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Weekend Movies – 5 Easy Pieces

20 Jun

Love and Mercy.  This is the best movie I’ve seen this year, in part because it has the advantage of having Brian Wilson‘s music as its soundtrack.  (Some of us are just young enough to have only faint memories of the better Wilson songs, until they were brought back to everyone’s attention as the score to HBO’s BigLove).  It’s also the most libertarian, combining themes from Ayn Rand and Thomas Szasz.  Also a feminist movie, with a working class divorcee the White Knight who saves the day.

It’s the biography of Brian Wilson, the singer/songwriter/composer responsible for the Beach Boys.  Seeking treatment for mental illness, which may or may not have been aggravated by a physically and emotionally abusive father (and a 60s drug use problem), Wilson was literally enslaved by his psychiatrist, who over medicated him, took his money and property, and tried to force him to produce more hits while drugged into submission.  Only the love and concern of car saleswoman, Melinda Ledbetter, he chances to meet (capitalism!), saves him from death.  After his recovery, he marries his princess charming rescuer, and they have 5 children and he composes two more award winning albums.  Wilson is played young and old by Paul Dano and John Cusak, but the scenery is really eaten up by Paul Giammati as the evil psychiatrist slaver and the ubiquitous Elizabeth Banks as Melinda.  Wilson is a Hank Rearden character, who believes he deserves punishment and is essentially evil, something his father had beaten into him and something his own sins as a husband and father in a first marriage (never fully explained or revealed) have for him confirmed; and Dr. Landy (Paul Giammati) is the Lillian Rearden ready to tap that guilt for sadistic fun and envious profit.  With Banks it’s as if Atlas’s Cheryl Taggart had met Rearden and they save each other together.  All against a yummy background of California scenery, from Malibu to the Hollywood Hills and retro shots of 60s Los Angeles pool parties and recording studios.

This movie reminded me of The Man Who Fell to Earth, the 1976 film where David Bowie played a Martian who falls to earth and is exploited by a cabal of government bureaucrats and crony corporations for his advanced scientific knowledge.  Association of Libertarian Feminists co-founder Sharon Presley penned a great review of Fell back when she was a hipster NYU grad student, pointing out how much it shared with Atlas Shrugged.  (Presley’s review is pre-internet and not online, so frustratingly I cannot link!  If someone finds a physical copy of it I’d love to post it here at Insomniac.)

(Side Note:  Paul Dano is the new male Catherine Keener.  A touchstone like Keener, if he is in a movie, often a quirky indie film you know nothing about, you can assume, 99% of the time, it’s pretty darn good.  These people either know how to read a script and assess a project in advance, or they have the freedom to turn down garbage.)

Film:  A+      Libertarian Quotient:  7


Pitch Perfect 2.  Busy Ms. Elisabeth Banks, who is in The Hunger Games, and Magic Mike II, and Love and Mercy (above) is also the director…and producer…and an actor… reprising her role as an acapella contest judge from Pitch Perfect.  You’d think being spread so thin this she couldn’t make this be good, but it is.  It’s kind of a more cerebral Porky’s, but with a female sensibility.  Lots of almost sophomoric jokes about sex, nudity, and bodily functions.  The plot involves the all female acapella singing team, the Bellas (from the first Pitch Perfect) being disgraced when they accidentally moon President Obama (who is made fun of, briefly). and then have to win back their title against a German team who think they are the master race.  The always appealing jolie laide Ana Kendrick leads her team to…you have to watch to find out.  The girls also learn about entrepreneurship as interns at a recording studio.

Film:  B+          Libertarian Quotient:  5


Jurassic World.  A perfectly serviceable entry into the franchise.  This return to the woebegotten Costa Rican island has more libertarian content than some of the previous Jurrasic films, as the danger is increased by genetic engineering by Defense contractors seeking to make bigger and better weaponized reptiles.

The movie has been the occasion for some internet fun, as a scene in which the studly Chris Pratt’s character “calms” three velociraptors has generated parody memes.  But the joke hits on a truth, which is that Chris Pratt’s pulchritude is palpable; seeing him makes you want to put your lips all over his body (if you are so inclined anyway) in a reaction very similar to looking at stock photos of Marilyn Monroe (who also produces that reaction in me – maybe I’m just hungry?).  (There is also a new computer game Lego Jurassic World.)

That’s actually one minor problem of the movie.  I generally like gingers, including ginger women, but Chris Pratt, who is basically the new Gerard Butler, is totally hotter, at least in this movie, than cold and papery Bryce Dallas Howard.  I don’t believe he’d be chasing her instead of her him.

The movie is speedy enough to keep you from being bothered by the fact that you may have known how it would end.  Early on we are shown the herpetological equivalent of a loaded gun, and then it reappears in the middle of the film, so we know it is going to be used, about 125 minutes later.

Film: A     Libertarian Quotient: 6


Boulevard.  Robin William’s final film, posthumously produced.  A depressing, mediocre movie that did not need to be made.  The official release date is July 10, but it’s being previewed now at gay film festivals (which is where I saw it).  Williams plays Nolan Mack, a closeted married gay loan officer, a very down market version of Richard Gere’s character in Pretty Woman, with a catatonic and ailing father in a nursing home, a childless, passionless, marriage, a boring but spacious house covered in doilies and thick curtains, and an obnoxious friend (Bob Odenkirk).  Then he meets a gay rent boy, Leo, who is hot, but his character is not exactly the same as that of Julia Roberts and this isn’t a remake of Pygmalian.  The gay press reviewers (as opposed to the libertarian reviewers who happen to be gay) think it is a untold story of what it was like to be a gay man before you could be out, who marries because you must, and quotes 60 and 70 year old gay men on how this is finally a film that speaks to them.  That’s nice.  What the fuck does that have to do with the rest of us?  I guess you could claim it is an eye opening window into gay history for the youth.  Other gay reviewers think the movie has great acting.  But it is boring so what does that matter?

William’s Mack has always been gay and never really acted on it, instead marrying a female literary academic (actress Kathy Baker), a substitute for his childhood/lifelong friend, an aspiring novelist (Odenkirk).  (I often find Odenkirk annoying so this was a good use for him.)  The hooker (Robert Aguirre) has a violent pimp and other problems, and trying to save him blows up Nolan Mack’s life.  In the final scene we jump to his going away meeting with Odenkirk; William’s is suddenly in better fitting jeans and a snazzier jacket, with hair that is no longer gray, and Odenkirk is finally headed to Manhattan to try to write the Great American Novel, young girlfriend in tow.  What happened in between with Kathy Baker and everyone else we never know.

I used to be a major donor/sponsor of DC’s Reel Affirmations Film Festival.  We’d sit through many bad movies about serial killers taking out gays just to see a handful of short gay romantic comedies.  Cable TV (i.e., capitalism) allowed more channels to serve niche markets (gays and also indie film lovers) so that more and better gay fare is available, and even made the other channels compete by including gay characters; and gay film festivals shrank from two week long event parties to weekend long affairs.  We just stay home now and watch better stuff on TV.  We don’t need to like mediocre gay fare anymore and include it in our programming.

If you watch the official trailer for Boulevard (below) you’ve seen the whole movie unless you enjoy watching Kathy Baker’s (et al) facial motor fine motor skills for 88 minutes.

Film:  C-         Libertarian Quotient:  1


Entourage.  Jeremy Piven, last seen on British TV in Mr. Selfridge, and Adrian Grenier, last seen in 2006 in The Devil Wears Prada, finally get some work.  Most people who loved the HBO series Entourage will be satisified but not overwhelmed by this conclusion to the story started on TV of whether Grenier”s Vincent Chase will ever have a hit movie.  One continuity problem is that in the four years since HBO stopped airing the series, most of the entourage have developed thick necks and the beginning of jowls (except Jerry Ferrara, “Turtle,” who has dramatically lost weight).  It’s clear at least four years have passed, though I think we are supposed to believe the film begins right after the series ended. If you didn’t see the series I don’t know if the film will make a lot of sense.  The movie within a movie Vincent Chase stars in and produces seems to be a libertarianish dystopian story in which a DJ is kind of Edward Snowden.

Film:  B-          Libertarian Quotient: 3

Libertarian women’s history month: Suzanne La Follette

27 Mar

Suzanne Clara La Follette (June 24, 1893 – April 23, 1983) was an American journalist and author who advocated for libertarian feminism in the first half of the 20th century. As an editor she helped found several magazines. She was an early and ardent feminist and a vocal anti-communist.  Much of her career from the 30s to the mid-50s consisted of trying to find financial backing for a series of libertarian magazines, first working for Albert Jay Nock and then hiring him as a contributor, in a relationship slightly like that of Joan Kennedy Taylor and Roy A. Childs, Jr.   The Freeman, still published today by the Foundation for Economic Education, is the surviving publication of her career.  Like Zora Neale Hurston, she seems to have had little or no contact with Rose Wilder Lane, Isabel Patterson, or Ayn Rand.  One can only imagine what might have happened if these five women had had more collaboration.

She was born in Washington state into the politically prominent La Follette family. Her father was U.S. Congressman William La Follette; her brothers included politician William Leroy LaFollette, Jr. and Chester La Follette, a painter along with two other brothers and two sisters.  Author Mimi LaFollette Summerskill was her niece. 

She grew up in the wide open spaces of the American West. Her grandfather, John Tabor, was a 49er, having crossed the plains toCalifornia after service in the Mexican-American War.  Her father, William La Follette, had first come to the Washington Territory as a 16-year-old from Indiana. By the turn of the 20th century, he was one of the largest growers and shippers of fruit in the Inland Empire.  LaFaollette was born on her family’s large wheat and fruit farm along the Snake River in southeastern Washington state. As she told an interviewer who tracked her down many years later, she and her siblings “grew up on horseback” at a time when “the automobile had not yet come in.” It had begun coming in, though, a few years later, when Suzanne was on the verge of entering her teens and her father decided to lease out his rural property and build a new family home in the college town of Pullman, near the Idaho border, then with a population of approximately 1,500, the majority connected in some way with Washington State University. That school opened its doors in Pullman in 1890, so that it had been in business there more than 15 years by the time the La Follette family showed up in town.  Suzanne finished high school in Pullman and, at the age of 16, enrolled at Washington State. But she had only about a year there before her family was uprooted again. Her father was elected to Congress, and they all moved east.

