody can eat for me and therefore nobody can think for me.
We don’t have a collective mind.
There’s no collective consciousness.
It’s bizarre that people talk about
these collectivized aspects of the mind.
They don’t talk about collective feet
and collective stomachs and collective things.
But so we all think for ourselves
and it is our fundamental basic responsibility
to live our lives, to live, to choose.
Once we choose to live, to live our lives
to the best of our ability.
So in morality, she is an egoist.
She believes that the purpose of morality
is to provide you with a code of values and virtues
to guide your life for the purpose of your own success,
your own survival, your own thriving, your own happiness.
Happiness is the moral purpose of your life.
The purpose of morality is to guide you towards a happy life.
Your own happiness.
Your own happiness, absolutely.
Your own happiness.
So she rejects the idea
that you should live other people.
That you should live for the purpose
of other people’s happiness.
Your purpose is not to make them happier,
to make them anything.
Your purpose is your own happiness.
But she also rejects the idea
that you could argue maybe the Nietzschean idea
of you should use other people for your own purposes, right?
So every person is an end in himself.
Every person’s moral responsibility is their own happiness.
And you shouldn’t use other people for your own,
shouldn’t exploit other people for your own happiness,
and you shouldn’t allow yourself
to be exploited for other people.
Every individual is responsible for themselves.
And what is it that allows us to be happy?
What is it that facilitates human flourishing,
human success, human survival?
Well, it’s the use of our minds, right?
It goes back to reason.
And what does reason require in order to be successful,
in order to work effectively?
It requires freedom.
So the enemy of reason, the enemy of reason is force.
The enemy of reason is coercion.
The enemy of reason is authority, right?
The Catholic church doing what they did to Galileo, right?
That restricts Galileo’s thinking, right?
When he’s in house arrest,
is he gonna come up with a new theory?
Is he gonna discover new truths?
No, the punishment is too, you know, it’s too dangerous.
So force, coercion are enemies of reason.
And what reason needs is to be free,
to think, to discover, to innovate,
to break out of convention.
So we need to create an environment
in which individuals are free to reason, free to think.
And to do that, we come up with a concept,
historically we’ve come up with a concept
of individual rights.
Individual rights define the scope of,
define the fact that we should be left alone,
free to pursue our values, using our reason,
free of what?
Free of coercion, force, authority.
And that the job of government
is to make sure that we are free.
The whole point of government,
the whole point of when we come in a social context,
the whole point of establish a government in that context
is to secure that freedom.
It’s to make sure that I don’t use coercion on you.
The government is supposed to stop me,
supposed to intervene before I can do that,
or if I’ve already done it,
to prevent me from doing it again.
So the purpose of government is to protect our freedom
to think and to act based on our thoughts.
It’s to leave individuals free to pursue their values,
to pursue their happiness, to pursue their rational thought,
and to be left alone to do it.
And so she rejects socialism, which basically assumes
some kind of collective goal,
assumes the sacrifice of the individual to the group,
assumes that your moral purpose in life
is the well being of other people rather than your own.
And she rejects all form of statism,
all form of government that is overly,
that is involved in any aspect
other than to protect us from forced coercion authority.
And she rejects anarchy, and we can talk about that.
I think you had a question in the list of questions
you sent me about anarchy.
And I’m happy to discuss that.
I just talked to Michael Malice about anarchy,
so I don’t know if you’re familiar with him.
Yes, I’m familiar with him.
So yeah, so she would completely reject anarchy.
Anarchy is completely inconsistent with her point of view,
and we can talk about why if you want.
So there is some perfect place where freedom is maximized,
so systems of government and that.
And she thought that the American system of government
came close in its idea,
obviously founded with original sin, with the sin of slavery,
but in its conception, the Declaration of Independence
is about as perfect a political document as one could write.
I think the greatest political document in human history,
but really articulated almost perfectly and beautifully.
And that the American system of government
with the checks as balances,
which is with its emphasis on individual rights,
with its emphasis on freedom,
with its emphasis on leaving individual freedom
to pursue their happiness,
an explicit recognition of happiness as a goal,
individual happiness, was the model.
It wasn’t perfect.
There are a lot of problems to a large extent
because the founders had mixed philosophical premises.
So there were alien premises introduced
into the founding of the country,
slavery obviously being the biggest problem.
But it was close.
And we need to build on that
to create an ideal political system
that will, yes, maximize the freedom of individuals
to do exactly this.
And then of course she had,
so that’s kind of,
that’s the manifestation of this individualism
in a political realm.
And she had a theory of art.
She had a theory of aesthetics,
which is the fifth branch of,
she have metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and politics.
And the fifth branch is aesthetics.
And she viewed art as an essential human need,
a fuel for the human spirit.
And that just like any human need,
it had certain principles that it had to abide by.
That is just like there’s nutrition, right?
So some food is good for you
and some food is bad for you.
Some food, some stuff is poison.
She believed the same is true of art,
that art had an identity,
which is very controversial today, right?
If you put a frame around it, it is art, right?
If you put a urinal in a museum, it becomes art,
which she thought was evil and ludicrous,
and she rejected completely.
That art had an identity
and that it served a certain function
that human beings needed it.
And if it didn’t have,
not only did it have the identity,
but that function was served well by some art
and poorly by other art.
And then there’s a whole realm of stuff that’s not art.
Basically, all of what today is considered modern art,
she would consider as not being art.
Splashing paint on a canvas, not art.
So she had very clear ideas.
She articulated them not,
so I would say not in conventional philosophical form.
So she didn’t write philosophical essays
using the philosopher’s language.
It’s why, partially why I think philosophers
have never taken it seriously.
They’re actually accessible to us.
We can actually read them.
And she integrates the philosophy
in what I think are amazing ways with psychology,
with history, with economics, with politics,
with what’s going on in the world.
And she has dozens and dozens and dozens of essays
that she wrote.
Many of them were aggregated into books.
I particularly recommend books like
The Virtue of Selfishness,
Capitalism, The Unknown Ideal,
and Philosophy Who Needs It.
And I think it’s a beautiful philosophy.
I know you’re big on love.
I think it’s the philosophy of love.
We can talk about that.
Essentially, it’s about love.
That’s what the philosophy is all about
in terms of it applying to self.
And I think it’s sad that so few people read it
and so few intellectuals take it seriously
and are willing to engage with it.
Let me ask, that was incredible.
But after that beautiful whirlwind overview,
let me ask the most shallow of questions,
which is the name Objectivism.
How should people think about the name being rooted?
Why not individualism?
What are the options?
If we had a branding meeting right now.
So she actually had a branding meeting.
So she did this.
She went through the exercise.
Objectivism, I do not think,
I don’t know all the details,
but I don’t think Objectivism was the first name
she came with.
The problem was that the other names were taken
and they were not positive implications.
So for example, rationalism could have been a good word
because she’s an advocate of rational thought or reasonism,
but reasonism sounds weird, right?
The ism because of too many Ss, I guess.
Rationalism, but it was already a philosophy
and it was a philosophy inconsistent with hers
because it was what she considered a false view
of reason, of rationality.
Reality ism, you know, just doesn’t work.
So she came on Objectivism.
And I think actually, it’s a great word.
It’s a great name because it has two aspects to it.
And this is a unique view
of what objectivity actually means.
In Objectivism, in objectivity is the idea
of an independent reality.
There is truth.
There’s actually something out there that we,
and then there’s the role of consciousness, right?
There is the role of figuring out the truth.
The truth doesn’t just hit you.
The truth is not in the thing.
You have to discover it.
It’s that a consciousness applied to,
that’s what objectivity is, right?
It’s you discovering the truth in reality.
It’s your consciousness.
It’s your consciousness interacting.
And thereby posing the individual in that sense.
And only the individual could do it.
Now, the problem with individualism
is it would have made the philosophy too political.
And she always said, so she said,
she said, I’m an advocate of capitalism
because I’m really an advocate for rational egoism.
But I’m a advocate for rational egoism
really because I’m an advocate for reason.
So she viewed the essential of her philosophy
as being this reason and her particular view of reason.
And she has a whole book.
She has a book called
Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology,
which I encourage any scientist, mathematician,
anybody interested in science to read
because it is a tour de force on,
in a sense, what it means to hold concepts
and what it means to discover new discoveries
and to use concepts and how we use concepts.
And she has a theory of concepts that is completely new,
that is completely revolutionary.
And I think is essential for the philosophy of science.
And therefore, ultimately,
the more abstract we get with scientific discoveries,
the easier it is to detach them from reality
and to detach them from truth,
the easier it is to be inside our heads
instead of about what’s real.
And there are probably examples
from modern physics that fit that.
And I think what she teaches in the book
is how to ground your concepts
and how to bring them into grounding in reality.
So Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology,
note that it’s only an introduction
because one of the things she realized,
one of the things that I think a lot of her critics
don’t give enough credit for,
is that philosophy is, there’s no end, right?
It’s always growing, there are always new discoveries.
There’s always, it’s like science,
there’s always new things.
And there’s a ton of work to do in philosophy,
and particularly in epistemology and the theory of knowledge.
And she was actually,
given your interest in mathematics,
she actually saw a lot of parallels
between math and concept formation.
