Prometheus Foundation affiliates (i.e., the Prometheus Network) are working worldwide to promote Ayn Rand and advance Objectivism. Here’s an indication of what they’ve done in just the last few months:
- Kalin Manolov republished the following books in Bulgarian: Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, For the New Intellectual, and The Virtue of Selfishness. In addition to republishing these books, Kalin distributed them to 88 high school libraries. He will likewise publish and distribute OPAR in March.
- The Turkish Objectivist Network meets weekly with Turkish and Middle Eastern students to study Ayn Rand’s works. They will begin studying Leonard Peikoff’s courses in the spring.
- Ayn Rand Center Ukraine, a new organization, launched an “Introduction to Objectivism” course for students throughout Ukraine who plan to start their own local study groups. They will begin studying Leonard Peikoff’s courses in 2021.
- Objectivism in Peru, a new website, features interviews of Objectivists discussing Ayn Rand’s ideas in Spanish.
- “The Daily Objective,” a show hosted by Ayn Rand Center UK, features live discussions between Objectivists as well as weekly discussions with prominent intellectuals.
- The Novel Philosophy Academy (in Dubai) teaches a course from an Objectivist perspective on “The Role of Philosophy in History” to more than 300 Arab students in 5 universities and to 45 high school teachers.
- Ayn Rand Center Holland launched an Ayn Rand quote bot on Twitter, where they have 10.4k followers. They also distributed 480 Ayn Rand essay pamphlets on university campuses.
- Objective Standard Institute (OSI) has taught 7 unique courses and recently launched two more. OSI’s courses focus on how Objectivism helps you to think clearly, live fully, and defend capitalism.
- Ayn Rand Center Europe, which was launched in 2015 with funding from Prometheus Foundation and encouragement and support from the Ayn Rand Institute, has expanded its John Galt School program. It now spans 17 European countries and has 570 alumni. Leonard Peikoff’s courses are used in their curriculum.
This last organization, Ayn Rand Center Europe, was founded and is run by Maja Vrtarić and her remarkable team. Maja has done an outstanding job promoting Ayn Rand in Europe and has worked closely with many other Objectivist organizations, including the Ayn Rand Institute, where she has helped to fill their European conferences with hundreds of students. Maja is dedicated, hard-working, and has produced extraordinary results.
In November 2020, Maja received a harsh email from Anu Seppala of the Ayn Rand Institute, demanding that Maja stop using the names “Ayn Rand” and “John Galt” in her organizations and programs. Anu claimed that Maja’s website has “numerous errors” but she failed to specify any. She also noted that Maja’s organization no longer cooperates with ARI. She said that Maja must stop using the names “Ayn Rand” and “John Galt” by December 31, 2020.
If Maja were not permitted to use the names Ayn Rand and John Galt in her organizations and programs, Ayn Rand Center Europe and its John Galt Schools would be crippled or destroyed. Why would ARI do this?
When I heard of this, I sent the following email to Anu and copied ARI management. It was dated December 11, 2020.
I’ve reviewed the email you sent to Maja Vrtarić demanding that she stop using the names “Ayn Rand” and “John Galt” in her educational organization.
Why on earth would you do such a thing?
Over the past five years, Maja and her team have done more to promote Ayn Rand and advance Objectivism in Europe than anyone. They’ve taught hundreds of people about Rand’s philosophy; they’ve spawned other organizations that are now teaching Objectivism in Ukraine, Turkey, Georgia, Dubai, Singapore, and elsewhere; and they are responsible for the high turnout at ARI’s European events (for which ARI claims credit). Maja and her team were responsible for about two-thirds of the attendees at ARI events in Europe that ARI is promoting in its fundraising emails.
In short, Ayn Rand Center Europe and their John Galt Schools are engines for the advancement of Objectivism. And ARI now aims to cripple them or shut them down? Really?