While living in Washington D.C. with her family, Suzanne worked in her father’s Capitol Hill office as well as that of his cousin Wisconsin Senator Robert M. La Follette, Sr. As a young woman still in college, she observed many of the great political and intellectual debates of the time at the home shared by the two LaFollette families.  Apart from two years in the Washington State House of Representatives at the turn of the century and some time on his local school board, William La Follette confined his political career to the second decade of the 20th century, when he himself was in his 50s. But that single decade in Washington, DC was an eye-opening experience for his daughter Suzanne. She was 17 when she arrived in the nation’s capital and 26 when she left. She worked part time in her father’s congressional office and in her cousin Bob’s senatorial office, while finishing up her degree at Trinity College.  She witnessed Woodrow Wilson’s two terms in the White House from what amounted to a front row seat, including his disastrous decision to intervene in World War I and his attempt to suppress the dissent that decision naturally touched off all over America.

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Libertarian feminist Suzanne LaFollete’s family home in DC, on a block little changed since her residence.
Posted by Bruce P. Majors on Friday, March 27, 2015

While completing her college education, La Follette was involved with many of the great events of the day. She worked in her father’s congressional office as well as the office of their cousin, Senator Robert M. La Follette, Sr.. For much of that period the two LaFollette families lived together in a large home that William La Follette had purchased. Debate and conversation were encouraged at the dinner table and a steady stream politicians, writers, labor leaders, professors and other opinion makers engaged in policy and political arguments late into the evening.  Living in the “huge old house on Sixteenth Street” (2108 16th, just above U Street NW) were her parents, those of her siblings who were still living at home, Fighting Bob and his wife, and their three youngest children. (The house was until recently the Embassy of Senegal, now the Embassy of Angola.) For the first three of those four years, Fighting Bob’s youngest kids included Robert La Follette Jr., two years younger than Suzanne. The younger La Follette moved back home to Madison in 1913 to attend the University of Wisconsin, then succeeded his father in the US Senate in 1925 and spent more than two decades as a Senator himself. Meanwhile, Suzanne had decided to leave Washington altogether to try her hand at journalism,  by 1919 landing a job at  The Nation, then a weekly  owned and edited by a tireless advocate for civil liberties and against imperialism, Oswald Garrison Villard.

At The Nation, Suzanne met a fellow staff writer and editor, Albert Jay Nock, almost as old as her father, a former Episcopal clergyman who had enlisted in the ranks of radical journalism a decade earlier, working on the American Magazine with Lincoln SteffensIda Tarbell, andJohn Reed. Nock was erudite, aloof, sardonic, fascinating. 
Nock recognized the talent and intelligence of this fresh-faced 26-year-old from Washington and made her his protégé. A year later, in 1920, when the financing came through for a new weekly magazine of which Nock would be editor in chief — The Freeman — he  made her managing editor. The Freeman was a Georgist paper, and its editorials (which Nock himself wrote) took a more or less Georgist line, though Nock brought in many non-Georgists to write for the magazine. He really didn’t care what their opinions on political economy were if they weren’t writing about political economy.
Libertarian revisionist historian Jeff Riggenbach (from whose essay on LaFollette parts of this biography are derived) reports that one LaFollette associate ended up as the model for an Ayn Rand character:  “As his literary editor, Nock hired Van Wyck Brooks, who had spent the war years as an admirer of H.G. Wells and a supporter of Eugene Debs. As one of his most frequent contributors, Nock chose Lewis Mumford, who later served as one of the real-life models Ayn Rand relied upon when she created the character of Ellsworth Toohey in her novel The Fountainhead.”

“At one time or another,” Nock wrote his autobiography, the Memoirs of a Superfluous Man, “we printed quite a bit of stuff that none of us believed in, but it all conformed to our three conditions” of The Freeman‘s editorial policy. “The first one,” he wrote, “is that you must have a point. Second, you must make it out. The third one is that you must make it out in eighteen-carat, impeccable, idiomatic English.”  The magazine lasted only four years, and only with the support of a major angel donor.

Later she founded a revival of the magazine, called “The New Freeman” in 1932 which lasted only fifteen months. In the early 1950s, she served as a managing editor of yet another revival of Nock’s journal, the libertarian periodical The Freeman, with John Chamberlain and Henry Hazlitt serving as executive editors. In that role, she came into periodic conflict with Hazlitt due to her “sometimes strident way of expressing herself” on behalf of Senator Joseph McCarthy. It is this magazine which is widely considered to be an important forerunner to the conservative National Review, founded by William F. Buckley, another journal for which she was also an early contributor and managing editor.

After her father left Congress. she moved to New York City where she lived and worked for fifty years. She lived for most of this period in the Chelsea Hotel. Her brother, Chester La Follette‘s art studio was upstairs from her apartment on the tenth floor. During the 1920s she spent four years as an editor for the Freeman working as a deputy to Albert Jay Nock editing and writing. When the magazine folded, she turned her talents to writing, producing award winning poetry, as well as two books on very different subjects. In Concerning Women, she broke new ground as she analyzed feminism from the perspective of economic equality. Her former mentor, Nock, found the book to be brilliant and original. In Art in America she produced a monumental survey of American art from colonial times to the 20th century. The art historian, Walter Pach wrote the introduction.

In the 1930s she organized a new version of the Freeman, won a Guggenheim Fellowship for study of the fine arts, lectured at the Art Students League of New York, and traveled to Mexico as a member of the Dewey Commission.  La Follette, who had been interested in Russia since the revolution of 1917 and had been in contact with many exiles, including former president, Alexander Kerenskyserved as secretary to its chairman, the philosopher John Dewey and wrote the summary of the Commission’s findings after conducting investigations in Mexico where Trotsky was in exile (soon after he was murdered by an agent of Joseph Stalin).   The committee’s members, like La Follette, Carlo Tresca and Dewey, were not Trotskyists, but consisted of anti-Stalinist socialistsprogressives and liberals. In the 1940s and during World War II La Follette worked as director of foreign relief programs for the American Federation of Labor, focusing her efforts on keeping communists out of the American labor movement.

La Follette spent the rest of her own career trying to recapture what Albert Jay Nock had put together and managed to hold together for four years there in Manhattan in the 30s. For Suzanne, it was the best job she ever had, the high point of all her years in journalism. She had loved working with and for Albert Jay Nock.   Until she was well into her 60s, she worked indefatigably to find financial backers who would underwrite a reborn Freeman.

Twice she actually brought something of the kind off — or, at least, helped to bring it off. In 1930, six years after the original Freeman had ceased publication, at the age of 37, she became founding editor of a weekly magazine called The New Freeman, even managing to lure Nock back to write a column. After 15 months, the financial angel for the project backed out.  And it was nearly two more decades before Suzanne was able to bring off anything comparable in her ongoing effort to resurrect The Freeman.

In 1950, at the age of 57, she joined with Henry Hazlitt and John Chamberlain to found yet another, fortnightly, version of The Freeman; she served as managing editor, as she had on the original Freeman back in the 1920s. This latest version of the magazine attained a larger paid circulation and survived longer than either of its predecessors. It was 1956 before it was sold to the Foundation for Economic Education and transformed into a monthly of a very different sort — a kind of Reader’s Digest for radical free marketeers.  In her final editorial effort she became the founding managing editor of the magazine William Buckley founded in 1955, The National Review. She retired from this post in 1959 at the age of sixty-six.   In an interview conducted by libertarian feminist Sharon Presley in 1980, her colleague, John Chamberlain stated that she was a libertarian, not a conservative.  Her feminist views in fact often clashed with the conservative point of view. Based on an interview with Buckley, as reported in the “Freewoman” profile, Presley states, for example, that “in 1964, when the New York Conservative Party, of which she was a co-founder, came out in favor of anti-abortion laws, she demanded that her name be dropped from the Party’s letterhead – and it was.” 

LaFollette’s full-length book, Concerning Women, broke ground in the 1920s, but went out of print for a second time after a 1972 reprint in the Arno Press American Women series. In 1973, an excerpt entitled “Beware the State” was included in “The Feminist Papers,” an anthology edited by Alice Rossi. A short biography of La Follette, based on interviews with her grandniece Maryly Rosner, her brother Chester La Follette, and her colleagues John Chamberlain, Priscilla Buckley (sister to conservative editor William F. Buckley, Jr.) and Helen Tremaine, can be found in the article “Suzanne La Follette: The Freewomen” by Sharon Presley.

La Follette was active in the League of Equal Opportunity, a feminist organization that, unlike the larger National Women’s Party, opposed not just sex-based minimum wage legislation, but all such legislation. She explained her opposition to such laws in Concerning Women. 

Still politically active In the 1960s she was one of the founders of the New York Conservative Party. She ran for congress in 1964 and lost. In her 2004 book, Notable American Women: A Biographical Dictionary: Completing the Twentieth Century, Susan Ware described the many intellectual gifts that made La Follette such a force among the New York intelligencia for so many decades.  La Follette was “a rigorous opponent of government intervention. She was a very beautiful woman, with a hilarious sense of humor, a grammatical stickler … a feminist … generous and warm-hearted, recalled William F. Buckley Jr., who knew her in later years.”

In the 1970s, La Follette sold her Bucks County farm and left the Chelsea Hotel and New York City. She returned to the West Coast, settling in Palo Alto, not far from the Stanford University campus. She is interred in Colfax, Washington with other family members.

Libertarian women’s history month: Dana Berliner

26 Mar
Dana Berliner (May 31, 196? – ) was born in southern California, where her father, Michael Berliner, was the first executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute and a professor of education at California State University and her mother, Dr. Judith Berliner, is a researcher on blood vessel diseases at UCLA Medical School.   Berliner is Litigation Director at the Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm in Arlington, Virginia founded in 1991 by Chip Mellor and Clint Bolick. She was co-lead counsel for Susette Kelo in the landmark United States Supreme Court case Kelo v. City of New London
Dana received her law (1991) and undergraduate (psychology, 1987) degrees from Yale University, where she was a member of the Yale Law Journal and represented clients through the legal services program. After law school, she clerked for Judge Jerry Edwin Smith on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.  Younger colleagues at the Institute of Justice, when asked about Ms. Berliner, praise her brilliance.  (Indeed, one can imagine reading about her work would inspire many to desire to go to law school, or wish that they had done so.)   Living in the once bohemian Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, D.C. , Berliner has recently become active in a common libertarian passion, finding people interested in starting a Montessori school for her child to attend.


