In an unbroken chain of best-selling and page-turning thrillers featuring special-ops agent Scot Harvath, Brad Thor has created a fictional universe that reflects our chaotic contemporary world.
Enemies are everywhere and up to all sorts of evil, but there are good guys who are not only principled but even victorious most of the time. His books are also chock full of philosophizing and political and economic commentary from a “conservatarian” perspective. 2013’s ‘Hidden Order’, which revolved around attempts to assassinate nominees to head the Federal Reserve, quoted extensively from libertarian economics writer Henry Hazlitt and histories of the Fed. Thor notes that he was raised in a part-Objectivist home and exposed early and often to the works of Ayn Rand. That upbringing infuses his fiction with a love of ideas and his education at the University of Southern California with acclaimed novelist T.C. Boyle helps imbue his work with literary flourishes.
Thor’s latest book, ‘Foreign Agent’, engages the threat of extremist Islam and provocatively argues (amidst the action scenes and plot twists) that the truest form of the faith isn’t practiced by contemporary reformers but by fundamentalist Muslims and the terrorists in ISIS and Al Qaeda. A native of the Chicago area, Thor talked to Reason in his adopted hometown of Nashville. During a wide-ranging interview with Nick Gillespie, he says,
“I believe that if Mohammed came back today…and handed out trophies for who the best Muslims were, ISIS would get them. Al Qaeda would get them. They’re practicing Islam exactly the way he told them to practice it. So they’re not perverting the religion. Technically, its the people that we like, the moderate, peaceful Muslims, who are actually perverting it.”
No stranger to stirring the political pot, the “conservatarian” author also discusses his discussion with Glenn Beck about the hypothetical removal of a President Donald Trump. Thor’s #NeverTrump call to action got him in hot water with Sirius XM after a vociferous exchange last May on Glenn Beck’s radio show, with some listeners claiming he was talking about assassination (a charge Thor absolutely rebuts in this interview).
His discussion of his early development as as writer is of interest to his many fans. A writer who can turn the Federal Reserve Bank into a nail-biting thriller – as Thor did in ‘Hidden Order’ – has valuable lessons to share in the arts of espionage and storytelling. Read the rest of this entry »
Jennifer Maloney writes: Ayn Rand fans, here’s something to whet your appetites: New American Libraryhas released the cover image for “Ideal,” the first Ayn Rand novel to be published in more than 50 years.
“I’ve heard wishful comments over many years from readers wondering if there were other novels in Ayn Rand’s papers.”
— Richard Ralston, publishing manager at the Ayn Rand Institute
“Ideal” tells the story of a screen actress who is accused of murder and visits six of her most devoted fans to ask for help. In 1934, when she was in her late 20s, Rand first wrote “Ideal” as a work of fiction.
But Rand was dissatisfied with it and set it aside. The same year, she rewrote it as a play. The play didn’t have its New York premiere until 2010 – 66 years after she wrote it. Read the rest of this entry »
The Worst St. Patricks Day Article You’ll Read All Year: How Paul Ryan is Like Genocidal Englishmen
We may have to reserve judgement on the worst article we’ll read all year. It’s still early! Though other lazy NYT op-ed writers have nine more months of blindfolded typing to catch up with him, Tim Egan is definitely a contender.
First, Krugman’s jaw-dropping, quote-worthy Paul Ryan smear, now Reason‘s Nick Gillespie has to clean up after Tim Egan’s smug, lazy historical association flim-flam. Both Krugman and Egan employ the same tactic, see if you can notice the identical device, disclaiming responsibility for responsibility via a weasel-worded disclaimer.
Nick Gillespie writes:
In Sunday’s New York Times, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Timothy Egan likens Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to the English overlords of Ireland’s great potato famine of 1845-1852. Seriously.
Egan says he did a bit of “time traveling” in anticipation of St. Patrick’s Day (whose celebration in the form of parades and drunkeness is largely an invention of colonial America). What did Egan find while traipsing about in the Old Sod?
“A great debate raged in London: Would it be wrong to feed the starving Irish with free food, thereby setting up a “culture of dependency”? Certainly England’s man in charge of easing the famine, Sir Charles Trevelyan, thought so. “Dependence on charity,” he declared, “is not to be made an agreeable mode of life.”
And there I ran into Paul Ryan…the Republican congressman was very much in evidence, wagging his finger at the famished. His oft-stated “culture of dependency” is a safety net that becomes a lazy-day hammock. But it was also England’s excuse for lethal negligence.”
