Ayn Rand Institute
Ayn Rand Institute Logo
|Type||Research and Education Organization|
|Focus||Ayn Rand and Objectivism|
|Headquarters||2121 Alton Parkway, S-250
Irvine, CA 92606
The Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) is a nonprofit think tank in Irvine, California that promotes Objectivism, a philosophical system developed by author Ayn Rand. Its stated goal is to "spearhead a cultural renaissance that will reverse the anti-reason, anti-individualism, anti-freedom, anti-capitalist trends in today's culture". The organization was established in 1985, three years after Rand's death, by Leonard Peikoff, Rand's legal heir. Its executive director is Yaron Brook.
ARI is mainly an educational organization, but also has "outreach programs." Its various programs include classes on Objectivism and related subjects offered through its Objectivist Academic Center, public lectures, op-ed articles, letters to the editor, competitions for essays about Rand's novels, materials for Objectivist campus clubs, supplying Rand's writings to schools and professors, and providing intellectuals for radio and TV interviews.
During her lifetime, Rand helped establish The Foundation for the New Intellectual, to promote Objectivist ideas. The Foundation was dissolved some 15 years after her death, as having been made redundant by the Ayn Rand Institute. Although Rand never intended for Objectivism to become an organized movement, she heartily approved of rational individuals with the same ideas working toward a common goal. Peikoff, her legal heir, was convinced to start the organization after businessman Ed Snider organized a meeting of possible financial supporters in New York in the fall of 1983. Peikoff also agreed to be the first chairman of the organization's board of directors.
ARI began operations on February 1, 1985, three years after Rand's death. The first board of directors included Snider and psychologist Edith Packer. Snider was also one of the founding donors for the organization. Its first executive director was Michael Berliner, who was previously the chairman of the Department of Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education at California State University, Northridge. ARI also established a board of governors, which initially included Harry Binswanger, Robert Hessen, Edwin A. Locke, Arthur Mode, George Reisman, Jay Snider, and Mary Ann Sures, with Peter Schwartz as its chairman. M. Northrup Buechner and George Walsh joined the board of advisors shortly thereafter.
ARI's first two projects were aimed at students. One was developing a network of college clubs to study Objectivism. The other was a college scholarship contest for high-school students based on writing an essay about Rand's novel The Fountainhead. Later, additional essay contests were added based on Anthem, We the Living and Atlas Shrugged. In 1988 the institute began publishing a newsletter for contributors, called Impact.
In 1989, a philosophical dispute resulted in ARI ending its association with philosopher David Kelley. Board of advisors member George Walsh, who agreed with Kelley, also left. Kelley subsequently founded his own competing institute now known as The Atlas Society, which remains critical of ARI's stance on loyalty.
In January 2000, Berliner retired as Executive Director, replaced by Yaron Brook, then an assistant professor of finance at Santa Clara University. The institute was originally headquartered in Marina del Rey, California, but in 2002, it moved to larger offices in Irvine, California.
Charity Navigator, which rates charitable and educational organizations to inform potential donors, gives ARI four out of four stars. According to the latest data from Charity Navigator, ARI spends 86.7% of its expenses on programs, 8.6% on fundraising, and 4.6% on administration. As of June 2012[update] the institute's board of directors consists of Brook; Berliner (co-chair); Arline Mann (co-chair), retired attorney, formerly of Goldman, Sachs & Co.; Carl Barney, CEO of several private colleges; Harry Binswanger, long-time associate of Ayn Rand; Peter LePort, a surgeon in private practice; Tara Smith, professor of philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin; and John Allison, CEO of the Cato Institute and former CEO of BB&T.
Peikoff retains a cooperative and influential relationship with ARI. In 2006, he remarked that he approved of the work ARI has done and in November 2010 that the executive director "has done a splendid job." Peikoff was a featured speaker at ARI summer conferences in 2007 and 2010. In August, 2010, he demanded and received a change to ARI's board of directors.
ARI runs a variety of programs:
- Free books to schools. ARI offers to give to high schools classroom sets of Rand's novels Anthem, The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged. ARI also continues this program at the university level by offering professors free review copies of Rand's writings.