Ms. Berliner is best known for her work in the area of eminent domain. Along with co-counsel Scott Bullock, Dana litigated the landmark case Kelo v. City of New London, one of the most divisive and widely discussed Supreme Court decisions in decades. More recently, Berliner acted as lead counsel for Bill Brody in the New York eminent domain case Brody v. Village of Port Chester. Currently, Ms. Berliner is representing the Community Youth and Athletic Center, a non-profit boxing gym for children in National City, California, defending it from potential eminent domain use by the city. She has also served as lead counsel in a successful case that garnered national attention challenging Ohio’s requirement that African hairbraiders spend a year in cosmetology school, in which they learn nothing about braiding, in order to practice their profession.  When she successfully defended Vera Coking, an elderly widow in Atlantic City, N.J., the Institute’s work defending small property owners from eminent domain became nationally prominent. As co-counsel, she stopped a state agency from condemning Mrs. Coking’s house to give it to Donald Trump for a limousine waiting area. She has gone on to litigate many other free enterprise and eminent domain cases.  Dana has previously secured a victory in favor of two New Orleans entrepreneurs in a federal First Amendment challenge to the City of New Orleans’ ban on sidewalk book vending. As trial counsel, Dana also secured a ruling that the Nevada Transportation Services Authority violated the rights of several would-be limousine entrepreneurs by subjecting them to an onerous and arbitrary licensing process that gave undue power to existing companies opposing competition. 
In addition to her work in the courtroom, Ms. Berliner has authored two works concerning eminent domain and been involved with the issue in other ways. In 2003, she wrote Public Power, Private Gain: A Five-Year, State-by-State Report Examining the Abuse of Eminent Domain. She also authored Opening the Floodgates: Eminent Domain Abuse in the Post-Kelo World, a report published by the Castle Coalition on the use and threatened use of eminent domain for private development in the year since the Kelo decision. Dana has also written amicus curiae briefs on constitutional eminent domain issues in more than ten states. Over the past few years, she has also taught many continuing legal education classes on public use. She works with owners around the country in opposing the condemnation of their homes and businesses for private use.

Dana has written for or had her ideas quoted in The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, NPR, Capitalism magazine, The Washington Post, and The Washington Timesas well as on various radio and television broadcasts, including 60 Minutes.  In 2012 she was on the faculty of the Ayn Rand Institute’s summer conference.
Linda Greenhouse, covering the Supreme Court case decriminalizing homosexuality, in which IJ filed a brief (along with the Cato Institute),  quoted Berliner  in the New York Times :  “Most people may see this as a case purely about homosexuality, but we don’t look at it that way at all.  If the government can regulate private sexual behavior, it’s hard to imagine what the government couldn’t regulate.  That’s almost so basic that it’s easy to miss the forest for the trees.
In her most famous case, Berliner foreshadowed Edward Snowden in her assessment of what it’s like to be the libertarian David (or Dana) going up against the governmental Goliath, saying that the United States Supreme Court decision, Kelo v. New London, gave rise to “a tidal wave of outrage.  The decision brought to light this incredible rift between what lawyers and cities thought was the law and what the American people thought was the law,” Ms. Berliner said. “This is certainly the situation of losing the battle and winning the war.”
Ms. Berliner published the following commentary on the Kelo decision in the New York Times:
No one should be surprised by the aftermath of the Kelo case — neither the fact that absolutely nothing has been built on the land nor the fact that Pfizer is now pulling out of New London altogether.
Nor is it surprising that Pfizer has now pulled out. The company took advantage of the phenomenal tax break when it was there and is pulling out just before it ends. The deal and the project didn’t make any financial sense for a private company, and no one would have agreed to it without a huge subsidy.The evidence at trial showed that nothing would be built on that land. The developer (who has now left the project) did a study showing there was no market for the biotech office buildings the city claimed would replace the homes. But the courts didn’t want to look at that evidence. If they had, Susette Kelo would still be in her home and the rest of us would be safe from eminent domain abuse.
Risky real estate deals are, well, risky. That means they often fail. And if a private company made a risky deal that failed, we wouldn’t even be discussing it. But when government uses eminent domain to remove people from their homes, while spending tens of millions of public dollars on a failed risky deal, that’s a travesty.
The public was upset even before the project went down in flames. To the utter astonishment of local governments, developers and the courts, the American public despises eminent domain. Indeed, after the decision, there was overwhelming public disapproval, crossing political lines.
Eminent domain is wildly unpopular and pie-in-the-sky promises usually turn out to be empty. Hopefully local governments have learned an important lesson.

Libertarian women’s history month: Marsha Enright

24 Mar

Psychologist and educator Marsha Enright (October 1, 195? – ) born in Chicagoearned her B.A. in biology from Northwestern University in 1973, and an M.A. in psychology from The New School for Social Research in 1976. In 1990, Mrs. Enright cofounded the Council Oak Montessori Elementary School and served as its executive director. Marsha Enright is currently the president of the Reason, Individualism, Freedom Institute, and leads development of the College of the United States and its wholly independent scholarship fund. Enright also was a writer for The New Individualist magazine  She discovered Montessori education through studying Ayn Rand.  Her institute offers on line symposiums “a unique “total immersion” learning experience, our institute aims to free students from the limitations of traditional higher education. Our distinct curriculum and learning environment empowers students to develop superior thinking and reasoning skills. We enable students to become successful and versatile leaders in their lives and communities by cultivating a love of learning, philosophical inquiry, and the promotion of reason, achievement, happiness and freedom in all that they do.”

In an interview in the late 90s with Full Context, Enright outlined her intellectual biography:

“I read through Atlas the summer following The Fountainhead, and all the books and essays I could get my hands on after that, over the next few years. This included Nathaniel Branden’s The Psychology of Self-Esteem, which greatly influenced my thinking in psychology, directly, and, indirectly, by introducing me to the works of Arthur Koestler in a footnote. I have been immensely influenced by Koestler’s ideas in both biology and psychology and, when it comes to writing science well, he is my hero.

“It’s funny, a discussion I had recently made me reflect on how I went about accepting Rand’s ideas. Some friends were arguing that it was the practical arguments about capitalism that finally convince people about the truth and value of a free society, but I know that’s not what convinced me: it was the argument for the value and necessity of freedom for the reasoning mind. I guess I always sharply felt the oppression of others trying to tell me what to do—especially because of the stupid things they would want me to do! I experience the value of freedom in a very strong, personal way, even though I’ve never been the victim of political repression.This deep attachment to freedom makes me an absolute basket case when I hear the Star Spangled Banner or read about what Jaroslav Romanchuck is going through!

“I remember that the biggest question in my mind after reading the novels was: was I fundamentally a person like Roark or Dagny? I knew I wasn’t like them in many ways, and it seemed difficult to know what personality characteristics were essential to be like a Randian hero. For one thing, Dagny and Roark seem to have been born the way they are—popping full-blown from Athena’s head, so there weren’t many clues as to how to get from there to here. And for another thing, Rand’s characters all seemed to be very little affected by other people’s negative judgments and feelings towards them. And in the characterizations, this seemed to be mixed up with being independent in judgment. 

“So, did you have to be both in order to be a Randian hero? I knew I wasn’t exactly like that because, even though you’d have to kill me before I’d stop arguing what I thought was right, I also knew that the kindness or meanness of others and the way other people felt and acted towards me could really affect me—it could make me feel wonderful or awful. I’ve spent many years thinking about the psychology involved, and my article “Why Man Needs Approval” in Objectivity examines this issue at length and in light of scientific research. I reached the conclusion that these characteristics—independence of judgement and sensitivity to the feelings of others—are two separate issues, the one an issue of character and the other of temperament. I ultimately decided that Rand, for personal reasons, had chosen to make her characters have the two characteristics together.

“And I also had some personal interactions with Rand that I found really interesting in regard to this issue of the essential qualities of her heroes, because I got to see what the author of these books was like as a person. You know, her personality and temperament weren’t very much like her heroes’: she wasn’t a serene, cool, calm person rather indifferent to the feelings of those around her—she was a wildly passionate, hot-headed woman who reacted sharply to negative criticism or feedback. And she was on an intensely felt mission to save the world.

“In the seventies when I was about 25, I attended almost all the lectures given by Leonard Peikoff and Allan Blumenthal in New York City. My best learning experience and most vivid memories from those lectures were conversations which I had with Ayn Rand. I would go up to her at the breaks and after the lectures and ply her with all kinds of questions—about the nature of free will or how to cast the movie Atlas Shrugged—and I was usually delighted to get her typically unique answers. I even got her talking about catsbetween lectures I had left a little pin of a cat arched and hissing at her office for her birthday. When I saw her wearing it one day, I asked her if she liked it and she said “Oh yes—it is ze essence of cat!” I even humorously threatened to bring my cats for her to see—at which she said “Oh no, dahlink, you can’t do that!” Sometimes I think she thought I was about 16 years old!

Once I mentioned to her that I had noticed where she got the name Danneskjold:from Victor Hugo’s first novel, Hans of Iceland in which the hero becomes the first of the Counts of Danneskjold! I thought this was a great tribute to him, but she worriedly said to me “Oh yes, but it wasn’t plagiarism because there really were counts of Danneskjold!”
You see, if you can picture this, Ayn Rand was worried that she would be perceived as trading on Victor Hugo’s ability and glory!

“The most striking thing that happened to me during these conversations is that Ayn Rand once asked my forgiveness. I wanted to bring this experience up because it was so different from the experiences of Rand related by so many other people, perhaps it gives a different side of her….”

Of one of her interactions with Ayn Rand, Enright wrote:  “In the 1970s, I attended courses taught by Leonard Peikoff and Alan BlumenthalAyn Rand was often present and I got to know her a bit. 

“I knew that we shared an affection for cats. Just before her birthday, I found a pin of a cat arching its back. I wrapped it and dropped it off at her office. Her secretary at first declined to accept the gift—until I said that it had only cost three dollars. 

“At the next course, I saw Rand wearing the pin, and mentioned that it was my gift. With her usual boundless enthusiasm and characteristically thick Russian accent, she exclaimed, ‘Oh, I love zis pin! It is ze essence of cat!’

Libertarian women’s history month: Kay Nolte Smith

23 Mar
Kay Nolte Smith (July 4, 1932 – September 25, 1993) was an award winning American novelist, influenced by the philosopher-novelist Ayn Rand.  Smith was born in Eveleth, Minnesota and grew up in Baraboo, Wisconsin.  She received her B.A. from the University of Minnesota in 1952 and her Master’s degree in theater and speech from the University of Utah in 1955. She married Prof. Philip Smith in 1958.  After moving to New York City, she worked as an advertising copywriter and as an actress in summer stock and Off Broadway theater under the name Kay Gillian. She was tall and somewhat shy in person.