And she was actually, in the years before she died,
she was taking private lessons in mathematics,
in algebra and calculus,
because she believed that there was real insight
in understanding algebra in calculus
to philosophy and to epistemology.
And she also was very interested in neuroscience
because she believed that that had a lot to tell us
about epistemology, but also about music,
therefore about aesthetics.
So, I mean, she recognized the importance
of all these different fields
and the beauty of philosophy
is it should be integrating all of them.
And one of the sad things about the world in which we live
is again, we view these things as silos.
We don’t view them as integrating.
We don’t have teams of people from different arena,
you know, different fields, you know, discovering things.
We become like ants, specialized.
So she was definitely like that.
And she was constantly curious,
constantly interested in new discoveries and new ideas
and how this could expand the scope of her philosophy
and the application of her philosophy.
There’s like a million topics I could talk to you,
but since you mentioned math, I’m almost curious.
We only got three hours.
I’m almost curious.
I don’t know if you’re familiar
with Gayle’s incompleteness theorem.
I’m not, unfortunately.
It was a powerful proof that any axiomatic systems,
when you start from a bunch of axioms,
that there will, in that system,
provably must be an inconsistency.
So that was this painful like stab
in the idea of mathematics that, no,
if we start with a set of assumptions,
kind of like Ayn Rand started with objectivism,
there will have to be at least one contradiction.
See, I intuitively am gonna say that’s false.
Philosophically, but in math, it’s just true.
It’s a question about how you define,
again, definitions matter,
and you have to be careful on how you define axioms.
And you have to be careful about what you define
as an inconsistency and what that means
to say there’s an inconsistency.
And I don’t know.
I’m not gonna say more than that,
because I don’t know.
But I’m suspicious that there is some…
And this is the power of philosophy.
And this is why I said before,
concept formation is so important.
And understanding concept formation is so important,
for particularly, again, mathematics,
because it’s such an abstract field.
And it’s so easy to lose grounding in reality
that if you properly define axioms,
and you properly define what you’re doing in math,
whether that is true.
And I don’t think it is.
This is a…
Yeah, we’ll leave it as an open mystery,
because actually, this audience,
there’s literally over 100,000 people that have PhDs.
So they know Gaydo’s The Compliance Theorem.
I have this intuition that there’s something different
to mathematics and philosophy
that I’d love to hear from people.
Like, what exactly is that difference?
Because there’s a precision to mathematics
that philosophy doesn’t have,
but that precision gets you in trouble.
It somehow, it actually takes you away from truth.
Like, the very constraints of the language used
in mathematics actually puts a constraint
on the capture of truth that it’s able to do.
I’m gonna argue that that is a total product
of the way you’re conceptualizing
the terms within mathematics.
It’s not in reality.
Yeah, so you would argue it’s in the fact
that mathematics, in as much as it’s detached from reality,
that you can do these kinds of things.
Yes, and that mathematicians have come up with concepts
that they haven’t grounded in reality properly
that allows them to go off in places
that don’t lead to truth.
That’s right, that don’t lead to truth.
But I encourage you then, I encourage you
to do one of these podcasts with one of our philosophers
who know more about this stuff.
And if you move to Austin,
I’ve got somebody I’d recommend to you.
And I’d love to hear from you.
I’ve got somebody I’d recommend to you.
Can you throw a name out, or no?
Yeah, I mean, I would talk to Greg Saumieri.
When you say our, can you say what you mean by our?
I’d say people who are affiliated
with the Ironman Institute are philosophers
who are affiliated with objectivism.
And Greg is one of our brightest, and he’s in Austin.
He’s just got a position at UT,
so at the University of Texas.
And he would want, Ankar Gatte would be another one
who works at the Institute and a chief philosophy officer
at the Institute.
And there are others who specialize in philosophy
of science who I think Greg could probably give you a lead.
But these are unbelievably smart people
who know this part of the philosophy much better than I do.
What, can you just briefly perhaps say
what is the Ironman Institute?
Yeah, so the Ironman Institute was an organization founded
three years after Ironman died.
She died in 1982.
And it was founded in 1985 to promote her ideas,
to make sure that her ideas and her novels
continued in the culture and were relevant.
Well, they’re relevant, but the people saw the relevance.
So our mission is to get people to read her books,
to engage in the ideas.
We teach, we have the Objectivist Academic Center
where we teach the philosophy,
primarily to graduate students and others
who take their ideas seriously
and who really want a deep understanding of the philosophy.
And we apply the ideas.
So we take the ideas and apply them to ethics,
to philosophy, to issues of the day,
which is more my strength and more what I tend to do.
I’ve never formally studied philosophy.
So all my education philosophy is informal.
And I’m an engineer and a finance guy.
That’s my background.
So I’m a numbers guy.
Well, let me, I feel pretty undereducated.
I have a pretty open mind,
which sometimes can be painful on the internet
because people mock me or,
if I say something nuanced about communism,
people immediately kind of put you in a bin
or something like that.
It hurts to be open minded to say,
I don’t know, to ask the question,
why is communism or Marxism so problematic?
Why is capitalism problematic and so on?
But let me nevertheless go into that direction with you.
Maybe let’s talk about capitalism a little bit.
How does Objectivism compare,
relate to the idea of capitalism?
Well, first we have to define what capitalism is.
Cause again, people use capitalism in all kinds of ways.
And I know you had Ray Dalio on your show once.
I need to listen to that episode.
But Ray has no clue what capitalism is.
And that’s his big problem.
So when he says there are real problems today in capitalism,
he’s not talking about capitalism.
He’s talking about problems in the world today.
And I agree with many of the problems,
but they have nothing to do with capitalism.
Capitalism is a social, political, economic system
in which all property is privately owned
and in which the only role of government
is the protection of individual rights.
I think it’s the ideal system.
I think it’s the right system
for the reasons we talked about earlier.
It’s a system that leaves you as an individual
to pursue your values, your life, your happiness,
free of coercion and force.
And you get to decide what happens to you.
And I get to decide if to help you or not, right?
Let’s say you fall flat on your face.
People always say, well, what about the poor?
Well, if you care about the poor, help them.
Just don’t, you know, what do you need a government for?
You know, I always ask audiences, okay,
if there’s a poor kid who can’t afford to go to school
and all the schools are private
because capitalism is being instituted
and he can’t go to school,
would you be willing to participate in a fund
that pays for his education?
Every hand in the room goes up.
So what do you need government for?
Just let’s get all the money together and pay for schooling.
So the point is that what capitalism does
is leave individuals free to make their own decisions.
And as long as they’re not violating other people’s rights,
in other words, as long as they’re not using coercion force
on other people, then leave them alone.
And people are going to make mistakes
and people are gonna screw up their lives
and people are gonna commit suicide.
People are gonna do terrible things to themselves.
That is fundamentally their problem.
And if you want to help,
you under capitalism are free to help.
It’s just the only thing that doesn’t happen
under capitalism is you don’t get to impose your will
on other people.
Now, how’s that a bad thing?
So the question then is how does the implementation
of capitalism deviate from its ideal in practice?
I mean, this is what is the question with a lot of systems
is how does it start to then fail?
So one thing maybe you can correct me or inform me,
it seems like information is very important.
Like being able to make decisions, to be free,
you have to have access, full access
of all the information you need to make rational decisions.
No, that can’t be.
Because it can be right, because none of us has full access
to all the information we need.
I mean, what does that even mean?
And how big, how much of the scope do you wanna do?
Let’s just start there.
Yeah, we don’t.
So you need to have access to information.
So one of the big criticisms of capitalism
is this asymmetrical information.
The drug maker has more information about the drug
than the drug buyer, pharmaceutical drugs.
True, it’s a problem.
Well, I wonder if one can think about,
an entrepreneur can think about how to solve that problem.
See, I view any one of these challenges to capitalism
as an opportunity for entrepreneur to make money.
And they have the freedom to do it.
Yeah, so imagine an entrepreneur steps in and says,
I will test all the drugs that drug companies make,
and I will provide you for a fee with the answer.
And how do I know he’s not gonna be corrupted?
Well, there’ll be other ones and they’ll compete.
And who am I to tell which one of these is the right one?
Well, it won’t be you really getting
the information from them.
It’ll be your doctor.
The doctors need that information.
So the doctor who has some expertise in medicine
will be evaluating which rating agency to use
to evaluate the drugs and which ones then
to recommend to you.
So do we need an FDA?
Do we need a government that siphons all the information
to one source that does all the research, all the thing,
and has a clear incentive, by the way,
not to approve drugs.
Because they don’t make any money from it.
Nobody pays them for the information.
Nobody pays them to be accurate.
They’re bureaucrats at the end of the day.
And what is a bureaucrat?
What’s the main focus of a bureaucrat?
Even if they go in with the best of intentions,
which I’m sure all the scientists at the FDA
have the best of intentions, what’s their incentive?
The system builds in this incentive not to screw up.
Because one drug gets value and does damage,
you lose your job.
But if a hundred drugs that could cure cancer tomorrow
don’t ever get to market,
nobody’s gonna come after you.
And you’re saying that’s not a mechanism,
and that’s conducive to like…
You see, the marketplace is competition.