- Student essay contests. ARI sponsors essay contests on Anthem, The Fountainhead, We the Living and Atlas Shrugged. Students worldwide submit essays based on questions about Rand's novels which stress her ideas and their importance in today's world. The Anthem essay contest is for 8th, 9th, and 10th graders, with a top prize of US$2,000; the essay contest on The Fountainhead is for 11th and 12th graders, with a top prize of US$10,000; the essay contest of "We the Living" is for 10th, 11th and 12th graders, with a top prize of US$3000; and the Atlas Shrugged essay contest is for 12th graders, college undergraduates, and graduate students, with a top prize of US$10,000. The institute has offered 521 prizes for the 2009 contests, totaling US$81,250.
- Campus clubs. ARI offers copies of essays, pamphlets, and recorded lectures, and provides live speakers to Objectivist clubs at universities and high schools.
- The Objectivist Academic Center. ARI runs an educational program called the Objectivist Academic Center (OAC), which conducts classes on Objectivism and related fields.
- Student assistance. ARI offers financial assistance to students applying to graduate school, and provides mentors for OAC students.
- Academic outreach. ARI offers free copies and classroom sets of Rand's books to professors, as well as class syllabi which include Rand.
- Media appearances. Intellectuals from ARI often appear on radio and television, and their op-ed articles and letters to the editor have appeared in many major newspapers.
- Public lectures. ARI fellows frequently give public lectures in Orange County, California. They also lecture elsewhere, including college campuses across the U.S.
- Ayn Rand Bookstore. ARI operates the Ayn Rand Bookstore, which sells lectures and other materials from Objectivists.
- Objectivist conferences. ARI organizes a conference each summer which features lectures and dance classes from Objectivists.
- Internship. ARI offers a three week summer internship each year to promote Rand's ideas, philosophy and novels. The program consists of both education and work portions. Interns are introduced to different philosophies, different approaches to economics, Rand's philosophical ideas and Rand's fiction. The internship stresses the idea of rights and how they are understood in an Objectivist framework. Interns are encouraged to ask questions to develop a better understanding of the ideas Rand promoted, rights, economics and politics. Mini work seminars are held to help establish basic skills that will be useful in a professional work setting. Current events are discussed and debated. At the completion of the internship, each person receives a verbal and written evaluation of their performance. Besides the personal development and education interns acquire, each intern receives a travel stipend and scholarship.
Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights
In 2008, ARI opened the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights ("ARC") in Washington, D.C. to specialize in issues of public policy.
During the current economic crisis, the ARC has been a vocal proponent of the position that government intervention is responsible for the crisis, and that the solution lies not in further government regulation but in moving toward full laissez-faire capitalism.
On foreign policy, the ARC advocates American national self-interest, including ending the regimes that sponsor terrorism, rather than the Bush Administration's policies which they see as timid, halfway measures that only weaken America's position in the world.
ARI-sponsored writers and speakers have promoted a number of specific positions in contemporary political and social controversies.
Opposition to religion in politics
Since Objectivism advocates atheism, ARI promotes the separation of church and state, and its writers argue that the Religious Right poses a threat to individual rights. They have argued against displaying religious symbols (such as the Ten Commandments) in government facilities and against faith-based initiatives. The institute argues that religion is incompatible with American ideals and opposes the teaching of "intelligent design" in public schools.
Islam and the War on Terror
ARI has taken many controversial positions with respect to the Muslim world. They hold that the motivation for Islamic terrorism comes from their religiosity, not poverty or a reaction to Western policies. They have urged that the US use overwhelming, retaliatory force to "end states who sponsor terrorism", using whatever means are necessary to end the threat. In his article "Ends States Who Sponsor Terrorism", which was published as a full page ad in The New York Times, Peikoff wrote, "The choice today is mass death in the United States or mass death in the terrorist nations. Our Commander-In-Chief must decide whether it is his duty to save Americans or the governments who conspire to kill them." Although some at ARI initially supported the invasion of Iraq, it has criticized how the Iraq War was handled. Since October 2, 2001, the institute has held that Iran should be the primary target in the war against "Islamic totalitarianism".
ARI is generally supportive of Israel. Of Zionism, executive director of the institute Yaron Brook writes: "Zionism fused a valid concern – self-preservation amid a storm of hostility – with a toxic premise – ethnically based collectivism and religion."
The institute is also highly critical of diversity and affirmative action programs, as well as multiculturalism, arguing that they are based on racist premises that ignore the commonality of a shared humanity.
ARI denounces neoconservatism in general. For example, C. Bradley Thompson wrote an article entitled "The Decline and Fall of American Conservatism", which was later turned into the book (with Yaron Brook) Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea.
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