The Smiths went into professional theatre together.  She made TV commercials, performed off Broadway for a decade, joined several faculties as a teacher, then turned her energies to writing.   Smith was a student at the Nathaniel Branden Institute and wrote articles on Henrik Ibsen for Ayn Rand’s magazine,  The Objectivist.  She and her husband Philip J. Smith staged an Off Broadway production of Rand’s play Night of January 16th.  

Smith launched her career as a novelist after the demise of the Ayn Rand circle of the 50s and 60s.  Her first novel,  the mystery story The Watcher (1980), won the Edgar Allen Poe award.  Followed by Mindspell (1983), Country of the Heart (1988), and Tale of the Wind (1991). Mindspell delved into the witchhunts. After her research for that book, Kay asserted that records of this heinous time should be “mandatory reading in every Sunday school. This is what made me an atheist. Consider how deeply witch craze was rooted in religion. The papal sanction was not abolished for six centuries. How can anyone belong to a church that treated its members this way?” (Feminist Connection interview, December 1983). 

“The tragedy is that every brain cell devoted to belief in the supernatural is a brain cell one cannot use to make life richer or easier or happier.”
—Kay Nolte Smith, “Truth or Consequences,” speech to the 
Freedom From Religion Foundation 1983 national convention

Smith’s Catching Fire is set in the world of the New York theater, with an anti-trade union political stance. Mindspell centers on the conflict between science versus religion, with Nolte Smith stating this fiction was written “to challenge strongly the belief in the occult“. Her novel Elegy for a Soprano is a roman a clef inspired by Rand, Nathaniel Branden, and the circle around them.  (One Nolte Smith fan, Greg Swann, argues that most of Nolte Smith’s plots and characters are a working out of the implosion of the Nathaniel Branden Institute and a critique of the cultishness among Rand’s inner circle.)  Elegy for a Soprano also portrays the life of Jewish Holocaust survivors from Czechoslovakia and Norway. Two of her novels—Elegy for a Soprano and A Tale of the Wind—were nominated for Prometheus Awards in 1986 and 1992, respectively.  Her novels were heavily pushed by some libertarians of the time, who were eager to promote libertarians working in cultural expression beyond economic theory and political philosophy.

Atlasphere reviewer Michelle Cohen  asked Smith about her depiction of fans and geniuses:  “I met Kay Nolte Smith in person at the Free Press Association conference in 1986, and found her to be very generous in sharing her thoughts with me. I asked her if her view of genius had changed for the worse between writing The Watcher and Elegy for a Soprano. In The Watcher, the villain hunts for potential geniuses and nips them in the bud, whereas in Elegy for a Soprano, the villain is an artistic genius who hunts for devotees. Why did the victim become a victimizer?   

“She responded that her view of genius did not change — rather, she wanted to show a different aspect of a genius. Her interest was in exploring the possible characterizations of genius, rather than making a moral statement about genius per se. ”  Thinking of her as someone from the midwest who grew up or was educated in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Utah, it is easy to imagine she might have been somewhat cowed by the older, more established New Yorkers she fell in with.  It’s also easy to imagine that even if she did not question them then she would later reflect on their excesses.

In the 1980s Smith lived with her husband in Tinton, New Jersey and taught speech and writing at Brookdale Community College in nearby Lincroft.  She was one of several among Ayn Rand’s 1950’s circle of young protégés who was sought out by Libertarian Review editor Roy A.Childs Jr. before he died.  (I spent an afternoon with Ms. Smith, her husband, and Roy in her backyard in the late 1980s).  She published seven novels before her death from lung cancer at age 61 at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, N.J.  Her final novel, Venetian Song, was published posthumously in 1994, to less acclaim than her earlier works.

In her obituary, writer F. Paul Wilson described Kay Nolte Smith:  “A few minutes with Kay and you knew you were in the presence of a keen mind, one so comfortable with its intelligence that it recognized no need to parade it around. She tended to keep her flags furled. The same with her carefully wrought fiction. No flashy surface displays, but all sorts of goings on in the depths.” (The Jersey Shore, October 1, 1993)  

Libertarian women’s history month: Anne Wortham

22 Mar
Anne Wortham, a prolific academic who has opposed a was born on November 26th 1941 in Jackson, Tennessee, the first of five children, she was raised in the segregated South where her parents instilled in her religious beliefs and the importance of education, self-reliance and self-improvement. As a youngster Wortham took piano lessons and developed a life-long interest in classical music and opera as a result of listening to radio broadcasts of performances of the Metropolitan Opera.  Her mother died when she was ten years old, and Wortham adopted the homemaker role and cared for her family while attending school and graduating high school as an honor student. 

In 1959 Wortham began studying at Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) with the goal of becoming a secondary school teacher.  The civil-rights black-consciousness movement was just taking form. Martin Luther King was emerging as a leader, and all around Wortham there was the view that international humanism would solve all the world’s problems and that because blacks were victims, they were morally superior to whites. While in college she participated in Operations Crossroads Africa in Ethiopia during summer 1962.  Following graduation, from 1963-1965, she was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Tanzania.  “I had culture shock encountering the extraordinary human misery,” she says, “the almost disorienting openness of poverty and disease-it was like going back in time.” The next year, she went as a Peace Corps teacher to Tanganyika (now part of Tanzania), partly to help in her planned graduate study. “Things began to change for me then,” she says.

Seeing the lack of economic development in Africa, Wortham began to question the rhetoric of the U.S. civil rights movement and forged her own ideas about freedom. Wortham was beginning to have a problem with the incipient civil-rights movement, centered around its anti-white sentiment-its indictment of the white race and its embracing of all blacks. “I was also catching on to white liberals and their paternalistic world view,” she recalls.  She also began to learn about Third World politics. Western intellectuals proclaimed that the Third World was morally superior to the West. Wortham says, “I was supposed to be an authority on being repressed, but I didn’t know what to tell white liberals who treated me as a black instead of as Anne Wortham. It was complicated even further, because I needed their approval to make it. That’s when I realized these guys really wanted me to do the jig.”

In 1964, some friends handed Wortham a copy of a Playboy interview with novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand. She was not much impressed, but a few months later, while shopping for curios in Kampala, Uganda, she ran across Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged and bought it. Again, she was not overwhelmed, but she was interested in Rand’s individualist philosophy. A few months later, she read another of Rand’s major novels, The Fountainhead. The experience changed her. “I finally could justify my misgivings about the demands and expectations coming from civil-rights and peace-movement colleagues. I knew my responses were not idiosyncratic-it wasn’t just that Anne was weird. I got to Africa and met myself, in an objective sense.”
She began a study of individualist philosophers and economists. Her father shipped her some basic works on capitalism, and she pored over them. Her relationships with Peace Corps friends turned bad, and she asked to be sent home.
In 1965, she returned to the United States, ready to write her position on the civil-rights movement. She tried to get a job at the Ayn Rand-allied Nathaniel Branden Institute. When that didn’t come through, she went to Esquire as an editorial researcher, the first black to work at the magazine. While there, she wrote for the liberty-minded Freeman and became a vocal critic of the civil-rights movement.

In 1967, Wortham went to work at NBC as a research assistant for Chet Huntley. She had decided not to go to graduate school in international relations, because she “wasn’t ready to run around apologizing for America.” She also wanted to put it on record that not all blacks think alike. But her experience at NBC convinced her that she “didn’t have a chance in hell” of writing from her perspective at such a place.

In 1977 she returned to academia to pursue a PhD. in sociology at Boston College. A year before earning the degree in 1982, Wortham published The Other Side of Racism: A Philosophical Study of Black Race Consciousness which explored how race consciousness is transformed into political strategies and issues, though intent on empowerment, undermine intellectual independence, individual rights, and economic and political freedom.  The result is continued racial tension and  African-Americans feeling disconnected from the society in which they live and function as citizens. 

Through her exploration of the writings of philosopher Ayn Rand and economist Ludwig von Mises Wortham grappled with the alienation she felt from those around her who wished to see any black person as an embodiment of the race, without considering the possibility of diverse backgrounds and views among blacks.  Wortham even famously had a debate in the 70s with another African American libertarian, Susan Love Brown, on black political movements.

In a review of the book John Chamberlain (who had been one of Edith Efron’s teachers) summed up part of her argument: “The freedom movement in Anne Wortham’s opinion took a wrong turn when it deserted the individual to focus on the demand for special treatment for ethnic groups. People who feel compelled to merge their identities in collectivities can never in her estimation achieve self-es teem. Martin Luther King did not go wrong in asking people to love one another, but it is in the nature of love that it cannot be imposed at group behest. The post-King history of the freedom movement has been filled in all too many instances with attempts to correct the wrongs of racism with still more racism. “Affirmative action,” which leads to quotas, is simply discrimination in reverse. Preferential hiring is still preferential hiring when it is based on color instead of on one’s kinship to the boss or on one’s age category, sex or religious affiliation.

“In her analysis of the post-King movement Anne Wortham identities five different types who have led blacks away from the idea of achieving a self-esteem that is “beyond racism.” There is the conventional integrationist who simply wants to conform. There is the power-seeking nationalist who believes in a group-imposed separatism. There is the spiritual separatist with the “black is beautiful” mentality that denies the possibility that whites will ever understand true spiritual superiority. There is the independent militant who says “if you can’t lick them, destroy their world.” And there is the ambivalent appeaser who says to himself, “if you can’t join either group, don’t let them know it.”
“In describing her five types Anne Wortham cuts loose with some beautifully direct writing that lifts her book and propels the whole argument forward. Sociological lingo is forgotten. We see clearly the wrongs that are being done in the name of Affirmative Action. Anne Wortham quotes an illustration offered by Thomas Sowell of a young black woman with an IQ of 142 and grades to match who was told that she would have been eligible for financial aid in law school if only her test scores had been lower.”

After writing the book, Wortham decided that she didn’t want to keep saying the same things, “screaming and yelling from the outside”-that is, as someone without the “proper” credentials. So she decided to pay the dues to gain legitimacy and finally went to graduate school, at Boston College, where she received her doctorate in sociology in 1982.

Her work caught the attention of Democratic Party campaign manager turned PBS talking head Bill Moyers, who interviewed her for his show (video above).  Of the encounter Wortham told The Freeman:  After the two-hour session with Moyers, he said to me: ‘You know, you are dangerous.”’I think he was facetiously referring to the fact that views like mine jeopardized the wish of black leaders to have the public believe that the black community was of one mind regarding their political and economic interests and their view of black history and race relations.