So if you won’t approve the drug,
if I still think it’s possible, I will.
And it’s not zero one.
You see the other thing that happens with the FDA
is it’s zero one.
It’s either approved or it’s not approved.
Oh, it’s approved for this, but it’s not approved for that.
But what if a drug came out and you said, right?
You told the doctors,
this drug in 10% of the cases can cause patients
an increased risk of heart disease.
You and your patients should,
we’re not forcing you, but you should, right?
It’s your medical responsibility to evaluate that
and decide if the drug is appropriate or not.
Why don’t I get to make that choice
if I wanna take on the 10% risk of heart disease?
So there was a drug, and right now I forget the name,
but it was a drug against pain,
particularly for arthritic pain, and it worked.
It reduced pain dramatically, right?
And some people tried everything,
and this was the only drug that reduced their pain.
And it turned out that in 10% of the cases,
it caused the elevated risk.
It didn’t kill people necessarily,
but it caused elevated risk of heart disease.
Okay, what did the FDA do?
It banned the drug.
Some people, I know a lot of people who said
living with pain is much worse than taking on a 10% risk.
Again, probabilities, right?
People don’t think in those numbers.
10% risk of maybe getting heart disease.
Why don’t I get to make that choice?
Why does some bureaucrat make that choice for me?
Capitalism gives you the choice,
not you as an ignorant person.
You with your doctor and a whole marketplace,
which is not created to provide you with information.
And think about a world where we didn’t have
all these regulations and controls.
The amount of opportunities that would exist
to create, to provide information,
to educate you about that information,
would mushroom dramatically.
Bloomberg, you know, the billionaire,
Bloomberg, you know, how did he make his money?
He made his money by providing financial information,
by creating this service called Bloomberg
that you buy a terminal and you get
all this amazing information.
And he was before computers, desktop computers.
I mean, he was very early on
in that whole computing revolution,
but his focus was providing financial information
And you hire a professional to manage your money.
That’s the way it’s supposed to be.
You know, you have to have,
so you as an individual cannot have
all the knowledge you need in medicine,
all the knowledge you need in finance,
all the knowledge you need in every aspect of your life.
You can’t do that.
You have to delegate and you hire a doctor.
Now you should be able to figure out
if the doctor’s good or not.
You should be able to ask doctors for reasons
for why you have to make the decision at the end.
But that’s why you have a doctor.
That’s why you have a financial advisor.
That’s why you have different people
who you’re delegating certain aspects of your life to,
but you want choices.
And what the marketplace provides is those choices.
So let me then,
this is what I do.
I’ll make a dumb case for things
and then you shut me down
and then the internet says how dumb Lex is.
This is good.
This is how it works.
I’m good at shutting down and they’re foolish
in blaming you for the question
because you’re here to ask me questions.
Let me make a case for socialism.
It’s gonna be bad because that’s the only case
there is for socialism.
So perhaps it’s not a case for socialism,
but just a certain notion that inequality,
the wealth inequality,
that the bigger the gap between the poorest
or the average and the richest,
the more painful it is to be average.
if you know that there is the CEOs of companies
make 300, 1000, 1 million times more than you do,
that makes life for a large part of the population
That there’s a relative notion to the experience of our life
that even though everybody’s life has gotten better
over the past decades and centuries,
it may feel actually worse
because you know that life could be so,
so much better in the life of the CEOs
that yeah, that gap is fundamentally a thing
that is undesirable in a society.
Everything about that is wrong.
I like to start off like that.
Which, so I mean,
so my wife likes to remind me
that as well as we’ve done in life,
we are actually from a wealth perspective
closer to a homeless person than we are to Bill Gates.
Just a math, right?
It’s a good ego check.
When I look at Bill Gates,
I get a smile on my face.
I love Bill Gates.
I’ve never met Bill Gates.
I love Bill Gates.
I love what he stands for.
I love that he has $100 billion.
I love that he has built a trampoline room in his house
where his kids can jump up and down in a trampoline
in a safe environment.
Can we take another billionaire?
Because I’m not sure if you’re paying attention,
but there’s all kinds of conspiracy theories
about Bill Gates.
Well, but that’s part of the story, right?
They have to pull him down
because people resent him for other reasons.
But yes, we can take Jeff Bezos.
We can say my favorite, historically,
just because I like a lot about him, was Steve Jobs.
I mean, I love these people.
And I can’t, there are very few billionaires I don’t love.
In the sense that I appreciate everything they’ve done
for me, for people I cherish and love,
they’ve made the world a better place.
Would it ever cross my mind that they make me look bad
because they’re richer than me
or that I don’t have what they have?
They’ve made me so much richer
that they’ve made inventions that used to cost millions
and millions and millions of dollars accessible to me.
I mean, this is a supercomputer in my pocket.
Now, but think about it, right?
What is the difference between,
and I’ll get to the essence of your point in a minute,
but think about what the difference is
between me and Bill Gates in terms of,
because it’s true that in terms of wealth,
I’m closer to the homeless person,
but in terms of my day to day life,
I’m closer to Bill Gates.
You know, we both live in a nice house.
His is nicer, but we live in a nice house.
His is bigger, but mine is plenty big.
We both drive cars.
His is nicer, but we both drive cars.
We both drive cars, cars, 100 years ago, what cars?
We both can fly, get on a plane in Los Angeles
and fly to New York and get there in about the same time.
We’re both flying private.
The only difference is my private plane
I share with 300 other people and his,
but it’s accessible.
It’s relatively comfortable.
Again, in the perspective of 50 years ago, 100 years ago,
it’s unimaginable that I could fly like that
for such a low fee.
We live very similar lives in that sense.
So I don’t resent him.
So first of all, I’m an exception to the supposed rule
that people resent.
I don’t think anybody, I don’t think people do resent
unless they’re taught to resent.
And this is the key.
People are taught and I’ve seen this in America.
And this is to me the most horrible shocking thing
that has happened in America over the last 40 years.
I came to America, so I’m an immigrant.
I came to America from Israel in 1987.
And I came here because I thought this was the place
where I could, where I’d had the most opportunities
and it is, most opportunities.
And I came here because I believed
there was a certain American spirit of individualism
and exactly the opposite of what you just described.
A sense of I live my life, it’s my happiness.
I’m not looking at my neighbor.
I’m not competing with the Joneses.
The American dream is my dream.
My two kids, my dog, my station wagon.
Not because other people have it, it’s because I want it.
In that sense, and when I came here in the 80s,
you had that.
You had, you still had it.
It was less than I think it had been in the past.
But you had that spirit.
There was no envy.
There was no resentment.
There were rich people and they were celebrated.
There was still this admiration for entrepreneurs
and admiration for success.
Not by everybody, certainly not by the intellectuals,
but by the average person.
I have witnessed particularly over the last 10 years
a complete transformation
and America’s become like Europe.
I know, are you Russian?
It’s become Russian in a sense where,
you know, they’ve always done these studies.
You know, I’ll give you a hundred dollars
and your neighbor a hundred dollars
or I’ll give you, what was it, I’ll give you a thousand
dollars but your neighbor gets $10,000
and a Russian will always choose the hundred dollars, right?
He wants equality above being better himself.
Americans would always choose that gap.
And that’s changing.
My sense is not anymore.
And it’s changing because we’ve been told it should change.
And morally you’re saying that doesn’t make any sense.
So there’s no sense in which, let me put another spin.
I forget the book, but the sense of,
if you’re working for Steve Jobs and your hands,
you’re the engineer behind the iPhone
and there’s a sense in which his salary
is stealing from your efforts.
Because I forget the book, right?
That’s literally the terminology is used, right?
This is straight out of Karl Marx.
Sure, it’s also straight out of Karl Marx.
But there’s no sense morally speaking
that you see that as the theft.
The other way around.
That engineer is stealing off of,
and it’s not stealing, right?
But the engineer is getting more from Steve Jobs
by a lot, not by a little bit,
than Steve Jobs is getting from the engineer.
The engineer, even if they’re a great engineer,
there are probably other great engineers
that could replace him.
Would he even have a job without Steve Jobs?
Would the industry exist without Steve Jobs?
Without the giants that carry these things forward?
Let me ask you this.
I mean, you’re a scientist.
Do you resent Einstein for being smarter than you?
I mean, and VM, are you angry with him?
Would you feel negative towards him
if he was in the room right now?
Or would you, if he came into the room,
you’d say, oh my God.
I mean, you interview people who I think some of them
are probably smarter than you and me.
And your attitude towards them is one of reverence.
Well, one interesting little side question there
is what is the natural state of being for us humans?
You kind of implied education has polluted our minds,
but like if I, because you’re referring to jealousy,
the Einstein question, the Steve Jobs question,
I wonder which way, if we’re left without education,
we would naturally go.
So there is no such thing as the natural state
in that sense, right?
This is the myth of who so is a noble savage
and of John Walls is behind the veil of ignorance.
Well, if you’re ignorant, you’re ignorant.
You can’t make any decisions.
You’re just ignorant.
There is no human nature that determines
how you will relate to other people.
You will relate to other people based on the conclusions
you come to about how to relate to other people.
