I’ve received many responses to my post, “ARI Is Failing and Needs Our Help,” and I appreciate them all. Some have been private emails, and some have been comments under the post. The emails and comments have been thoughtful, illuminating, and respectful of the importance of this matter. People are deeply concerned about the state of ARI.
I won’t attempt to reply separately to everyone who has responded. But I want to address the general themes among the responses. (If you have messaged me, please accept this post as my reply.)
First, I’ll quote from a few responses to indicate the general substance and tone.
“I want an organization to preserve and promote Ayn Rand’s works, that should be [ARI’s] foremost mission.”
“It matters to me that you [CB] are supporting Leonard and bringing back to prominence his intellectual contribution from years past.”
“My take is that philosophy must be sold – and not told… Ayn Rand is the best salesman of her work, followed by Leonard Peikoff.”
“Their [ARI’s] numbers [statistics] are very insignificant, and they don’t even seem to have a clue that their viewership and engagement is embarrassing… I’m glad you’re bringing some of this information to light, and I hope ARI can, in the long run, reverse practices that have caused them to become ineffective.”
“I think that there is a conflict of interest with Yaron serving on the board of ARI and his promotion of his program YBS [Yaron Brook Show]. If I am a donor with limited resources to whom should I donate money? Is the Institute and YBS one and the same?”
“I’ve been an Objectivist since the early 80s and I would like to help.”
Some asked: What can I do? What can we do? What can be done? Those are good questions. I’ll answer with a few essentials.
- First, and above all, we must recognize and accept that, by objective measures, what ARI is doing is not working. (To his credit, Tal Tsfany, CEO, realized this when he first took over.) That is reality. No matter how unpleasant this fact is, it has to be faced, not ignored or evaded. (Businessmen on ARI’s Board have told me privately that ARI is not working, so this is known internally by at least some.)
- We must encourage ARI to thoughtfully explore new strategies. Research and find out what is successful and why it’s successful. Look at PragerU, Dave Rubin, Cato Institute, Foundation for Economic Education, Students for Liberty, and others for any information or guidance they can provide. Observe that a young Ryan Holiday (in his 20s) became a bestselling author popularizing the ancient philosophy of Stoicism. Stoicism! He has ten times the following of Yaron on his podcast. ARI and Yaron’s model is not working. Objectivism should be hundreds of times more influential.
- We must encourage ARI to market Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff. No one sells Objectivism better. And if the Ayn Rand Institute is supposed to do anything, it is supposed to market her works and those of the Objectivist philosopher she endorsed. This is a large part of why ARI is failing: it’s not focused on Ayn Rand. Ryan Holiday constantly talks about Stoicism and Stoics. But at the Institute named after Ayn Rand—an Institute supposedly dedicated to promoting her work—more time, money, and effort go into promoting Yaron Brook and ARI’s nascent intellectuals.
In regard to that last point, I had a long conversation with a very senior, very accomplished Objectivist who has been a substantial supporter of ARI for many years. He spent an hour explaining his disappointments and criticisms. He asked me not to mention his name, and I’m not going to quote him directly. But I will relay the essence of what he said. He expressed something which has been disturbing to me, too. He said Yaron and others at ARI don’t talk about Ayn Rand very much. It’s the Ayn Rand Institute, yet its intellectuals hardly talk about Ayn Rand!
Years ago, when I toured the world several times with Yaron, I would sit in on his lectures. I observed that he rarely mentioned Ayn Rand. He never quoted her and never mentioned her books. I said, “Yaron, you’ve got to put up slides talking about Ayn Rand and the Ayn Rand Institute.” And I asked, “Where are her books? There should be a table of her books at the back of the lecture hall.” He told me it was too expensive to ship them to whichever country we were in. I said, “Dammit, we’ve got to have books here no matter what it costs. This is absurd; this is what we’re selling; we’ve got to have her books here.” I offered to pay for the shipping, and they started shipping her books to the lecture halls. (Today I believe—and hope—they continue doing this. I believe they also now create slides and talk to some extent about Ayn Rand and the Ayn Rand Institute. If so, these are welcome changes.)
Bluntly: It’s a crime. It’s the Ayn Rand Institute. Its representatives should be talking about Ayn Rand, holding up Ayn Rand’s books, explaining Ayn Rand’s ideas, teaching Ayn Rand’s philosophy. And because the foremost, master teacher of Objectivism is Leonard Peikoff, the Institute should be promoting his books and courses as well.
As I said in “ARI Is Failing and Needs Our Help,” we need a strong Ayn Rand Institute to promote Ayn Rand and advance Objectivism. I hope you will do what you can to help bring it about.
Should you stop donating to ARI? Not necessarily. I stopped, but I still contribute to Objectivism through the Objectivist Venture Fund/Prometheus Foundation. If you continue supporting ARI, however, I suggest you ask questions about how they spend your donation dollars, and ask for clear measurements and accountability.