But wait, before you dare say that Egan in any way means to compare Ryan to the architects of one of the most heinous acts of imperial brutality, perish the thought:
“There is no comparison, of course, between the de facto genocide that resulted from British policy, and conservative criticism of modern American poverty programs. Read the rest of this entry »
David Harsanyi writes: Buzzfeed recently offered readers a peek into the bottomless well that is right-wing hypocrisy. “Republican Senator Who Voted To Defund NPR Says He Listens To NPR,” reads the headline, “He declined to mention that on the show.” Arizona Senator Jeff Flake is evidently a fan of cerebral upmarket radio programming, but also voted to defund the media organization.
…”Paul argued that a dose of libertarianism would not only help the GOP broaden its base, but that it was philosophically compatible with social conservative values.”
You know, it’s almost as if he knows one of these positions has absolutely nothing to do with the other. I enjoy NPR. I believe NPR, a network that boasts an audience in the tens of millions, can compete without taxpayer funding. You see: those are two distinct and non-conflicting sentences. But you know the drill. Distinctions are distracting. If you fail to support the Fair Pay Act, deep down you believe women are nothing but baby-making automatons. If you oppose nanny-state intrusions, you’re probably cool with fat kids and their diabetes… and so on.
For progressives, politics is not just a difference of opinion, but a great battle between decency and unfettered greed. So the conflation of choice and coercion is often aimed at your morality. You may claim to care about the underprivileged, but your votes say otherwise. To even suggest that a fiscally conservative outlook might be compatible with faith is hypocrisy.
Harry Binswanger writes: President Obama’s Kansas speech is a remarkable document. In calling for more government controls, more taxation, more collectivism, he has two paragraphs that give the show away. Take a look at them.
“…there is a certain crowd in Washington who, for the last few decades, have said, let’s respond to this economic challenge with the same old tune. “The market will take care of everything,” they tell us. If we just cut more regulations and cut more taxes–especially for the wealthy–our economy will grow stronger. Sure, they say, there will be winners and losers. But if the winners do really well, then jobs and prosperity will eventually trickle down to everybody else. And, they argue, even if prosperity doesn’t trickle down, well, that’s the price of liberty.
Now, it’s a simple theory. And we have to admit, it’s one that speaks to our rugged individualism and our healthy skepticism of too much government. That’s in America’s DNA. And that theory fits well on a bumper sticker. (Laughter.) But here’s the problem: It doesn’t work. It has never worked. (Applause.) It didn’t work when it was tried in the decade before the Great Depression. It’s not what led to the incredible postwar booms of the ’50s and ’60s. And it didn’t work when we tried it during the last decade. (Applause.) I mean, understand, it’s not as if we haven’t tried this theory.”
Though not in Washington, I’m in that “certain crowd” that has been saying for decades that the market will take care of everything. It’s not really a crowd, it’s a tiny group of radicals–radicals for capitalism, in Ayn Rand’s well-turned phrase.
The only thing that the market doesn’t take care of is anti-market acts: acts that initiate physical force. That’s why we need government: to wield retaliatory force to defend individual rights.
Radicals for capitalism would, as the Declaration of Independence says, use government only “to secure these rights”–the rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. (Yes, I added “property” in there–property rights are inseparable from the other three.)
That’s the political philosophy on which Obama is trying to hang the blame for the recent financial crisis and every other social ill. But ask yourself, are we few radical capitalists in charge? Have radical capitalists been in charge at any time in the last, oh, say 100 years?
Funny How Everything’s Gone Left
Says the Seattle Times’ Danny Westneat, who — captivated by some pretty gosh-darn amazing insights in Peter Beinart‘s Daily Beast essay, “The Rise of the New, New, Super-New-and-Much-Better-This-Time-We-Promise-Left“— suggests that while the Reagan-Clinton generation might look favorably on the pro-business centrism and robust entrepreneurialism of that era, the younger millennials are rejecting it.
Having been burned by financial collapse of the Bush era, and weak economic malaise of the Obama era, millennials distrust business, profits, and corporations.
Millennials, the former New Republic editor says, are increasingly comfortable supporting candidates who proudly campaign under the banner of socialism.
By “Everything’s Gone Left“, what Westneat means, is that already pretty far-Left-wing political micro-cultures in two places, New York, and Seattle, have Gone.. Left. Well, gone further left. (Sorry to have to translate, but it’s necessary to explain to outsiders: inside the media bubble, these two geographic locations are synonymous with “Everything”)
A fair question might be: are we so sure pro-socialist millennials in New York, and Seattle, are really leading… anyone…anywhere?
The generation right behind the millennials are already questioning the millennials’ suspicious embrace of the welfare state, the youth-punishing costs of Obamacare, and the lurid spectacle of pro-government excess. As a casual dip into Twitter or Tumblr, or Facebook‘s college-campus-generation’s anti-Left pushback will reveal, they’re not cool with it, and they’re outspoken about it.