You can relate to other people as values
to use your terminology from the perspective of love.
This other human being is a value to me
and I want to trade with them and trade,
the beauty of trade is it’s win, win.
I want to benefit and they are going to benefit.
I don’t want to screw them.
I don’t want them to screw me.
I want us to be win, win.
Or you can deal with other people as threats, as enemies.
Much of human history, we have done that.
And therefore, as a zero sum world,
what they have, I want, I will take it.
I will use force to take it.
I will use political force to take it.
I will use the force of my arm to take it.
I will just take it.
So those are two options, right?
And they will determine whether we live
in civilization or not.
And they are determined by conclusions people come to
about the world and the nature of reality
and the nature of morality and the nature of politics
and all these things.
They’re determined by philosophy.
And this is why philosophy is so important
because the philosophy shapes,
evolution doesn’t do this.
It doesn’t just happen.
Ideas shape how we relate to other people.
And you say, well, little children do it.
Well, little children don’t have a frontal cortex.
It’s not relevant, right?
What happens as you develop a frontal cortex,
as you develop the brain, you learn ideas.
And those ideas will shape how you relate to other people.
And if you learn good ideas,
you relate to other people in a healthy, productive win, win.
And if you develop bad ideas,
you will resent other people and you will want their stuff.
And the thing is that human progress depends
on the win, win relationship.
It depends on civilization, depends on peace.
It depends on allowing people,
going back to what we talked about earlier,
allowing people the freedom to think for themselves.
And anytime you try to interrupt that,
you’re causing damage.
So this change in America is not some reversion
to a natural state.
It’s a shift in ideas.
We still live, the better part of American society
and the world, still lives on the remnants
of the Enlightenment, the Enlightenment ideas,
the ideas that brought about this scientific revolution,
the ideas that brought about the creation of this country.
And it’s the same basic ideas that led to both of those.
And as those ideas get more distant,
as those ideas are not defended,
as those ideas disappear, as Enlightenment goes away,
we will become more violent, more resentful,
more tribal, more obnoxious, more unpleasant,
A very specific example of this that bothers me,
I’d be curious to get your comment on.
So Elon Musk is a billionaire.
And one of the things that really,
maybe it’s almost a pet peeve,
it really bothers me when the press
and the general public will say,
well, all those rockets they’re sending up there,
those are just like the toys,
the games that billionaires play.
That to me, billionaire has become a dirty word to use,
like as if money can buy or has anything to do with genius.
I’m trying to articulate a specific line of question here
because it just bothers me.
I guess the question is how do we get here
and how do we get out of that?
Because Elon Musk is doing some of the most incredible things
that a human being has ever participated in.
Mostly, he doesn’t build the rockets himself,
he’s getting a bunch of other geniuses together that have.
That takes genius.
But where do we go and how do we get back
to where Elon Musk is an inspiring figure
as opposed to a billionaire playing with some toys?
So this is the role of philosophy.
It goes back to the same place.
It goes back to our understanding of the world
and our role in it.
And if you understand that the only way
to become a billionaire, for example,
is to create value.
Value for whom?
Value for people who are gonna consume it.
The only way to become a billionaire,
the only way Elon Musk became a billionaire is through PayPal.
Now, PayPal is something we all use.
PayPal is an enormous value to all of us.
It’s why it’s worth several billions of dollars
which Elon Musk could then earn.
But you cannot become a billionaire in a free society
by exploiting people.
You cannot because you’ll be laughed.
Nobody will deal with you.
Nobody will have any interactions with you.
The only way to become a billionaire
is to do billions of win, win transactions.
So the only way to become a billionaire in a free society
is to change the world to make it a better place.
Billionaires are the great humanitarians of our time,
not because they give charity,
but because they make them billions.
And it’s true that money and genius
are not necessarily correlated,
but you cannot become a billionaire
without being super smart.
You cannot become a billionaire by figuring something out
that nobody else has figured out
in whatever realm it happens to be.
And that thing that you figure out
has to be something that provides immense value
to other people.
Where do we go wrong?
We go wrong, our culture goes wrong
because it views billionaires as selfish.
And there’s a sense in which,
not a sense, it’s absolutely true.
The billionaire doesn’t ask for my opinion
on what product to launch.
Elon Musk doesn’t ask others
what they think he should spend his money on,
what the greatest social wellbeing will be.
I mean, there’s a sense in which the rockets are his toys.
There’s a sense in which he chose
that he would be inspired the most.
He would have the most fun
by going to Mars and building rockets.
And he’s probably dreamt of rockets
from when he was a kid
and probably always played with rockets.
And now he has the funds, the capital
to be able to deploy it.
So he’s being selfish.
Obviously, he’s being self interested.
This is what Elon Musk is about.
I mean, the same with Jeff Bezos.
There’s no committee to decide whether to invest
in cloud computing or not.
Bezos decided that.
And at the end of the day,
they are the bosses,
they pursue the values they believe are good.
They create the wealth.
It’s their decisions, it’s their mind.
And the fact is we live in a world
where for 2000 plus years,
self interest, even though we all do it,
just more extent to the less,
we deem it as morally apparent.
I mean, your mother probably taught you the same thing
my mother taught me.
Think of others first.
Think of yourself last.
The good stuff is kept for the guests.
You never get to use the good stuff.
That’s what the focus of morality is.
Now, no mother, even no Jewish mother
actually believes that, right?
Because they don’t really want you to be last.
They want you to be first and they push you to be first.
But morally, they’ve been taught their entire lives
and they believe that the right thing to say
and to some extent do
is to argue for sacrifice for other people, right?
So most people, 99% of people are torn.
They know they should be selfless,
sacrifice, live for other people.
They don’t really want to.
So they act selfishly in their day to day life
and they feel guilty and they can’t be happy.
They can’t be happy.
And Jewish mothers and Catholic mothers are excellent
at using that guilt to manipulate you.
But the guilt is inevitable
because you’ve got these two conflicting things,
the way you want to live
and the way you’ve been taught to live.
And what objectivism does is that at the end of the day
provides you with a way to unite morality,
a proper morality with what you want
and to think about what you really want,
to conceptualize what you really want properly.
So what you want is really good for you
and what you want will really lead to your happiness.
So, you know, we reject the idea of sacrifice.
We reject the idea of living for other people,
but you see, if you believe that the purpose of morality
is to sacrifice for other people
and you look at Jeff Bezos,
when was the last time he sacrificed anything, right?
He was living pretty well.
He’s got billions that he could give it all away
and yet he doesn’t.
How dare he?
You know, in my talks, I often position,
and I’m gonna use Bill Gates,
sorry guys, drop the conspiracy theory.
They’re all BS, complete and utter nonsense.
There’s not a shred of truth.
You know, I disagree with Bill Gates
on everything political.
I think he politically is a complete ignoramus,
but the guy’s a genius when it comes to technology
and he’s just thoughtful even in this philanthropy.
He just uses his mind and I respect that
even though politically he’s terrible.
Anyway, think about this.
Who had a bigger impact on the lives
of poor people in the world?
Bill Gates or Mother Teresa?
It’s not even close.
And Mother Teresa lived this altruistic life to the core.
She lived it consistently.
And yet she was miserable, pathetic, horrible.
She hated her life.
She was miserable.
And most of the people she helped didn’t do very well
because she just helped them not die, right?
And then Bill Gates changed the world
and he helped a lot by providing technology.
We even, philanthropy gets to them.
The food gets them, much fancier, more efficient.
Yet who is the moral saint?
Sainthood is not determined based on
what you do for other people.
Sainthood is based on how much pain you suffer.
I like to ask people to go to a museum
and look at all the paintings of saints.
How many of them are smiling and are happy?
They’ve usually got arrows through them
and holes in their body
and they’re just suffering a horrible death.
The whole point of the morality we are taught
is that happiness is immorality,
that happy people cannot be good people,
and that good people suffer
and that suffering is necessary for morality.
Morality is about self sacrifice and suffering.
And at the end of the day,
almost all the problems in the world
boil down to that false view.
So can we try to talk about,
part of it is the problem of the word selfishness,
but let’s talk about the virtue of selfishness.
So let’s start at the fact that for me,
I really enjoy doing stuff for other people.
I enjoy cheering on the success of others.
I don’t know.
It’s deep in that.
Well, think about it.
Because I think you do know.
If I were to really think,
I don’t want to resort to like evolutionary arguments
or like this is somehow different.
So I think.
So I can tell you why I enjoy helping others.
Maybe you can go there.
Like one thing,
cause we should talk about love a little bit.
I’ll tell you there’s a part of me
that’s a little bit not rational.
Like there’s a gut that I follow
that not everything I do is perfectly rational.
For example, my dad criticizes me.
He says like, you should always have a plan.
Like it should make sense.
You have a strategy.
And I say that,
I left, I stepped down from my full salary position
There’s so many things I did without like a plan.
It’s a gut.
It’s like, I want to start a company.
Well, you know how many companies fail?
I don’t know.
It’s a gut.
And the same thing with being kind to others is a gut.
I watched the way that karma works in this world
that the people like us,
one guy I look up to is Joe Rogan,
that he does stuff for others.
