Does Ayn Rand Have Limits? Discussing Rand and Kalanick

From The New York Times

Yaron Brook, executive chairman of the Ayn Rand Institute and a former finance professor at Santa Clara University, who teaches seminars on business leadership and ethics from an Objectivist perspective, said, “Few business people have actually read her essays and philosophy and studied her in depth.” Mr. Brook said that while Mr. Kalanick “was obviously talented and energetic and a visionary, he took superficial inspiration from her ideas and used her philosophy to justify his obnoxiousness.”

He emphasized that Rand would never have tolerated sexual harassment or any kind of mistreatment of employees. Rand “had enormous respect for people who worked hard and did a good job, whether a secretary or a railroad worker,” he said. “Her heroes ran businesses with employees who were very loyal because they were treated fairly. Of course, some people had to be fired. But she makes a big deal out of the virtue of justice, which applies in business as well as politics.”

And even though “she’d celebrate what Travis did with the taxi industry, showing the world how all those regulations made no sense, she also believed there are rules of justice that do make sense and she supported,” he said. “You can’t just run over all the regulations you don’t happen to like.”

Mr. Brook complained that Rand’s critics are quick to point to her followers’ failures, but rarely mention their successes. He cited the example of John A. Allison IV, the much-admired former head of BB&T Corporation, a regional bank in the Southeast that he built into one of the nation’s largest before he stepped down in 2008. Mr. Allison handed out copies of “Atlas Shrugged” to senior executives and is a major donor to the Ayn Rand Institute. He incorporated many of Rand’s teachings into his 2014 book, “The Leadership Crisis and the Free Market Cure.”

“John is a gentleman and he actually studied Rand’s works in depth,” Mr. Brook said. “He couldn’t be more different from Travis.”

Mr. Allison has called for abolishing the Federal Reserve, while acknowledging that so drastic a step is unlikely. He has met with Mr. Trump at the White House and has been widely mentioned as a potential successor to Janet L. Yellen as Fed chief.

Despite Rand’s pervasive influence and continuing popularity on college campuses, relatively few people embrace her version of extreme libertarianism. Former President Barack Obama, in a 2012 Rolling Stone interview, criticized her “narrow vision” and described her work “as one of those things that a lot of us, when we were 17 or 18 and feeling misunderstood, we’d pick up.”

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