“Throughout the twentieth century blacks have had the opportunity to present their demand for civil rights in a way that would move Americans and their government toward a greater appreciation for individual rights. However, in every instance, black and white civil rights advocates have reinterpreted the Constitution as protecting group rights to justify and expand the welfare state. Rather than liberating blacks from their dependency on the state that began with the New Deal, and respecting them by insisting that they take responsibility for their freedom, civil rights leaders, politicians, and the American people proceeded to expand New Deal policies with Great Society policies that have cultivated the American people’s expectation that the costs of an individual’s risky behavior will be borne not by the individual but by a pool of people—by taxpayers in general, by “the rich” in particular, by society at large.

“Blacks are now a mature one-party interest group, led by a civil rights industry with its own Congressional caucus that uses the victimization of blacks in the past as justification for preferential treatment of blacks in the present. The black establishment’s racialization of politics has been so successful that a black person who criticizes President Obama is condemned as a traitor and a white critic is vilified as a racist. While the motives and character of whites are openly questioned, and their mobility is seen as the privilege of being white, explaining the plight of disadvantaged blacks in terms of attitudes, values, and resulting behavior is construed as “blaming the victim.” Thus, racial dialogue relies on structural factors like low incomes, joblessness, poor schools, and bad housing. As sociologist Orlando Patterson argues, academics who are “allergic to cultural explanations” are unable to explain why so many young unemployed black men have children whom they cannot support, or why they murder each other at nine times the rate of white youths. Neither can they explain how “good kids” emerge from bad neighborhoods.”

Wortham has published a huge volume of work and taught at Wellesley College and Washington and Lee University in the 1980s. In 1985-1986 she was the John M. Olin Foundation Faculty Fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of  Government and she was a Hoover Institution Visiting Fellow at Stanford University from 1986 to 1988. Since 1991, Wortham has been Associate Professor of Sociology at Illinois State University. 

Of the libertarians, Wortham has said, often place unrealistic demands on black libertarians. “They want us to take the beachhead, for us to be called the Toms and the sell-outs,” she says. “They hope that the movement will gain some ground-but who will take the abuse? You are controversial as a black individualist-a walking ‘no’ sign. There is a daily battering by blacks who disagree with your visibility. By most standards, I’m not supposed to exist. I don’t know what the toll is, but I do know that you tend to guard your privacy-so you go home and listen to music. You know you’ll catch enough hell when you release your next bombshell.”

On the election of Barack Obama to the presidency, Wortham released the following open letter:

Fellow Americans,

Please know: I am black; I grew up in the segregated South. I did not vote for Barack Obama; I wrote in Ron Paul’s name as my choice for president. Most importantly, I am not race conscious. I do not require a black president to know that I am a person of worth, and that life is worth living. I do not require a black president to love the ideal of America.
I cannot join you in your celebration. I feel no elation. There is no smile on my face. I am not jumping with joy. 

There are no tears of triumph in my eyes. For such emotions and behavior to come from me, I would have to deny all that I know about the requirements of human flourishing and survival – all that I know about the history of the United States of America, all that I know about American race relations, and all that I know about Barack Obama as a politician. I would have to deny the nature of the “change” that Obama asserts has come to America. Most importantly, I would have to abnegate my certain understanding that you have chosen to sprint down the road to serfdom that we have been on for over a century. 

I would have to pretend that individual liberty has no value for the success of a human life. I would have to evade your rejection of the slender reed of capitalism on which your success and mine depend. I would have to think it somehow rational that 94 percent of the 12 million blacks in this country voted for a man because he looks like them (that blacks are permitted to play the race card), and that they were joined by self-declared “progressive” whites who voted for him because he doesn’t look like them. I would have to be wipe my mind clean of all that I know about the kind of people who have advised and taught Barack Obama and will fill posts in his administration – political intellectuals like my former colleagues at the Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

I would have to believe that “fairness” is equivalent of justice. I would have to believe that man who asks me to “go forward in a new spirit of service, in a new service of sacrifice” is speaking in my interest. I would have to accept the premise of a man that economic prosperity comes from the “bottom up,” and who arrogantly believes that he can will it into existence by the use of government force. I would have to admire a man who thinks the standard of living of the masses can be improved by destroying the most productive and the generators of wealth.

Finally, Americans, I would have to erase from my consciousness the scene of 125,000 screaming, crying, cheering people in Grant Park, Chicago irrationally chanting “Yes We Can!” Finally, I would have to wipe all memory of all the times I have heard politicians, pundits, journalists, editorialists, bloggers and intellectuals declare that capitalism is dead – and no one, including especially Alan Greenspan, objected to their assumption that the particular version of the anti-capitalistic mentality that they want to replace with their own version of anti-capitalism is anything remotely equivalent to capitalism.

So you have made history, Americans. You and your children have elected a black man to the office of the president of the United States, the wounded giant of the world. The battle between John Wayne and Jane Fonda is over – and that Fonda won. Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern must be very happy men. Jimmie Carter, too. And the Kennedys have at last gotten their Kennedy look-a-like. The self-righteous welfare statists in the suburbs can feel warm moments of satisfaction for having elected a black person. So, toast yourselves: 60s countercultural radicals, 80s yuppies and 90s bourgeois bohemians. 

Toast yourselves, Black America. Shout your glee Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Duke, Stanford, and Berkeley. You have elected not an individual who is qualified to be president, but a black man who, like the pragmatist Franklin Roosevelt, promises to – Do Something! You now have someone who has picked up the baton of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. But you have also foolishly traded your freedom and mine – what little there is left – for the chance to feel good. There is nothing in me that can share your happy obliviousness.

November 6, 2008

Libertarian women’s history month: Camille Paglia

21 Mar
Camille Anna Paglia (born April 2, 1947) a self-described dissident feminist, has been a professor at the University of the Arts in PhiladelphiaPennsylvania, since 1984. The New York Times oddly described her as “first and foremost an educator,” though clearly she is primarily a provocateur, paradigm shifter, and public intellectual.  Her speech pours forth in torrents of fructifying tangential themes, which barely works in a lecture or long format interview (like the one done this week, below, by reasonTV), but it leaves her an undigestible surd and outlier when she appears on TV panels like Bonnie Erbe’s feminist version of The McLaughlin Group, the PBS distributed  To the contrary.  Imagine a more deeply educated, more original, maybe more media savvy, more libertarian, less closeted, and way more caffeinated Susan Sontag.

In an interview with reason magazine in the mid 90s, Paglia explained what she means when she calls herself both a libertarian and a Clinton Democrat:  “I consider myself not a conservative libertarian but a radical ’60s libertarian.  I feel that government has no right to intrude into the private realm of consensual behavior. Therefore, I say that I’m for the abolition of all sodomy laws. I’m for abortion rights. I’m for the legalization of drugs—consistent with alcohol regulations. I’m for not just the decriminalization but the legalization of prostitution. Again, prostitutes must not intrude into the public realm. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to say that civil authorities have the right to say that prostitutes should not be loitering near schools, or on the steps of churches, or blocking entrances to buildings and so on. Prostitution should be perfectly legal, but it cannot interfere with other people’s access to the public realm.I believe that government should confine itself to the public realm and that it should be as stripped down as possible, within reason. It should not be burdened by excess bureaucracy.

“Furthermore, the public realm is not owned by Judeo-Christianity. It is shared by people of all cultural and religious backgrounds. Therefore, I’m arguing for the Greco-Roman or pagan line, which is very tolerant of homosexuality and even of man-boy love. I’ve argued controversially for a reduction in the age of consent to 14—there are some countries in the world that do have that. I’m open to considering even lowering it further.
“That’s the way I would be separate from a conservative libertarian, who would not necessarily take the position of the legalization of drugs or the very positive attitude I have toward prostitutes and pornographers and drag queens. I take a celebratory attitude toward them. Similarly, I think that most conservative libertarians would not agree with my idea of lowering the age of consent and so on.
In the first chapter of Sexual Personae, I made a defense of capitalism. I feel that capitalism has a very bad press with the pseudo-leftists who clog our best college campuses and that in point of fact capitalism has produced modern individualism and feminism. Modern capitalism has allowed the birth of the independent woman who is no longer economically dependent on her husband. I despise the sneering that our liberal humanists do about capitalism even while they enjoy all of its pleasures and conveniences. I just despise it.
“However, I do believe that capitalism is inherently Darwinian and that a totally free market is ultimately inhumane, because you’ll have what happened in the 19th century—a kind of piling up of profits at the very top, with working-class people falling way below. I do think that there should be some kind of safety net, that we should not tolerate, in an affluent society, extreme levels of poverty or deprivation.
“At the same time, I think that the way that the welfare state has developed is just atrocious. It’s part of the condescension and paternalism and the guilt of the affluent white upper-middle class to say: “Oh, they’ll be taken care of.” And so we have that huge culture of dependency which is suddenly, shockingly being broken, just like affirmative action. I never dreamed of the speed with which these issues which have been so long suppressed have come to the fore, and it seems like anything is possible now.
“I think it’s a very exciting time; I only regret it’s not my party, the Democratic Party, that started this whole process. Because Clinton was elected for change. I wish that he had taken the aggressive tack the Republicans have of really investigating every single bureaucracy, stripping it down.
“I despise bureaucrats. I despise administrators. That has been one of the most pernicious effects of the post-war years in academe. There has been an overgrowth of an arrogant master class of administrators on college campuses who are being paid twice the level of the salaries of the faculty and regard themselves as being in charge and everyone else as being their lackeys. What the Republicans are doing in Washington, looking at the federal government, I want people to be doing on the college campuses—to have a thoroughgoing review of this parasitic class of administrators.”
Her career making book was Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson (1990), but her prolific output includes a collection of essays, Sex, Art, and American Culture (1992), an analysis of Alfred Hitchcock‘sThe Birds, and Break, Blow, Burn (2005) on poetry. Her most recent book is 2012’s Glittering Images

Paglia is known for her critical views of many aspects of modern culture, including feminism and liberalism. She has been characterized variously as a “contrarian academic” and a feminist “bête noire,” a “witty controversialist,” and a maverick, Margaret Wente has called Paglia “a writer in a category of her own… a feminist who hates affirmative action; an atheist who respects religion” and “a Democrat who thinks her party doesn’t get it.” Martha Duffy writes that Paglia “advocates a core curriculum based mostly on the classics” and rails against “chic French theorists Michel Foucault and Jacques Lacan,” and “has a strong libertarian streak — on subjects like pornography — that go straight to her ’60s coming-of-age.” Elaine Showalter has called Paglia a “radical libertarian,” noting her socially liberal stands on abortionsodomyprostitutiondrug use, and suicide. Paglia has denounced feminist academics and women’s studies, celebrated popular culture and Madonna, and become a media celebrity, writing op-eds and gossip columns, appearing on television and telling her story to journalists.