And that the joy he experiences,
the way he sees the world,
like just the glimmer in his eyes
because he does stuff for others
that creates a joyful experience.
And that somehow seems to be an instructive way to,
that to me is inspiring of a life well lived.
But you probably know a lot of people
who have done stuff for others who are not happy.
So I don’t think it’s the doing stuff for others
that just brings the happiness.
It’s why you do stuff for others
and what else you’re doing in your life
and what is the proportion.
But it’s why at the end of the day, which is,
and it’s the same.
Look, you can maybe through a gut feeling say,
I wanna start a company,
but you better start doing thinking
about how and what and all of that.
And to some extent the why,
because if you really wanna be happy doing this,
you better make sure you’re doing it for the right reason.
So I’m not, you know,
there’s something called fast thinking,
Carlman, the Daniel Kahneman.
Daniel Kahneman talks about,
and there is, it’s, you know,
all the integrations you’ve made so far in your life
cause you to have specialized knowledge and certain things
and you can think very fast
and your gut tells you what the right answer is.
But it’s not, it’s your mind is constantly evaluating
and constantly working.
You wanna make it as rational as you can,
not in the sense that I have to think through
every time I make a decision,
but that they’ve so programmed my mind in a sense
that the answers are the right answers,
you know, when I get them.
So, you know, I like, I view other people as a value.
Other people contribute enormously to my life,
whether it’s a romantic love relationship
or whether it’s a friendship relationship
or whether it’s just, you know,
Jeff Bezos creating Amazon
and delivering goodies to my home when I get them.
And people do all that, right?
It’s not just Jeff Bezos.
He gets the most credit,
but everybody in that chain of command,
everybody at Amazon is working for me.
I love that.
I love the idea of a human being.
I love the idea that there are people capable
of being an Einstein, of being, you know,
and creating and building and making stuff
that makes my life so good.
You know, most of us like,
this is not a good room for an example.
Most of us like plants, right?
We like pets.
I don’t particularly, but people like pets.
We like to see life.
Human beings are life on steroids, right?
They’re life with a brain.
It’s amazing, right, what they can do.
I love people.
Now that doesn’t mean I love everybody
because there’s some,
there are really bad people out there who I hate, right?
And I do hate.
And there are people out there that are just,
I have no opinion about.
But generally the idea of a human being
to me is a phenomenal idea.
When I see a baby, I light up
because to me there’s a potential, you know,
there’s this magnificent potential
that is embodied in that.
And when I see people struggling and need help,
I think they’re human beings.
You know, they embody that potential.
They embody that goodness.
They might turn out to be bad,
but why would I ever give the presumption of that?
I give them the presumption of the positive
and I cheer them on.
And I enjoy watching people succeed.
I enjoy watching people get to the top of the mountain
and produce something.
Even if I don’t get anything directly from it,
I enjoy that because it’s part of my enjoyment of life.
So the word, to you, the morality of selfishness,
this kind of love of other human beings,
the love of life fits into a morality of selfishness.
Cannot, because there’s no context
in which you can truly love yourself
without loving life and loving what it means to be human.
So, you know, the love of yourself is gonna manifest itself
definitely in different people, but it’s core.
What do you love about yourself?
First of all, I love that I’m alive.
I love this world and the opportunities it provides me
and the fun and the excitement of discovering something new
and meeting a new person and having a conversation.
You know, all of this is immensely enjoyable,
but behind all of that is a particular human character.
There’s a particular human capability
that not only I have, other people have.
And the fact that they have it makes my life
so much more fun because, so it’s,
you cannot view, you know, it’s all integrated
and you cannot view yourself in isolation.
Now that doesn’t place a moral commandment on me,
help everybody who’s poor
that you happen to meet in the street.
It doesn’t place a burden on me in a sense
that now I have this moral duty to help everybody.
It leaves me free to make decisions
about who I help and who I don’t.
There’s some people who I will not help.
There’s some people who I do not wish positive things upon.
Bad people should have bad outcomes.
Bad people should suffer.
And then you have the freedom to choose who’s good,
who’s bad within your.
It’s your decision based on your values.
Now, I think there’s an objectivity to it.
There’s a standard by which you should evaluate
good versus bad.
And that standard should be to what extent
do they contribute or hurt human life?
The standard is human life.
And so when I say, look at Jeff Bezos,
I say, he’s contributed to human life, good guy.
I might disagree with him on stuff.
We might disagree about politics.
We might disagree about women.
I don’t know what we agree.
But overall, big picture, he is pro life, right?
I look at somebody like, you know, to take like 99.9%
of our politicians and they are pro death.
They’re pro destruction.
They’re pro cutting corners in ways that destroy human life
and human potential and human ability.
So I literally hate almost every politician out there.
And I wish ill on them, right?
I don’t want them to be successful or happy.
I want them all to go away, right?
Leave me alone.
So I believe in justice.
I believe good things should happen to good people
and bad things should happen to bad people.
So I make those generalizations based on this one,
you know, on the other hand, if, you know,
I shouldn’t say all politicians, right?
So if I, you know, I love Thomas Jefferson
and George Washington, right?
I love Abraham Lincoln.
I love people who fought for freedom
and who believed in freedom, who had these ideas
and lived up to, at least in parts of their lives,
to those principles.
Now, do I think Thomas Jefferson was flawed
because he held slaves?
But the virtues way outweigh that in my view.
And I understand people who don’t accept that.
You don’t have to also love
and hate the entirety of the person.
There’s parts of that person that you’re attracted to.
The major part is pro life and therefore I’m pro that person.
And I think, and I said earlier
that objectivism is a philosophy of love.
And I believe that because objectivism is about your life,
about loving your life, about embracing your life,
about engaging with the world,
about loving the world in which you live,
about win win relationships with other people,
which means to a large extent loving the good
in other people and the best in other people
and encouraging that and supporting that
and promoting that.
So I know selfishness is a harsh word
because the culture has given it that harshness.
Selfishness is a harsh word
because the people who don’t like selfishness
want you to believe it’s a harsh word.
But it’s not.
What does it mean?
It means focus on self.
It means take care of self.
It means make yourself your highest priority,
not your only priority,
because in taking care of self,
what would I be without my wife?
What would I be without the people who support me,
who help me, who I have these love relationships with?
So other people are crucial.
What would my life be without Steve Jobs, right?
A lot of things you mentioned here are just beautiful.
So one is win win.
So one key thing about this selfishness
and the idea of objectivism is the philosophy of love
is that you don’t want parasitism.
So that is unethical.
So you actually, first of all, you say win win a lot.
And I just like that terminology
because it’s a good way to see life.
It’s tried to maximize the number of win win interactions.
That’s a good way to see business actually.
Well, life generally, I think every aspect of life,
you wanna have a win win relationship with your wife.
Imagine if it was win lose.
Either way, if you win and she loses,
how long is that gonna sustain?
So win lose relationships are not in equilibrium.
What they turn into is lose lose.
Like win lose turns into lose lose.
And so the only alternative to lose lose is win win.
And you win and the person you love wins.
What’s better than that, right?
That’s the way to maximize, so like the selfishness
is you’re trying to maximize the win,
but the way to maximize the win is to maximize the win win.
Yes, and it turns out,
and Adam Smith understood this a long time ago,
that if you focus on your own winning
while respecting other people as human beings,
then everybody wins.
And the beauty of capitalism,
if we go back to capitalism for a second,
the beauty of capitalism is you cannot be successful
in capitalism without producing values
that other people appreciate
and therefore willing to buy from you.
And they buy them, and this goes back to that question
about the engineer and Steve Jobs.
Why is the engineer working there?
Because he’s getting paid more than his time is worth to him.
I know people don’t like to think in those terms,
but that’s the reality.
If his time is worth more to him than what he’s getting paid,
he would leave.
So he’s winning.
And is Apple winning?
Yes, because they’re getting more productivity from him.
They’re getting more from him
than what he’s actually producing.
It’s tough because there’s the human psychology
and imperfect information.
It just makes it a little messier
than the clarity of thinking you have about this.
It’s just, you know, because for sure,
but not everything in life is an economic transaction.
It ultimately is close, but it…
Even if it’s not an economic transaction,
even if it’s a relationship transaction,
when you get to a point with a friend
where you’re not gaining from the relationship,
friendship’s gonna be over.
Not immediately, because it takes time for these things
to manifest itself and to really absorb and to…
But we change friendships, we change our loves, right?
We fall in and out of love.
We fall out of love because we’re not…
Love, so let’s go back to love, right?
Love is the most selfish of all emotions.
Love is about what you do to me, right?
So I love my wife because she makes me feel better
So, you know, the idea of selfless love is bizarre.
So Ayn Rand used to say, before you say, I love you,
you have to say the I.
And you have to know who you are
and you have to appreciate yourself.
If you hate yourself,
what does it mean to love somebody else?
So I love my wife because she makes me feel great
about the world.
And she loves me for the same reason.
And so Ayn Rand used to use this example.
Imagine you go up to be spoused the night before the wedding
and you say, you know, I get nothing out of this relationship.
I’m doing this purely as an act of noble self sacrifice.
She would slap you, as she should, right?