As I wrote in in my introduction to Michelle Goldberg‘s essay, “2008 Crash Prompts Young Intellectuals to Revisit Marxism”:
“The same financial crash prompted young intellectuals to revisit Ayn Rand, too, judging from the surge in sales of Atlas Shrugged…is but one example of the resurgence in philosophical questioning and renewed examination of historic texts that inevitably follows economic disasters. I think this is natural…”
Westneat tells readers that Seattle, like New York, is right there on the leading edge of this Rise of New Leftism. The more activist, wage-control-advocating, socialism-embracing new-Left phenomenon is flourishing. Like a pretty flower.
To be fair, Westneat isn’t promoting the trend. He’s not without skepticism. He’s just reporting on it. And since he just donated a copy of Emily Gets Her Gun But Obama Wants to Take Yours, to the Seattle Public Library, in honor of the city’s recent policy change regarding the legal carry of firearms by law-abiding citizens in library facilities, I admire his civic priorities. I’ll give anything he writes a fair reading.
Also, I could be wrong, and Westneat is right, about this trend.
So, step aside New York. You’re not the only knuckle-dragging throwback to romanticism of Pol Pot, the radical hipness of the Sandinistas, and the historic grandeur of Marxist solutions. Seattle is now a “leading indicator”!
The election isn’t for 10 days, but we can already declare the big winner in Seattle.
It’s the socialist.
Out in left field? Seattle politics may seem that way, but it’s really the leading edge.
For those too young to remember the Cold War but old enough to be trapped by the Great Recession, Marxism holds new appeal
Note: The same financial crash prompted young intellectuals to revisit Ayn Rand, too, judging from the surge in sales of Atlas Shrugged. Goldberg’s article—exploring Marxism’s renewed popularity among the disenchanted youth—is but one example of the resurgence in philosophical questioning and renewed examination of historic texts that inevitably follows economic disasters. I think this is natural. I wouldn’t be surprised if this dual popularity of these two competing philosophies effectively cancel each other out.
The darlings of the Left will always reengineer and promote various brands of Marxism–easily the most successfully murderous ideology in human history, 94 million deaths worldwide and counting–for impressionable neophytes, in spite of its undeniable record of doom, death, and suffering. And romantic young intellectuals will always have an appetite for its radical appeal.
But the optimist in me hopes that the current Libertarian movement on campuses (which I’ll write about soon) prevails, with more lasting influence. In the meantime, here’s a famous quote, see if you can guess (without googling it) who originated it. Answer at the end of Goldberg’s essay, after the jump. (Don’t cheat!)
“How do you tell a Communist? Well, it’s someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell an anti-Communist? It’s someone who understands Marx and Lenin.”
Okay, on to our featured essay:
Michelle Goldberg writes: Eight years ago Jay McInerney, poster boy for a certain kind of glossy 1980s literary chic, anointed Benjamin Kunkel as the voice of a new generation. Writing on the front page of the New York Times Book Review, he hailed Kunkel’s first novel,Indecision, for making “the whole flailing, postadolescent, prelife crisis feel fresh and funny again.” He wasn’t alone; many critics were impressed by Kunkel’s evocation of a privileged young man’s passivity and ennui. They were less sure of what to make of his narrator’s culminating conversion to radical politics in South America. “Explaining socialism to the postironic, ambivalent, hopeful, generous twentysomethings of 2005, I suppose, is what sequels are for,” Michael Agger wrote in Slate.
Next March, Kunkel will release his second book, Utopia or Bust. Though not a sequel to Indecision, it will in fact seek to explain, or at least explore, what socialism means now through a series of essays on contemporary leftist thinkers like Fredric Jameson and David Harvey. After the success of Indecision—a spot on the best-seller list, translations into a dozen languages, a Hollywood option—Kunkel didn’t milk his newfound literary stardom in the manner of, say, Jay McInerney. Instead, after falling into a deep depression, he followed the example of his own narrator, moving to Buenos Aires and immersing himself in anticapitalist political theory. In a draft of the introduction to his new book, he writes, “To the disappointment of friends who would prefer to read my fiction—as well as of my literary agent, who would prefer to sell it—I seem to have become a Marxist public intellectual.”
Harry Binswanger writes: It’s time to gore another collectivist sacred cow. This time it’s the popular idea that the successful are obliged to “give back to the community.” That oft-heard claim assumes that the wealth of high-earners is taken away from “the community.” And beneath that lies the perverted Marxist notion that wealth is accumulated by “exploiting” people, not by creating value–as if Henry Ford was not necessary for Fords to roll off the (non-existent) assembly lines and Steve Jobs was not necessary for iPhones and iPads to spring into existence. Read the rest of this entry »
A new poll confirms a libertarian renaissance in 2013.