Paglia has said that she is willing to have her entire career judged on the basis of her composition of what she considers to be “probably the most important sentence that she has ever written”: “God is man’s greatest idea.”

Paglia’s Sexual Personae was rejected by at least seven different publishers before it was published by Yale University Press, whereupon it became a best seller, reaching seventh place on the paperback best-seller list, a rare accomplishment for a scholarly book. ‘Paglia called it her “prison book”, commenting, “I felt like CervantesGenet. It took all the resources of being Catholic to cut myself off and sit in my cell.” Sexual Personae has been called an “energetic, Freud-friendly reading of Western art“, one that seemed “heretical and perverse”, at the height of political correctness; according to Daniel Nester, its characterization of “William Blake as the British Marquis de Sade or Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson as ‘self-ruling hermaphrodites who cannot mate’ still pricks up many an English major’s ears”.

Paglia is a devotee of Oscar Wilde and Walter Pater, cherishing “performance, artifice and play rather than earnestness.” She has expressed admiration for Dorothy Parker and Mary McCarthy, as well as for models, singers and movie stars such as Elizabeth TaylorMadonna, and Barbra Streisand.  There are also many parallels between herself and Ayn Rand, Paglia told (for which she and Glen Greenwald both used to be both sort of the “left-libertarian” and most popular contributors, before the website’s descent into robotic Obama cheerleading and socialist statism under the editorship of Joan Walsh):  

Many people have noticed the very real parallels between Ayn Rand and me. (I was born in the United States, however; my mother and all four of my grandparents were born in Italy.) A New Yorker profile of Rand several years ago in fact called her ‘the Camille Paglia of the 1960s.’  Ayn Rand was the kind of bold female thinker who should immediately have been a centerpiece of women’s studies programs, if the latter were genuinely about women rather than about a clichéd, bleeding-heart, victim-obsessed, liberal ideology that dislikes all concrete female achievement. Like me, Rand believed in personal responsibility and self-transformation as the keys to modern woman’s advance.

Rand’s influence fell on the generation just before mine: In the conformist 1950s, her command to think for yourself was brilliantly energizing. When I was a college student (1964-68), I barely heard of her and didn’t read her, and neither did my friends. Our influences were Marshall McLuhan, Norman O. Brown, Leslie Fiedler, Allen Ginsberg and Andy Warhol.
“When my first book finally got published in 1990, a major Rand revival was under way. I was asked about her so often at my book signings and lectures that I researched her for the first time. To my astonishment, I found passages in her books that amazingly resemble my own writing: This is certainly due to the fact that we were inspired by the same writers, notably Nietzsche and the High Romantics.
“The main differences between us: First, Rand is more of a rationalist, while I have a mystical 1960s bent (I’m interested in astrology, palmistry, ESP, I Ching, etc.). Second, Rand disdains religious belief as childish, while I respect all religions on metaphysical grounds, even though I am an atheist. Third, Rand, like Simone de Beauvoir, is an intellectual of daunting high seriousness, while I think comedy is the sign of a balanced perspective on life. As a culture warrior, I have used humor and satire as the most devastating weapons in my arsenal!”
In 2005, Paglia was named as one of the top 100 public intellectuals by the journals Foreign Policy and Prospect. In 2012, an article in The New York Times remarked that “[a]nyone who has been following the body count of the culture wars over the past decades knows Paglia”.
Paglia was born in Endicott, New York, the elder daughter of Pasquale and Lydia Anne (née Colapietro) Paglia. Both her parents immigrated to the United States from Italy. Additionally, Paglia has stated that her father’s side of the family were from the Campanian towns of AvellinoBenevento, and Caserta.  Paglia attended primary school in rural Oxford, New York, where her family lived in a working farmhouse. Her father, a veteran of World War II, taught at the Oxford Academy high school, and exposed his young daughter to art through books he brought home about French art history. In 1957, her family moved to SyracuseNY, so that her father could begin graduate school; he eventually became a professor of Romance languages at Le Moyne College. She attended the Edward Smith Elementary school, T. Aaron Levy Junior High and William Nottingham High School. In 1992 Carmelia Metosh, her Latin teacher for three years, said “She always has been controversial. Whatever statements were being made (in class), she had to challenge them. She made good points then, as she does now.” Paglia thanked Metosh in the acknowledgements to Sexual Personae, later describing her as “the dragon lady of Latin studies, who breathed fire at principals and school boards“.

She took a variety of names when she was at Spruce Ridge Camp, including Anastasia (her confirmation name, inspired by the film Anastasia starring Ingrid Bergman); Stacy; and Stanley. A crucially significant event for her was when the outhouse exploded after she poured too much lime into the latrine. “It symbolized everything I would do with my life and work. Excess and extravagance and explosiveness. I would be someone who would look into the latrine of culture, into pornography and crime and psychopathology… and I would drop the bomb into it”.

For over a decade, Paglia was the partner of a younger artist Alison Maddex. Paglia legally adopted Maddex’s son (who was born in 2002). In 2007, the couple separated.  A few years back Paglia traveled to Brazil and wrote glowingly of Brazilian divas, before she went on hiatus.  In an interview with Salon she wrote:  “When have I ever criticized anyone’s fetish? I am a libertarian. Go right ahead — set up plastic figurines of 1950s-era moppets to bow down to in the privacy of your boudoir. No one will scold! Then whip down to the kitchen to heat up those foil-wrapped TV dinners. I still gaze back fondly at Swanson’s fried-chicken entree. The twinkly green peas! The moist apple fritter! Meg Ryan — the spitting image of all those perky counselors at my Girl Scout camp in the Adirondacks. Gwyneth Paltrow — a simpering sorority queen with field-hockey-stick legs. I will leave you to your retro pursuits while I dash off to moon over multiracial Brazilian divas.
Paglia entered Harpur College at Binghamton University in 1964. The same year, Paglia’s poem “Atrophy” was published in the local newspaper. She later wrote that the biggest impact on her thinking were the classes taught by poet Milton Kessler. “He believed in the responsiveness of the body, and of the activation of the senses to literature… And oh did I believe in that”. She graduated from Harpur as class valedictorian in 1968.
According to Paglia, while in college she punched a “marauding drunk,” and takes pride in having been put on probation for committing 39 pranks.
Paglia attended Yale as a graduate student, and she claims to have been the only open lesbian at Yale Graduate School from 1968 to 1972. At Yale, Paglia quarreled with Rita Mae Brown, whom she later characterized as “then darkly nihilist,” and argued with the New Haven, Connecticut Women’s Liberation Rock Band when they dismissed the Rolling Stones as sexist. Paglia was mentored by Harold BloomSexual Personae was then titled “The Androgynous Dream: the image of the androgyne as it appears in literature and is embodied in the psyche of the artist, with reference to the visual arts and the cinema.”
Paglia read Susan Sontag, and aspired to emulate what she called her “celebrity, her positioning in the media world at the border of the high arts and popular culture.” Paglia first saw Sontag in person on October 15, 1969 (Vietnam Moratorium Day), when Paglia, then a Yale graduate student, was visiting a friend at Princeton. In 1973, Paglia, a militant feminist and open lesbian, was working at her first academic job at Bennington College. She considered Sontag a radical who had challenged male dominance. The same year, Paglia drove to an appearance by Sontag at Dartmouth, hoping to arrange for her to speak at Bennington, but found it difficult to find the money for Sontag’s speaking fee; Paglia relied on help from Richard Tristman, a friend of Sontag’s, to persuade her to come. Bennington College agreed to pay Sontag $700 (twice what they usually offered speakers but only half Sontag’s usual fee) to give a talk about contemporary issues. Paglia staged a poster campaign urging students to attend Sontag’s appearance. Sontag arrived at Bennington Carriage Barn, where she was to speak, more than an hour late, and then began reading what Paglia recalled as a “boring and bleak” short story about “nothing” in the style of a French New Novel.
As a result of Sontag’s Bennington College appearance, Paglia began to become disenchanted with her, believing that she had withdrawn from confrontation with the academic world, and that her “mandarin disdain” for popular culture showed an elitism that betrayed her early work, which had suggested that high and low culture both reflected a new sensibility.

In the fall of 1972, Paglia began teaching at Bennington College, which hired her in part thanks to a recommendation from Harold Bloom. At Bennington, she befriended the philosopher James Fessenden, who first taught there that very semester.  Through her study of the classics and the scholarly work of Jane Ellen HarrisonJames George FrazerErich Neumann and others, Paglia developed a theory of sexual history that contradicted a number of ideas in vogue at the time, hence her criticism of Marija GimbutasCarolyn HeilbrunKate Millett and others. She laid out her ideas on matriarchyandrogynyhomosexualitysadomasochism and other topics in her Yale Ph.D. thesis Sexual Personae: The Androgyne in Literature and Art, which she defended in December 1974. In September 1976, she gave a public lecture drawing on that dissertation, in which she discussed Edmund Spenser‘s Faerie Queene, followed by remarks on Diana RossGracie AllenYul Brynner, and Stéphane AudranPaglia “nearly came to blows with the founding members of the women’s studies program at the State University of New York at Albany, when they categorically denied that hormones influence human experience or behavior”.  Similar fights with feminists and academics culminated in a 1978 incident which led her to resign from Bennington a year later. After a lengthy standoff with the administration, Paglia accepted a settlement from the college and resigned the following year.

Paglia finished Sexual Personae in the early 1980s, but could not get it published. She supported herself with visiting and part-time teaching jobs at Yale, Wesleyan, and other Connecticut colleges. Her paper, “The Apollonian Androgyne and the Faerie Queen”, was published in English Literary Renaissance, Winter 1979, and her dissertation was cited by J. Hillis Miller in his April 1980 article “Wuthering Heights and the Ellipses of Interpretation”, in Journal of Religion in Literature, but her academic career was otherwise stalled. In a 1995 letter to Boyd Holmes, she recalled: “I earned a little extra money by doing some local features reporting for aNew Haven alternative newspaper (The Advocate) in the early 1980s”. She wrote articles on New Haven’s historic pizzerias and on an old house that was a stop on the Underground Railroad.