So, you know, we know this intuitively that love is selfish,
but we are afraid to admit it to ourselves.
Because the other side has convinced us
that selfishness is associated with exploiting other people.
Selfishness means lying, cheating, stealing,
walking on corpses, backstabbing people.
But is that ever in your self interest truly, right?
You know, I’ll often be in front of an audience to say,
okay, how many people have you ever been in a relationship
and say, okay, how many people here have lied?
I’m kidding, right?
How many of you think that if you did that consistently,
that would make your life better?
Nobody thinks that, right?
Because everybody’s experienced how shitty lying,
not because of how it makes you feel
out of a sense of guilt.
Existentially, it’s just a bad strategy, right?
You get caught, you have to create other lies
to cover up the previous lie.
It screws up with your own psychology and your own cognition.
You know, the mind, to some extent, like a computer, right,
is an integrating machine.
And in computer science, I understand
there’s a term called garbage in, garbage out.
Lying is garbage in.
So it’s not good strategy.
Cheating, screwing your customers in a business,
not paying your suppliers as a businessman,
not good business practices,
not good practices for being alive.
So win, win is both model and practical.
And the beauty of Heinemann’s philosophy,
and I think this is really important,
is that the model is the practical
and the practical is the model.
And therefore, if you are a model, you will be happy.
Yeah, that’s why the application
of the philosophy of objectivism is so easy to practice.
So like, or to discuss, or possible to discuss.
That’s why you talk about all.
I’m so clear cut.
I’m so vigorous about my view.
And that’s fundamentally practical.
I mean, that’s the best of philosophies is practical.
It’s in a sense, teaching you how to live a good life.
And it’s teaching you how to live a good life,
not just as you, but as a human being.
And therefore, the principles that apply to you
probably apply to me as well.
And if we both share the same principles
of how to live a good life, we’re not gonna be enemies.
You brought up anarchy earlier.
It’s an interesting question
because you’ve kind of said politicians.
I mean, part of it is a little bit joking,
but politicians are not good people.
So, but we should have some.
So you have an opposition to anarchism.
So they, first of all, they weren’t always not bad people.
That is, I gave examples of people
who engage in political life
who I think were good people basically.
And, but they think they get worse over time
if the system is corrupt.
And I think the system, unfortunately,
even the American system, as good as it was,
was founded on quicksand and have corruption built in.
They didn’t quite get it.
And they needed Ayn Rand to get it.
So I’m not blaming them.
I don’t think they share any blame.
You needed a philosophy in order to completely fulfill
the promise that is America,
or the promise that is the founding of America.
So the place where corruption sneaked in
is the lack in some way of the philosophy
underlying the nation?
So it’s Christianity.
It’s, you know, not to hit on another controversial topic.
It’s religion, which undercut their morality.
So the founders were explicitly Christian
and altruistic in their morality.
Implicitly, in terms of their actions,
they were completely secular,
and they were very secular anyway.
But in their morality, even, they were secular.
So there’s nothing in Christianity that says
that you have an inalienable right to pursue happiness.
That’s unbelievably self interested
and based on kind of a moral philosophy of ego,
of an egoistic moral philosophy.
But they didn’t know that.
And they didn’t know how to ground it.
They implicitly, they had that fast thinking, that gut.
They told them that this was right.
And the whole enlightenment, that period,
from John Locke on to really to Hume,
that period is about pursuit of happiness,
using reason in pursuit of the good life, right?
But they can’t ground it.
They don’t really understand what reason is,
and they don’t really understand what happiness requires.
And they can’t detach themselves from Christianity.
They’re not allowed to politically.
And I think conceptually,
you just can’t make that big break.
Rand is an enlightenment thinker in that sense.
She is what should have followed right after, right?
She should have come there and grounded them
in the secular and in the egoistic
and the Aristotelian view of morality
as a code of values to basically to guide your life,
to guide your life towards happiness.
That’s Aristotle’s view, right?
So they didn’t have that.
So I think that government is necessary.
It’s not a necessary evil.
It’s a necessary good, because it does something good.
And the good that it does
is it eliminates coercion from society.
It eliminates violence from society.
It eliminates the use of force
between individuals from society.
But see, the argument like Michael Malice would make,
give me a chance here,
is why can’t you apply the same kind of reasoning
that you’ve effectively used for the rest
of mutually agreed upon institutions
that are driven by capitalism,
that we can’t also hire forces
to protect us from the violence,
to ensure the stability of society
that protects us from the violence.
Why draw the line at this particular place, right?
Well, because there is no other place to draw a line,
and there is a line.
And by the way, we draw lines at other places, right?
We don’t vote.
We don’t determine truth and science based on competition.
Right, so that’s a line.
But first of all, some people might say…
I mean, there’s competition in a sense
that you have alternate theories,
but at the end of the day,
whether you decide that he’s right or he’s right
is not based on the market.
It’s based on facts, on reality, on objective reality.
You have to…
And some people will never accept that this person is right
because they don’t see the string.
So first of all, what they reject,
what most anarchists reject,
even if they don’t admit it or recognize it,
is they reject objective reality.
In which sense?
So like, okay, I get it, right.
So there’s a whole…
So the whole realm of law
is a scientific realm
to define, for example, the boundaries of private property.
It’s not an issue of competition.
It’s not an issue of,
I have one system and you have another system.
It’s an issue of a big competition.
It’s an issue of objective reality.
And now it’s more difficult than science in a sense
because it’s more difficult to prove
that my conception of property is correct
and you’re correct.
But there is a correct one.
In reality, there’s a correct vision.
It’s more abstract.
somebody has to decide what property is.
So my property is defined by certain boundaries.
And I have a police force
and I have a judiciary system that backs my vision.
And you have a claim against my property.
You have a claim against my property.
And you have a police force and a judicial system
that backs your claim.
So our definitions of property are different?
Yes, our definitions of property
or our claim on the property is different.
So what if we just agree on the definition of property and…
But why should we agree, right?
Your judicial system is one definition of property.
My judicial system is not.
You think that there’s no such thing
as intellectual property rights.
And your whole system believes that.
And my whole system believes there is such thing.
So you are duplicating my books
and handing them out to all your friends
and not paying me a royalty.
And I think that’s wrong.
My judicial system and my police force think that’s wrong.
And we’re both living in the same geographic area, right?
So we have overlapping jurisdictions.
Now, the anarchist would say, well, we’ll negotiate.
Why should we negotiate?
My system is actually right.
There is such a thing as intellectual property rights.
There’s no negotiation here.
And you should either pay a fine or go to jail.
Yeah, but why can’t…
Because it’s a community, there’s multiple parties
and it’s like a majority vote.
They’ll hire different forces that says,
yeah, Yaron is onto something here
with the definition of property and we’ll go with that.
So are anarchists pro democracy in the majority rule sense?
Well, I think so.
I think anarchy promotes like emergent democracy, right?
No, it doesn’t.
I’ll tell you what it promotes.
It promotes emergent strife and civil war and violence,
constant uninterrupted violence.
Because the only way to settle the dispute between us,
since we both think that we are right
and we have guns behind us to protect that
and we have a legal system,
we have a whole theory of ideas,
is you’re stealing my stuff.
How do I get it back?
I invade you, right?
I take over, and who’s gonna win that battle?
The smartest guy?
Oh, the guy with the biggest guns.
See, but the anarchists would say
that they’re using implied,
like the state uses implied force.
They’re already doing violence.
Because they take the state as it is today
and they refuse to engage in the conversation
about what a state should and could look like
and how we can create mechanisms
to protect us from the state using those.
But look, my view of anarchy is very simple.
It’s a ridiculous position.
I mean, I really mean this, right?
And sorry to Michael,
but and all the other very, very smart,
very, very smart anarchists.
Because anarchists is never,
you won’t find a dumb anarchist.
Because dumb people know it wouldn’t work.
You have to have, it’s absolutely true.
You have to have a certain IQ to be an anarchist.
That’s true, they’re all really intelligent.
And the reason is that you have to create
such a mythology in your head.
You have to create so many rationalizations.
Any Joe in the street knows it doesn’t work
because they can understand what happens
when two people who are armed are in the street
and have a dispute and there’s no mechanism
to resolve that dispute.
And this is where it gets subjective.
The whole point of government is
that it is the objective authority
for determining the truth in one regard,
in regard to force.
Because the only alternative to determining it
when it comes to force is through force.
The only way to resolve disputes is through force
or through this negotiation, which is unjust
because if one party is right and one party is wrong,
And this is the point.
I’m not against competition of governance.
I’m all for competition of governance.
We do that all the time.
It’s called countries.
The United States has a certain governance structure.
The Soviet Union had a governance structure.
Mexico has a governance structure.
And they’re competing.
And we can observe the competition.
And in my world, you could move freely
from one governance to another.
If you didn’t like your governance,
you would move to a better governance system.
But they have to have autonomy within a geographic area.
Otherwise what you get is complete and utter civil war.
The law needs to be objective.
And there needs to be one law over a piece of ground.
And if you disagree with that law,
you can move somewhere else where they may.
This is why federalism is such a beautiful system.
Even within the United States, we have states.
And on certain issues, we’re allowed
to disagree between states, like the death penalty.
