Welcome to the Summer 2023 issue of The Objective Standard. The TOS and Objective Standard Institute teams are gearing up for our annual conference, LevelUp, happening in Phoenix, AZ, from June 21–24. It will be the most life-enhancing conference of the year, with talks on building powerful habits and a purposeful life; defending free speech, individualism, and a future of flourishing; and packing more value into your diet, your workouts, and your experiences with art, including music, paintings, and architecture. If you haven’t registered, do so today. You’ll be glad you did.
The humorist, professor, and grammarian Richard Mitchell wrote that “Who speaks reason to his fellow men bestows it upon them. Who mouths inanity disorders thought for all who listen.” He continued, “There must be some minimum allowable dose of inanity beyond which the mind cannot remain reasonable. Irrationality, like buried chemical waste, sooner or later must seep into all the tissues of thought.” Ayn Rand identified several common forms of such chemical waste, including what she called “package-deals” and “anti-concepts.” In “Navigating Today’s Seductive and Destructive Language (A Study of Package-Deals and Anti-Concepts),” Craig Biddle shows that today’s culture and popular discourse are littered with such refuse. After touring the debris fields with such an able guide, you’ll be equipped to defuse these threats to clear thinking and good living, and to point out the dangers to others.
Over the past year or so of speaking at liberty conferences throughout the United States, Europe, and South America, I’ve met many young people eager to fight for freedom and flourishing. However, many of them—including college students majoring in economics—regard Adam Smith as the patron saint of their cause while knowing little or nothing about the man’s deeper philosophy. They are thus ignorant that the foundation Smith provided for what he called the “system of natural liberty” actually undermines the case for freedom—and that many of Smith’s arguments are leveraged by opponents of liberty. (Indeed, Smith adopted some of his ideas and arguments from one of history’s most influential critics of human progress and civilization). In “Adam Smith, Ayn Rand, and the Philosophic Foundation for Freedom,” I set these two thinkers side-by-side, compare five areas of their thought, and show what each brings to the table for those seeking to promote freedom and flourishing today.
Rand wrote that “an error made on your own is safer than ten truths accepted on faith, because the first leaves you the means to correct it, but the second destroys your capacity to distinguish truth from error.” William Kingdon Clifford said much the same some seventy years earlier, in 1877. Just thirty-one years old at the time, the English philosopher and mathematician penned a beautifully argued ode to intellectual independence, “The Ethics of Belief.” “Every time we let ourselves believe for unworthy reasons,” he wrote, “we weaken our powers of self-control, of doubting, of judicially and fairly weighing evidence.” In addition to showing why “it is wrong always, everywhere and for any one, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence,” Clifford shed light on the tricky topic of dealing with the accounts of others, including subject matter experts. The piece, reprinted here, includes interesting parallels with the other features in this issue. Enjoy!
The shorts in this issue are:
- “Schools Foment Shootings by Undermining Self-Esteem,” by me;
- and “Brits Should Reject Monarchy and Embrace Rights” by Thomas Walker-Werth.
The reviews in this issue are:
- Living for Pleasure: An Epicurean Guide to Life by Emily A. Austin, reviewed by Timothy Sandefur;
- The Stasi Poetry Circle: The Creative Writing Class That Tried to Win the Cold War by Philip Oltermann, reviewed by Timothy Sandefur;
- The Case for Nukes: How We Can Beat Global Warming and Create a Free, Open, and Magnificent Future by Robert Zubrin, reviewed by Thomas Walker-Werth;
- How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren, reviewed by Tim White;
- What’s Love Got to Do With It? Directed by Shekhar Kapur, reviewed by Thomas and Angelica Walker-Werth.
I hope you enjoy the issue—and that you’ll join the six hundred or so people coming to Phoenix for 2023’s most life-enhancing conference!
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