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Cato Policy Report, November/December 1997

Cato Events:
Hundreds Gather to Celebrate Atlas Shrugged

Branden, Kelly highlight 40th anniversary event

On October 4th, more than 400 people joined the Cato Institute and the Institute for Objectivist Studies at a day-long conference to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the publication of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged.

The conference was kicked off with opening remarks by Frank Bond, chairman of IOS and member of the Cato Institute's Board of Directors, and Edward H. Crane, president of the Cato Institute. "Like any work of genius," Crane said, "Atlas continues to serve as a guide to current philosophical and cultural issues."

Edward L. Hudgins, director of regulatory studies at the Cato Institute, moderated the first panel discussion. In his remarks, Hudgins described the originality of Rand's work: "Economists like Mises, Hayek, and Friedman had shown the economic flaws of statism, but Rand was the first to show the ethical flaws."

Robert Poole, president of the Reason Foundation, discussed the influence of Atlas Shrugged, noting that "the current infrastructure of libertarian institutions was created by individuals inspired by the ideas of Ayn Rand." Howard Dickman of Reader's Digest reminded the audience that Atlas Shrugged had turned millions of readers on to the ideas of liberty but maintained that just as important was the book's message "that you have a profound right to be happy--that your own happiness is a value."

The final panel discussion included remarks from three businessman who have been influenced by Ayn Rand: Ed Snider of Comcast Spectacor, Victor Niederhoffer of Niederhoffer Investments, and John Aglialoro of UM Holdings. Aglialoro stated that Rand's depiction of business as a heroic pursuit was important in shaping his worldview. "When I do good business, when I trade value for value, as Rand discussed in her novels, I feel optimistic, self-valued, and happy." Aglialoro also reported that he is negotiating to produce a film based on Atlas Shrugged.

David Kelley, president of IOS, spoke about why rational individualism--one of the principal tenets of objectivism--is so important in the electronic age. "The benefits of using your mind, and the perils of not doing so, are greater now than ever before," Kelley said. He also criticized both modern liberals and modern conservatives, pointing out that "neither side is committed to reason and individualism and thus both sides are ultimately hostile to capitalism."

Following Kelley's talk, there was a reception at the Cato Institute and a dinner dance. Nathaniel Branden, author of The Psychology of Self-Esteem and a long-time associate of Ayn Rand, discussed how The Fountainhead changed the way he looked at the world, why Rand's books continue to sell thousands of copies each year, and why objectivism should not be treated as a closed philosophical system, as some have done.

This article originally appeared in the November/December 1997 edition of Cato Policy Report.