FreedomWorks commissioned a national survey of registered voters last month,shared first with POLITICO, that finds 78 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents self-identify as fiscally conservative and socially moderate. Read the rest of this entry »
Kevin Williamson writes: I wonder if Bloomberg has any intellectual standards at all. (The news service, I mean; we already know about the mayor.) Consider this column from Nick Hanauer and Eric Liu, titled “Libertarians are the new communists.” Thesis: “Where communism was adopted, the result was misery, poverty and tyranny. If extremist libertarians ever translated their beliefs into policy, it would lead to the same kinds of catastrophe.” Attention conservatives: “Extremist libertarian” here means an admirer of Ted Cruz.
The problem with libertarians, according to these gentlemen, is that they misunderstand the human condition: “Like communism, this philosophy is defective in its misreading of human nature, misunderstanding of how societies work and utter failure to adapt to changing circumstances. Radical libertarianism assumes that humans are wired only to be selfish, when in fact cooperation is the height of human evolution.”
But radical libertarians do not assume that humans are wired only to be selfish, nor do they reject cooperation. The opposite is the case. In fact, one of those radical libertarians — me — just this summer published a book arguing that (see if this sounds familiar) “cooperation is the height of human evolution.” (note: I’m currently reading this book, and a fine book it is–Butcher) A taste: Read the rest of this entry »
Nick Gillespie writes: I’ve argued elsewhere that signs of the emerging “libertarian era” are everywhere around us, both in the voluminous and ever-growing positive press adherents of “Free Minds and Free Markets” and the increasingly shrill and misinformed attacks are drawing.
The latest example of the latter is on glorious, semi-literate display in the amazingly awful “Libertarians Are the New Communists,” by Nick Hanauer and Eric Liu and posted at Bloomberg View. Read the rest of this entry »
Five myths about libertarians
By Nick Gillespie
Nick Gillespie, editor of Reason.com and a columnist for the Daily Beast, is a co-author of “The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What’s Wrong With America.”
by Nick Gillespie The specter of libertarianism is haunting America. Advocates of sharply reducing the government’s size, scope and spending are raising big bucks from GOP donors, trying to steal the mantle of populism, being blamed for the demise of Detroit and even getting caught in the middle of a battle for the Republican Party. Yet libertarians are among the most misunderstood forces in today’s politics. Let’s clear up some of the biggest misconceptions.
1. Libertarians are a fringe band of “hippies of the right.”
In 1971, the controversial and influential author Ayn Rand denounced right-wing anarchists as “hippies of the right,” a charge still leveled against libertarians, who push for a minimal state and maximal individual freedom.
Libertarians are often dismissed as a mutant subspecies of conservatives: pot smokers who are soft on defense and support marriage equality. But depending on their views, libertarians often match up equally well with right- and left-wingers.
The earliest example of libertarian principles in partisan politics might have come in the late 19th and early 20th centuries,when Anti-Imperialist League Democrats rejected empire and war — and believed in free trade and racial equality at a time when none of that was popular. More recently, civil libertarians such as Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) supported Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in his filibuster on domestic drones and government surveillance.
Libertarians are found across the political spectrum and in both major parties. In September 2012, the Reason-Rupe Poll found that about one-quarter of Americans fall into the roughly libertarian category of wanting to reduce the government’s roles in economic and social affairs. That’s in the same ballpark as what other surveys have found and more than enough to swing an election.
2. Libertarians don’t care about minorities or the poor.
As the recent discovery of neo-Confederate writings by a former senior aide to Sen. Paul shows, there sometimes is a connection between libertarians and creepy, racist elements in American politics. And given the influence of Ayn Rand among many libertarians, it’s easy to think that they care only about themselves. “I will never live for the sake of another man,” runs a characteristic line from Rand’s 1957 novel, “Atlas Shrugged.”
But at least two of the libertarian movement’s signature causes, school choice and drug legalization, are aimed at creating a better life for poor people, who disproportionately are also minorities. The primary goal of school choice — a movement essentially born out of a 1955 essay about vouchers by libertarian and Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman — is to give lower-income Americans better educational options. Friedman also persuasively argued that the drug war concentrates violence and law enforcement abuses in poor neighborhoods.
Libertarians believe that economic deregulation helps the poor because it ultimately reduces costs and barriers to start new businesses. The leading libertarian public-interest law firm, the Institute for Justice, which has argued Supreme Court cases for free speech and against eminent-domain abuse, got its start defending African American hair-braiders in Washington from licensing laws that shut down home businesses.