Some states do, some states don’t.
And now I can move from one state if I don’t like it.
But there’s certain issues you cannot have disagreement.
Slavery, for example, this is why we had a civil war.
But let me, one other argument against anarchy.
Markets exist where force has been eliminated.
Sorry, can you say that again?
Markets exist where the rule of force has been eliminated.
The rule of force?
So a market will exist if we know
that you can’t pull a gun on me and just take my stuff.
I am willing to engage in transaction with you
if we have an implicit understanding
that we’re not gonna use force against each other.
So force has something special to it.
It’s a special, it overrides,
because we are still agreeing we can manipulate each other.
But force we can’t.
Force kind of,
so there’s something fundamental about violence.
Force is a fundamental force.
It’s the anti reason.
It’s the anti life.
It’s the anti force against another person.
And it’s what it does is shuts down the mind.
So in order to have a market,
you have to extract force.
How can you have a market in force?
When I, there’s an Instagram channel called nature’s metal
where it has all these videos of animals,
basically having a market of force.
But that shuts down the ability to reason
and animals don’t need to because they can’t.
So the innovation that is human beings
is our capacity to reason.
And therefore the relegation of force to the animals.
We don’t do force.
Civilization is what we don’t have force.
And so what you have is you cannot have a market in that,
which a market requires the elimination of it.
And I don’t debate formally these guys,
but I interact with them all the time, right?
And you get these absurd arguments where,
David Friedman will say, that’s Milton Friedman’s son.
He will say something like, well, in Somalia,
in the Northern part of Somalia
where they have no government,
you have all these wonderful,
you have these tribal tribunals of these tribes
and they resolve disputes.
Barbarically, they use Sharia law.
They have no respect for individual rights,
no respect for property.
And the only reason they have any authority
is because they have guns and they have power
and they have force and they do it barbarically.
There’s nothing civilizing about the courts of Somalian
and they write about pirates because they view force.
They don’t view force as something unique
that must be extracted from human life.
And that’s why anarchy has to devolve into violence
because it treats forces just,
what’s the big deal with negotiating over guns?
So we covered a lot of high level philosophy,
but I’d like to touch on the troubles, the chaos of the day.
A couple of things.
And I really trying to find a hopeful path way out.
So one is the current coronavirus pandemic,
or in particular, not the virus,
but our handling of it.
Is there something philosophically, politically
that you would like to see,
that you would like to recommend,
that you would like to maybe give a hopeful message
if we take that kind of trajectory
we might be able to get out?
Because I’m kind of worried about the economic pain
that people are feeling that there’s this quiet suffering.
I mean, I agree with you completely.
There is a quiet suffering.
I mean, I know people.
I go to a lot of restaurants.
One of the things we love to do is eat out.
My wife doesn’t like cooking anymore.
We don’t have kids in the house anymore,
so she doesn’t have to.
So we go out a lot.
We go to restaurants.
And because we have our favorites and we go to them a lot,
we get to know the owners of the restaurant, the chef.
And it’s just heartbreaking.
These people put their life, their blood, sweat, and tears.
I mean, real blood, sweat, and tears into these projects.
Restaurants are super difficult to manage.
Most of them go bankrupt anyway.
And the restaurants, we go to a good restaurant.
So they’ve done a good job
and they offer unique value.
And they shut them down.
And many of them will never open.
Something like the estimate 50, 60% of restaurants
in some places won’t open.
These are people’s lives.
These are people’s capital.
These are people’s effort.
These are people’s love.
Talk about love.
Love what they do.
Particularly if they’re the chef as well.
And it’s gone.
And it’s disappeared.
And what are they gonna do with their lives now?
They’re gonna live off the government
the way our politicians would like them.
Bigger and bigger stimulus plans
so we can hand checks to people
to get them used to living off of us rather than.
It’s disgusting and it’s offensive
and it’s unbelievably sad.
And this is where it comes to this.
I care about other people.
I mean, this idea that objectivists don’t care.
I mean, I love these people who provide me with pleasure
of eating wonderful food in a great environment.
And there’s something inspiring about them too.
Like when I see a great restaurant owner,
I wanna do better with my own stuff.
Anybody who does it is excellent.
I love sports because it’s the one realm
in which you’d still value and celebrate excellence.
But I try to celebrate excellence everything in my life.
So I try to be nice to these people.
And with COVID, we went more to restaurants,
we did more takeout stuff.
We made an effort, particularly the restaurants,
we really love to keep them going,
to encourage them, to support them.
The problem is philosophy drives the world.
The response to COVID has been worse than pathetic.
And it’s driven by philosophy.
It’s driven by disrespect to science,
ignorance and disrespect of statistics,
a disrespect of individual human decision making.
Government has to decide everything for us.
And just throughout the process and a disrespect of markets
because we didn’t let markets work to facilitate
what we needed in order to deal with this virus.
If you look at the place, it’s interesting
that the only place on the planet
that’s done well with this are parts of Asia, right?
Taiwan did phenomenally with this.
And the vice president of Taiwan is an epidemiologist.
So he knew what he was doing.
And they got it right from the beginning.
South Korea did amazing, even Hong Kong and Singapore.
Hong Kong is just very few deaths.
And the economy wasn’t shut down in any of those places.
There were no lockdowns in any of those places.
The CDC had plans before this happened
on how to deal with good plans.
Indeed, if you ask people around the world before the pandemic
which country is best prepared for a pandemic,
they would have said the United States
because of the CDC’s plans
and all of our emergency reserves and all that
and the wealth.
And yet all of that went out the window
because people panicked, people didn’t think,
go back to reason, people were arrogant,
refused to use the tools that they had at their disposal
to deal with this.
So you deal with pandemics, it’s very simple
how you deal with pandemics.
And this is how South Korea and Taiwan and everywhere,
you deal with them by testing, tracing and isolating.
And you do it well and you do it vigorously
and you do it on scale if you have to.
And you scale up to do it and we have the wealth to do that.
So one question I have, it’s a difficult one.
So I talk about love a lot
and you’ve just talked about Donald Trump,
I guarantee you though this particular segment
will be full of division from the internet.
But I believe that should be and can be fixed.
What I’m referring to in particular is the division
because we’ve talked about the value of reason.
And what I’ve noticed on the internet
is the division shuts down reason.
So when people hear you say Trump,
actually the first sentence you said about Trump,
they’ll hear Trump and their ears will perk up
and they’ll immediately start in that first sentence,
they’ll say, is he a Trump supporter or a Trump?
They’re not interested in anything else after that.
And then after that, that’s it.
And what, how do, so my question is,
you as one of the beacons of intellectualism,
quite honestly, I mean, it sounds silly to say,
but you are a beacon of reason.
How do we bring people together long enough
to where we can reason?
I mean, there’s no easy way out of this
because the fact that people have become tribal
and they have, very tribal.
And the tribe, in the tribe reason doesn’t matter.
It’s all about emotion.
It’s all about belonging or not belonging.
And you don’t wanna stand out.
You don’t wanna have a different opinion.
You wanna belong.
And it’s all about belonging.
It took us decades to get back to tribalism
where we were hundreds of years ago.
It took millennium to get out of tribalism.
It took the enlightenment
to get us to the point of individualism,
where we think in reason, respect for reason.
Before that, we were all tribal.
So it took the enlightenment to get us out of it.
We’ve been in the enlightenment for about 250 years,
influenced by the enlightenment and it’s fading.
The impact is fading.
So what would we need to get out of it?
We need self esteem.
People join a tribe
because they don’t trust their own mind.
People join a tribe
because they’re afraid to stand on their own two feet.
They’re afraid to think for themselves.
They’re afraid to be different.
They’re afraid to be unique.
They’re afraid to be an individual.
People need self esteem.
To gain self esteem,
they have to have respect for rationality.
They have to think and they have to achieve
and they have to recognize that achievement.
To do that, they have to have respect for thinking.
They have to have to respect for reason.
And we have to, and think about the schools.
We have to have schools that teach people to think,
teach people to value their mind.
We have schools that teach people to feel
and value their feelings.
We have groups of six year olds sitting around a circle
They don’t know anything.
See, you don’t know anything when you’re ignorant.
Yes, you can feel,
but your feelings are useless as decision making tools.
But we emphasize emotion.
It’s all about socialization and emotion.
This is why they talk about this generation of snowflakes.
They can’t hear anything that they’re opposed to
because they’ve not learned how to use their mind,
how to think.
So it boils down to teaching people how to think two things,
how to think and how to care about themselves.
So it’s thinking of self esteem and the connected,
because when you think, you achieve,
which gains you self esteem.
When you have self esteem,
it’s easier to think for yourself.
And I don’t know how you do that quickly.
I mean, I think leadership matters.
So, you know, part of what I try to do
is try to encourage people to do those things.
But I am a small voice.
You asked me when,
early on you said we should talk about
why I’m not more famous.
I’m not famous.
You know, my following is not big.
It’s very small in the scope of things.
Well, yours and objectivism and that question,
could you linger on it for a moment?
Why isn’t objectivism more famous?
I think because it’s so challenging.
It’s not challenging.
It’s not challenging to me, right?