In 1984, she joined the faculty of the Philadelphia College of Performing Arts, which merged in 1987 with the Philadelphia College of Art to become the University of the Arts.
Paglia is on the editorial board of the classics and humanities journal Arion and has been writing a monthly column for since the late 1990s (currently on hiatus). Paglia has announced that she is currently working on “a study of the visual arts intended as a companion book to Break, Blow, Burn“.
Paglia cooperated with Carl Rollyson and Lisa Paddock in their writing of Susan Sontag: The Making of an Icon, sending them detailed letters from which they quoted with her permission. Rollyson and Paddock note that Sontag “had her lawyer put our publisher on notice” when she realized that they were investigating her life and career.
Paglia participates in the decennial poll of film professionals conducted by Sight & Sound which asks participants to submit a list of what they believe to be the tengreatest films of all time. According to her responses to the poll in 2002 and 2012, the films Paglia holds in highest regard include Ben-HurCitizen KaneLa Dolce VitaThe GodfatherThe Godfather: Part IIGone with the WindLawrence of ArabiaNorth by NorthwestOrphéePersona2001: A Space OdysseyThe Ten Commandments, and Vertigo.
Some feminist critics have characterized Paglia as an “anti-feminist feminist,” critical of central features of much contemporary feminism but holding out “her own special variety of feminist affirmation.” Elaine Showalter notes Paglia’s admiration for Simone de Beauvoir and The Second Sex (“the supreme work of modern feminism… its deep learning and massive argument are unsurpassed”) as well as Germaine Greer, but Time magazine critic Martha Duffy wrote that Paglia “does not hesitate to hurl brazen insults” at several feminists including Greer, whom Paglia accused of becoming “a drone in three years” as a result of her early success; Paglia also called activist Diana Fuss’ output “just junk – appalling!” Showalter calls Paglia “unique in the hyperbole and virulence of her hostility to virtually all the prominent feminist activists, public figures, writers and scholars of her generation”, mentioning Carolyn HeilbrunJudith ButlerCarol GilliganMarilyn FrenchZoe BairdKimba WoodSusan Thomases, and Hillary Clinton as targets of her criticism.
Paglia has accused Kate Millett of starting “the repressive, Stalinist style in feminist criticism.” Paglia has repeatedly criticized Patricia Ireland, former president of the National Organization for Women, calling her a “sanctimonious”, unappealing role model for women whose “smug, arrogant” attitude is accompanied by “painfully limited processes of thought”. Paglia contends that under Ireland’s leadership, NOW “damaged and marginalized the women’s movement”.  Paglia has called feminist philosopher Martha Nussbaum a “PC diva”, and accused her of borrowing her ideas without acknowledgement. She further contends that Nussbaum’s “preparation or instinct for sex analysis is dubious at best”.
Many feminists have criticized Paglia; Christina Hoff Sommers calls her “Perhaps the most conspicuous target of feminist opprobrium,” noting that the Women’s Review of Books described Sexual Personae as a work of “crackpot extremism,” “an apologia for a new post-Cold War fascism,” and patriarchy‘s “counter-assault on feminism.” Sommers relates that when Paglia appeared at a Brown University forum, feminists signed a petition censuring her and demanding an investigation into procedures for inviting speakers to the campus.
Naomi Wolf traded a series of sometimes personal attacks with Paglia throughout the early 1990s. In The New Republic, Wolf labeled Paglia “the nipple-piercedperson’s Phyllis Schlafly who poses as a sexual renegade but is in fact the most dutiful of patriarchal daughters” and characterized Paglia’s writing as “full of howling intellectual dishonesty”. In 1991, Paglia referred to Wolf as a “twit”.
Gloria Steinem said of Paglia that, “Her calling herself a feminist is sort of like a Nazi saying they’re not anti-Semitic.” Paglia said that Steinem, whom she accused of not having read her, had compared her to Hitler and Sexual Personae to Mein Kampf. Paglia called Steinem “the Stalin of feminism.”
Katha Pollitt has characterized Paglia as one of a “seemingly endless parade of social critics [who] have achieved celebrity by portraying not sexism but feminism as the problem.” Pollitt writes that Paglia has glorified “male dominance,” and has been able to get away with calling the Spur Posse California high school date-rapegang “beautiful,” among other things “that might make even Rush Limbaugh blanch,” because she is a woman.
Paglia’s view that rape is sexually motivated has been endorsed by evolutionary psychologists Randy Thornhill and Craig T. Palmer; they comment that “Paglia… urges women to be skeptical toward the feminist ‘party line’ on the subject, to become better informed about risk factors, and to use the information to lower their risk of rape.”
Paglia is critical of the influence modern French writers have had on the humanities, claiming that universities are in the “thrall” of French post-structuralists, that in the works of Jean BaudrillardJacques DerridaJacques Lacan and Michel Foucault, she never once found a sentence that interested her and that Post-structuralism has broken the link between the word and the thing, and thus endangers the western canon. François Cusset writes that Paglia, like other major American public intellectuals after World War II, owes her broader recognition mainly to the political repercussions of polemics that first erupted on college campuses, in her case to a polemic against foreign intellectualism. He says she achieved phenomenal success when she called Foucault a “bastard”, thereby providing (together with Alan Sokal‘s Social Text parody) the best evidence for Paul de Man‘s view that theory should be defined negatively, based on the opposition it arouses.However, Paglia’s assessment of French writers is not purely negative. She has called Simone de Beauvoir‘s The Second Sex (1949) “brilliant”, and identified Jean-Paul Sartre‘s work as part of a high period in literature. Paglia has praised Roland Barthes‘ Mythologies (1957) and Gilles Deleuze‘s Masochism: Coldness and Cruelty (1967), while finding both men’s later work flawed. Of Gaston Bachelard, who influenced Paglia, she wrote “[his] dignified yet fluid phenomenological descriptive method seemed to me ideal for art”, adding that he was “the last modern French writer I took seriously”.
Paglia characterizes herself as a Clinton Democrat and libertarian. She opposes laws against prostitutionpornographydrugs, and abortion. Paglia criticized Bill Clinton for not resigning after the Monica Lewinsky scandal, which she says “paralyzed the government for two years, leading directly to our blindsiding by 9/11.” In the 2000 U.S. presidential campaign she voted for the Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, “[because] I detest the arrogant, corrupt superstructure of the Democratic Party, with which I remain stubbornly registered.” In the 2004 U.S. presidential election, Paglia supported John Kerry; and in 2008, she supported Barack Obama. In 2012, she supported Green Party candidate Jill Stein
In Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson (1990) Paglia argues that human nature has an inherently dangerous Dionysian orchthonic aspect, especially in regard to sexuality. Culture and civilization are created by men and represent an attempt to contain that force. Women are powerful, too, but as natural forces, and both marriage and religion are means to contain chaotic forces. A best seller, it was described by Terry Teachout in aNew York Times book review as flawed, but “…every bit as intellectually stimulating as it is exasperating”. Martha Duffy wrote that the book had a “neoconservative cultural message” which was well received, but rejected by many feminists. In a review of Sexual Personae, feminist author Molly Ivins accused Paglia of historical inaccuracy, demagoguery of second-wave feministsegocentrism, and writing in sweeping generalizations. In his review, Anthony Burgessdescribed Sexual Personae as “a fine disturbing book” that “seeks to attack the reader’s emotions as well as his or her prejudices”.Germaine Greer writes that Paglia’s insights into Sappho are “vivid and extremely perceptive”, but also “unfortunately inconsistent and largely incompatible with each other”.

Sex, Art and American Culture: Essays (1992) is a collection of short pieces, many published previously as editorials or reviews, and some transcripts of interviews.[64] The essays cover such subjects as MadonnaElizabeth Taylor, rock music, Robert MapplethorpeClarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination, rape, Marlon Brando, drag, Milton Kessler, and academia. It made the New York Times bestseller list for paperbacks.

Vamps and Tramps: New Essays (1994) is a collection of 42 short articles and a long essay, “No Law in the Arena: a Pagan Theory of Sexuality”. It also contains a collection of cartoons from newspapers about Paglia. Writing for the New York Times, Wendy Steiner wrote “Comic, camp, outspoken, Ms. Paglia throws an absurdist shoe into the ponderous wheels of academia“. Michiko Kakutani, also writing for the New York Times, wrote: “Her writings on education… are highly persuasive, just as some of her essays on the perils of regulating pornography and the puritanical excesses of the women’s movement radiate a fierce common sense… Unfortunately, Ms. Paglia has a way of undermining her more interesting arguments with flip, hyperbolic declarations”.
In 1998, and in commemoration of the 35th anniversary of the release of Alfred Hitchcock‘s The Birds, the British Film Institute commissioned Paglia to write a book about the film. Paglia’s 96-page book interprets the film as “in the main line of British Romanticism descending from the raw nature-tableaux and sinister femme-fatales of Coleridge.” Paglia uses a psychoanalytic framework to interpret the film as portraying “a release of primitive forces of sex and appetite that have been subdued but never fully tamed”.
Break, Blow, Burn: Camille Paglia Reads Forty-three of the World’s Best Poems (2005) is a collection of 43 short selections of verse with an accompanying essay by Paglia.The collection is primarily oriented to those unfamiliar with the works. Clive James noted that Paglia tends to focus on American works as it moves from Shakespeare forward through time, with Yeats, following Coleridge, as the last European discussed, but emphasized her range of sympathy and her ability to juxtapose and unite distinct art forms in her analysis.  Christopher Nield remarked that Paglia has “a rare gift to capture a poem’s mood and scene in terse, spiky phrases of descriptive insight” and exhibits moments of brilliance, but also notes that some of her selections from recent writers fall flat. He also praises her pedagogical slant towards basic interpretation, suggesting that her approach might be what is required to reinvigorate studies in the humanities.

Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars (2012) is a series of essays about notable works of art from ancient to modern times, published in October 2012. Writer John Adams of the New York Times Book Review was sceptical of the book, accusing it of being “so agenda driven and so riddled with polemic asides that its potential to persuade is forever being compromised.” Gary Rosen of the Wall Street Journal, however, praised the book’s “impressive range” and accessibility to readers.

On the prospects for the 2016 elections, Paglia told Salon: “As a registered Democrat, I am praying for a credible presidential candidate to emerge from the younger tier of politicians in their late 40s. A governor with executive experience would be ideal. It’s time to put my baby-boom generation out to pasture! We’ve had our day and managed to muck up a hell of a lot. It remains baffling how anyone would think that Hillary Clinton (born the same year as me) is our party’s best chance. She has more sooty baggage than a 90-car freight train. And what exactly has she ever accomplished — beyond bullishly covering for her philandering husband? She’s certainly busy, busy and ever on the move — with the tunnel-vision workaholism of someone trying to blot out uncomfortable private thoughts.