Your letter claims that Maja’s organization has factual and philosophical errors on its website and that its Facebook page has videos that misrepresent Rand’s ideas, but you give no examples of these errors or “misrepresentations”. Why not? If you, or someone at ARI, see a significant error on her website or Facebook page, why not send her a note about it? I’m sure Maja would appreciate the correction. Or write to me….
We all sometimes err, including ARI. Yaron’s podcasts and interviews, as well as Onkar’s articles and lectures contain errors and misrepresentations of Rand’s ideas. Two examples: in Yaron’s recent interview with David Pakman, he insisted that “Ayn Rand never said ‘Existence is identity’”; and Onkar misrepresented Rand’s ethics in his article about Adam Smith’s earthquake thought-experiment. Errors of knowledge are not moral issues. We correct errors and move on.
As you know, Maja and her organization—along with other individuals and organizations that receive funding from Prometheus Foundation—have permission from me to use the name “Ayn Rand.” As for “John Galt,” no one has a trademark on the name, nor can anyone trademark it.
Anu, I’m not sure who instigated your letter to Maja; perhaps upper management (copied here). Within five business days, I want you to withdraw that letter and apologize to Maja.
Neither Anu nor anyone at ARI replied to that email, nor apologized to Maja, nor let her know where or how she had erred.
If someone such as Maja errs in her efforts to advance Ayn Rand’s ideas, the way to handle it is not to issue authoritarian prohibitions on the use of “Ayn Rand,” but to point out where and how she erred so that she will learn and move forward with a better understanding.
In the case of Maja, and many of the people and organizations funded by Prometheus Foundation, English is not their first language. Much of what Maja has read of Ayn Rand she read in a foreign language, so occasional misunderstandings are understandable and to be expected.
What would be the correct way to react to the discovery of such an error? First, bring the error to her attention, specify the problem, and help her to correct the error and learn from it. Errors of knowledge are not breaches of morality.
When Craig Biddle, Executive Director of Prometheus Foundation, heard of this, he handled the matter differently. He asked Annie Vinther Sanz, Director of Operations for Prometheus Foundation, to respectfully discuss the situation with Maja, to express support and acknowledge her good work, and to ask her to have a qualified Objectivist intellectual audit and edit her website and explain any problems he found. Maja agreed, and she and her team worked to correct errors. Simple. Rational. Just.
All Objectivists are students of Ayn Rand’s philosophy. No one is error free in his or her understanding or delivery of the ideas. And no one is in a position to forbid the use of the name “Ayn Rand” (granted by ARI or me) to people who are honestly trying to understand the philosophy, live by it, and teach it to others. (Maja will continue to use the name “Ayn Rand” in her organizations and projects.)
Objectivist scholars and students of Objectivism should be encouraged and supported in their efforts to promote Ayn Rand and Objectivism, not intimidated by unrealistic, out-of-context standards. Errors and misunderstandings should be corrected respectfully and benevolently by coaching and tutoring. This is the Prometheus Foundation way.
I welcome your comments.
3 thoughts on “ARI and the Use of “Ayn Rand””
Due in part to their appeasement of the mainstream, ARI is declining intellectually. Their funding is increasingly reflecting that. This attack may have been more about them than Maja.
Thank you, Mister Barney. Your explanation “..have a qualified Objectivist intellectual audit and edit her website and explain any problems he found. Maja agreed,…” indicates sorely needed salesmanship professionalism if the concept of Objectivism is ever to be sold to the literate global public at large on the planet.
Personally, I thank Prometheus for funding Ayn Rand UK. Please keep it up.
Can we be honest? This was clearly spiteful payback for Maja to shunning you after they tried to excommunicate you. And they were willing to be dishonest about the scope of their trademark to intimidate someone trying to spread Rand’s ideas in Europe.
And doesn’t ARI claim to be against regulatory “high barriers to entry”? Apparently that’s only until anyone shows a hint of competition that they didn’t get to control and shape.
Poor show, ARI