When I first encountered objectivism,
it’s like after the first shock
and after the first kind of,
none of this can be true.
This is all BS.
And fighting it, once I got it,
it was easy.
It required years of studying,
but it was easy in the sense of,
yes, this makes sense.
But it’s challenging because it upends everything.
It really says what my mother taught me is wrong.
And what my politicians say left and right is wrong.
All of them.
There’s not a single politician
on which I agree with on almost anything, right?
Because on the fundamentals we disagree.
And what my teachers are telling me is wrong.
And what Jesus said is wrong.
And it’s hard.
But the thing is,
so you talk about politics and all that kind of stuff,
but you know, most people don’t care.
The more powerful thing about objectivism
is the practical of my life,
of how I revolutionized my life.
And that feels to be like a very important and appealing,
you know, get your shit together.
Yeah, but this is why Jordan Peterson
is so much more successful than we are, right?
Why is that?
Make your bed or whatever.
Make your bed.
Yeah, because his personal responsibility is shallow.
It’s make your bed, stand up straight.
That’s what my mother told me when I was growing up.
There’s nothing new about Jordan Peterson.
He says, embrace Christianity.
Christianity is fine, right?
Religion is okay.
Just do these few things and you’ll be fine.
And by the way, he says, happiness, you know,
you either have it or you don’t.
You know, it’s random.
You don’t actually,
you can’t bring about your own happiness.
So he’s given people an easy out.
People want easy outs.
People buy self help books
that give them five principles
or living in, you know, shallow.
I’m telling them, think,
stand on your own two feet, be independent.
Don’t listen to your mother.
Do your own thing, but thoughtfully,
not based on emotions.
So you’re responsible not just
for a set of particular habits and so on.
You’re responsible for everything.
Yes, and you’re responsible.
Here’s the big one, right?
You’re responsible for shaping your own soul.
you get to decide what it’s going to be like.
And the only tool you have is your mind.
Your only tool is your mind.
Well, your emotions play a tool
when they’re properly cultivated.
They play a role in that.
And the tools you have is thinking, experiencing,
living, coming to the right conclusions,
you know, listening to great music
and watching good movies and art is very important
in shaping your own soul and helping you do this.
It’s got a crucial role in that.
But it’s work.
And it’s lonely work
because it’s work you do with yourself.
Now, if you find somebody who you love
who shares these values and you can do with them,
that’s great, but it’s mostly lonely work.
It’s hard, it’s challenging, it ends your world.
The reward is unbelievable.
But even at that, think about the enlightenment, right?
So up until the enlightenment, where was truth?
Truth came from a book.
And there were a few people who understood the book.
Most of us couldn’t read and they conveyed it to us.
And they just told us what to do.
And in that sense, life’s easy.
It sucks and we die young and we have nothing
and we don’t enjoy it, but it’s easy.
And the enlightenment comes around and says,
we’ve got this tool, it’s called reason.
And it allows us to discover truth about the world.
It’s not in a book.
It’s actually your reason allows you
to discover stuff about the world.
And I consider the first,
really the first figure of the enlightenment is Newton,
not Locke, right?
It’s a scientist.
Because he teaches us the laws of mechanics,
like how does stuff work?
And people go, oh, wow, this is cool.
I can use my mind.
I can discover truth.
Isn’t that amazing?
And everything opens up once you do that.
Hey, if I can discover,
if I understand the laws of motion,
if I can understand truth in the world,
how come I can’t decide who I marry?
I mean, everything was fixed in those days.
How come I can’t decide what profession I should be in?
Right, everybody would belong to a guild.
How come I can’t decide who my political leader should be?
That’s, so it’s all reason.
It’s all, once you understand the efficacy of your own mind
to understand truth, to understand reality,
discover truth, not understand truth, discover it.
Everything opens up.
Now you can take responsibility for your own life
because now you have the tool to do it.
But we are living in an era where postmodernism tells us
there is no truth, there is no reality,
and our mind is useless anyway.
Critical race theory tells us
that you’re determined by your race
and your race shapes everything
and your free will is meaningless
and your reason doesn’t matter
because reason is just shaped by your genes
and shaped by the color of your skin.
It’s the most racist theory of all.
And you’ve got our friend at UC Irvine telling them,
oh, your senses don’t tell you anything about reality.
Anyway, reality is what it is.
So, you know, what’s the purpose of reason?
It’s to invent stuff, it’s to make stuff up.
And then what use is that?
It’s complete fantasy.
You’ve basically got every philosophical,
intellectual voice in the culture
telling them their reason is impotent.
There’s like a Steven Pinker who tries,
and I love Pinker and he’s really good
and I love his books,
but, you know, he needs to be stronger about this.
And there’s a few people on kind of,
there’s a few people partially in the intellectual dark web
and otherwise who are big on reason
but not consistent enough and not full understanding
of what it means or what it implies.
And then there’s little old me.
There’s a little old me and it’s me against the world
in a sense, because I’m not only willing to accept,
to articulate the case for reason,
but then what that implies.
It implies freedom, it implies capitalism,
it implies taking personal responsibility over your own life.
And there are other intellectual dark web people
get to reason and then, oh, politics, you can be whatever.
No, you can’t, you can’t be a socialist and for reason.
It doesn’t actually, those are incompatible.
And you can’t be a determinist and for reason.
Reason and determinism don’t go together.
The whole point of reason is that it’s an achievement
and it requires effort and it requires engagement,
it requires choice.
So it is, it does feel like a little old me
because that’s it.
The allies I have are allies.
I have allies among some libertarians over economics.
I have some allies in the intellectual dark web
maybe over reason,
but none of them are allies in the full sense.
So my allies are the other objectivists,
but they’re not a lot of us.
For people listening to this,
for the few folks kind of listening to this
and thinking about the trajectory of their own life,
I guess the takeaway is reason is a difficult project,
but a project that’s worthy of taking on.
Yeah, difficulties, I don’t know
if difficulty is the right word
because difficult sounds like it’s,
I have to push this boulder up a hill.
It’s not difficult in that sense.
It’s difficult in the sense that it requires energy
and focus, it requires effort,
but it’s immediately rewarding.
It’s fun to do.
And it rewards immediate, pretty quick, right?
It takes a while to undo all the garbage that you have,
but we all have that I had that took me years
and years and years to get rid of certain concepts
and certain emotions that I had that didn’t make any sense,
but it takes a long time to fully integrate that.
So I don’t want it to sound like it’s a burden,
like it’s hard in that sense.
It does require focus and energy.
And I don’t want it to sound like a Dr. Spock.
I don’t want to say, and I don’t think I do
because I’m a pretty passionate guy,
but I don’t want it to appeal like,
oh, just forget about emotions.
Emotions are how you experience the world.
You want to have strong emotions.
You want to live, you want to experience life strongly
You just need to know that emotions are not cognition.
It’s another realm.
It’s like, don’t mix the realms.
Think about outcomes and then experience them.
And sometimes your emotions won’t coincide
with what you think should be.
And that means there’s still more integration to be done.
Yaron, as I told you offline,
I’ve been a fan of yours for a long time.
It’s been, I was a little starstruck early on,
getting a little more comfortable now.
I believe that’s gone.
I highly recommend that people
that haven’t heard your work,
listen to it through the Yaron Brook Show.
The times I’ve disagreed with something I’ve heard you say
is usually a first step on a journey
of learning a lot more about that thing,
about that viewpoint.
And that’s been so fulfilling.
It’s been a gift.
The passion, you talk about reason a lot,
but the passion radiates in a way
that’s just contagious and uninspiring.
So thank you for everything you’ve done for this world.
It’s truly an honor and a pleasure to talk to you.
Well, thank you.
And my reward is that if I’ve had an impact
on you and people like you, wow.
I mean, that’s amazing.
When you wrote to me an email saying you’ve been a fan,
I was blown away because I had no idea
and completely unexpected.
And every few months I discover,
hey, I had an impact on this world
and people that I would have never thought.
So the only way to change the world
is to change your one mind at a time.
And when you have an impact on a good mind
and a mind that cares about the world
and a mind that goes out and does something about it,
then you get the exponential growth.
So through you, I’ve impacted other people
and that’s how you ultimately change everything.
And so in spite of everything,
I’m optimistic in a sense that I think
that the progress we’ve made today
is so universally accepted,
the scientific progress, the technological progress,
it can just vanish like it did when Rome collapsed.
And whether it’s in the United States or somewhere,
progress will continue, the human project
for human progress will continue.
And I think these ideas,
the ideas of reason and individualism
will always be at the heart of it.
And what we are doing is continuing
the project of the Enlightenment.
And it’s the project that will save the human race
and allow it to, for Elon Musk
and for Jeff Bezos to reach the stars.
Thank you for masterfully ending on a hopeful note.
Yaron, a pleasure and an honor.
Thanks for listening to this conversation
with Yaron Brook and thank you to our sponsors,
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And now let me leave you with some words from Ayn Rand.
Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark
in the hopeless swamps of the not quite,
the not yet, and the not at all.
Do not let the hero in your soul perish
in lonely frustration for the life you deserved
and have never been able to reach.
The world you desire can be one.
It exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours.
Thank you for listening and hope to see you next time.