“I for one think it was a very big deal that our ambassador was murdered in Benghazi. In saying “I take responsibility” for it as secretary of state, Hillary should have resigned immediately. The weak response by the Obama administration to that tragedy has given a huge opening to Republicans in the next presidential election. The impression has been amply given that Benghazi was treated as a public relations matter to massage rather than as the major and outrageous attack on the U.S. that it was.
“Throughout history, ambassadors have always been symbolic incarnations of the sovereignty of their nations and the dignity of their leaders. It’s even a key motif in “King Lear.” As far as I’m concerned, Hillary disqualified herself for the presidency in that fist-pounding moment at a congressional hearing when she said, “What difference does it make what we knew and when we knew it, Senator?” Democrats have got to shake off the Clinton albatross and find new blood. The escalating instability not just in Egypt but throughout the Mideast is very ominous. There is a clash of cultures brewing in the world that may take a century or more to resolve — and there is no guarantee that the secular West will win.

Libertarian women’s history month: Edith Efron

20 Mar
Edith Efron (1922 – April 20, 2001) was an American journalist and author, who first identified media bias and the way biased media coverage amounts to a major unexamined and privileged political donation from powerful corporations that own the mainstream media.
Graduating from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where she studied under journalist John Chamberlain, her career began as a writer for the New York Times Magazine. In 1947, she married a Haitian businessman, with whom she had a child. After living in Haiti and working as a Central America correspondent for Time and Life magazines, she divorced and returned to New York City where she worked on the staff of television journalist Mike Wallace. After her return to New York, she also became part of Ayn Rand‘s circle, contributed to Rand’s magazine, The Objectivist, and presented a lecture series on non-fiction writing at the Nathaniel Branden Institute in the 1960s, although (as you can see in this series often happened), the two women later parted ways.

Former reason editor Virginia Postrel recounted Efron’s early career:  “Edith began her journalism career in the waning days of World War II, when a newly minted female graduate of Columbia Journalism School could still get a job at The New York Times Magazine. As the magazine was warning readers that “career women” would be unwanted by postwar businesses and shouldn’t waste their time studying science or math, young Edith reported on such topics as peacetime conversion in a Connecticut town and whether mustered-out servicemen would be looking for colorful fashions once they escaped their uniforms. (They were conformists above all, she concluded, ready to wear purple and green but only if everyone else did.) Her report on bare-legged women is classic enough to appear on a Smithsonian history site.
“She had stories about all sorts of New York movers and shakers: how Alan Greenspan used to come and go from Ayn Rand’s circle “as if he were going to a secret mistress,” how those who worked for Mike Wallace worried about his depression (Edith was a staff writer for his show in the late ’50s), how she once got into a knock-down-drag-out argument with Irving Kristol in which she accused him of ‘telling young people to believe in ghosts.’ (Edith was a third-generation atheist.)”

She became a writer and, later, a senior editor of the widely circulated TV Guide magazine in the 1960s and 1970s, where she wrote celebrity profiles, political columns and editorials. In the 1970s, she was also ghostwriter for former Secretary of the Treasury William E. Simon‘s book A Time For Truth. In her editorials for TV Guide, Efron criticized what she saw as liberal bias in the media, and she defended politicians Barry Goldwater, and Ronald Reagan. Efron and other columnists writing in TV Guide like Kevin Phillips and Pat Buchanan advocated the elimination of the Fairness Doctrine by the Federal Communications Commission, in order to permit alternative viewpoints greater access to the airwaves. The FCC would remove the policy in the late 1980s.

In their 1993 history of TV GuideChanging Channels: America in TV GuideCornell professors Glenn C. Altschuler and David I. Grossvogel have stated that “no writer…did more to shape TV Guide,” a publication that reached over 40 million readers at the time. Her impact on the magazine, they said, included her role as “the quintessential TV Guide voice on race relations.”

All the positions she took on race in her articles, Efron told us, “were determined by what I thought would be good for a young, vulnerable black child.” Disturbed by the changing strategies toward achieving racial equality in the sixties, Efron remained the same on her position: “Always, I was in favor of equality of opportunity and meritocracy. Meaning, among other things, that I was as critical of crap from blacks as I was from whites, and used the same standards to judge both. That is the definition of not being a racist. One judges individuals, not their color!!!” Thus, Efron was as passionate about black power as she was about theories positing the genetic inferiority of blacks because each accepted the group instead of the individual as the appropriate unit of analysis and action: “Essentially I was always protecting my child from two kinds of racism: the bestial kind common in the South and the inverted kind characteristic of the North. Both contempt for all blacks and glamorization of all blacks are detestable, and both damage blacks.”

In 1971, Efron published The News Twisters, a controversial book which claimed to find media bias in the television news coverage of the 1968 U.S. presidential election, one of the first studies of its kind ever conducted.  The reviewer in Commentary summed up the originality of her project:  “The Fairness Doctrine was established by the FCC in 1949, replacing an earlier policy which had outlawed any partisan commentary by broadcasters altogether. In it the Commission encouraged the presentation of controversial public issues on the air—provided that approximately equal coverage was given to each side of each issue. The doctrine does not require that every broadcast, or even a series of broadcasts in the same time-slot, be balanced . It is sufficient if the “overall” coverage is balanced. Nevertheless, the principle is intuitively appealing: nonpartisanship requires balanced coverage; somehow that is common sense.

It is the second distinction—and another brilliant stroke—of Efron’s book that she took this principle literally. Fair coverage requires equal coverage? Very well, she says, let us measure. Using three tape recorders, a typist, and a grant from something called the Historical Research Foundation (which seems to be, at least in part, a subsidiary of that well-known conservative conglomerate, William F. Buckley, Jr.), Efron transcribed, classified, and counted the words each network devoted to the topics she was studying. She classified the words into pro– and anti-, and calculated the ratio between them. The results of this process, a primitive version of the professional social-scientist’s technique of content analysis, are what gives her book its impact. They are devastating. If her figures are to be believed, the evening news programs of all three networks broadcast, during the period of her study, 2,125 words in favor of an American bombing halt in North Vietnam, and only 348 words against. Her figures show 7,296 words in favor of black militants and 3,271 against. And they show that while coverage of Hubert Humphrey was almost equally balanced at 8,458 words pro– and 8,307 words anti-, coverage of Richard Nixon was 1,620 words pro– and 17,027 words anti-, an incredible anti-Nixon ratio of over 10 to 1.

Twisters, was followed by her 1972 work, How CBS Tried to Kill a Book, an examination of CBS News’s reaction to her study.  Efron was the original Media Research Center or Bernie Goldberg, before there were VCRs and other recording devices to easily measure biased coverage, and before there was the internet or The O’Reilly Factor to publicize the discovery.  She is the Columbus of the phenomena of media bias.

She was a contributing editor to reason magazine from the 1970s until her death in 2001, where she wrote psychological studies of former President Bill Clinton and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. The latter prompted Justice Thomas to declare that Efron had been the “only person” to understand what was going through his mind during the hearings that made him a household name, according to Virginia Postrel.
In 1984, Efron published The Apocalyptics, described as “an expose of shoddy science and its effects on environmental policy,” which systematically examined the regulatory “science” behind the banning of chemicals in consumer products, debunking the alleged “cancer epidemic” claimed to exist by many in the media.

Libertarian women’s history month: Joan Kennedy Taylor

19 Mar
Joan Kennedy Taylor (December 21, 1926 – October 29, 2005) was an American public intellectual, and political activist, best known for her advocacy of individualist feminism and for her role in the development of the modern American libertarian movement.

Taylor was born in Manhattan to prominent parents. Her father was composer, radio personality, and musical journalist Deems Taylor. Her mother was actress, playwright, and poet Mary Kennedy, who was something of a New England feminist in the vein of Katherine Hepburn.  Mary Kennedy, as Joan would sometimes recount to libertarian friends (including this blogger), had been offered the Fay Ray part in the original 1933 King Kong, but turned down the likely career making job as the role was too much a damsel in distress for her taste.  (I knew Joan and kept up with her, partially through our mutual friend and – sequentially – shared housemate Roy Childs, Jr., from 1981, when she moved to Washington, D.C. until the mid 1990s when she lived in a then not very gentrified Chelsea in New York City.)

Joan grew up in New York, in suburban Connecticut, and, after her parents separated when she was six years old, around the world. Her father’s biographer, James Pegolotti, writes that “[b]y 1942, owing to a peregrinating mother, Joan had attended eight schools, in such far-flung spots as Peking, Paris, and Ellsworth, Maine, as well as New York.”

Both Taylor and Kennedy were fringe members of the famous Algonquin Round Table group. Both are depicted in small, supporting roles  in the 1994 film Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle.
Taylor and Kennedy divorced in 1933, when their daughter Joan was six years old; over the next nine years, Joan attended eight different schools in three different countries. As she explained to an interviewer 60 years later, her mother “traveled a lot. She believed in geographical solutions to problems. She was always looking for the perfect place.”
Mary Kennedy and her daughter returned to the United States at the end of the 1930s, having spent most of the decade abroad. But Mary had not yet found the perfect place, so she set out on her global travels again before long, this time leaving her daughter behind, first at St. Timothy’s, an Episcopal boarding school for girls in rural Maryland not far from Baltimore, then at Barnard College in Manhattan. Both these schools were exclusive and expensive.  Barnard (whose graduates include Joan Rivers) was one of the Seven Sisters, the group of colleges established in the 19th century to provide the equivalent of an Ivy League education for women of talent who were denied admission to Ivy League schools because of their gender — Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Radcliffe, Smith, Vassar, and Wellesley. Each of the original Seven Sisters was closely associated with one of the Ivy League colleges: Radcliffe with Harvard, for example, and Barnard with Columbia.
Mary was able to afford such high-priced schools for her daughter because her divorce settlement guaranteed her half of her ex-husband’s gross income, taxes prepaid, as well as a free house in Connecticut. And because Joan’s father prospered during the Depression and the war years as a network radio personality — he was, according to his biographer, “among the most listened to and recognizable voices of his time” — his ex-wife and his daughter prospered, too. Joan, for her part, not only availed herself of the elite education offered to her, as it were, on a silver platter, she also formed a habit of omnivorous reading which lasted for the rest of her life.
After graduating from St. Timothy’s School, Taylor returned to New York to study playwrighting at Barnard College.  Sometime in the 1940s, she read and was greatly impressed by a passionately individualist novel called The Fountainhead, by an as yet unknown Russian immigrant who called herself Ayn Rand. While a student at Barnard, she met and fell in love with a psychology major over at Columbia named Donald Cook, and married him in 1948. Cook introduced Joan to his close friend Allen Ginsberg, and through Ginsberg she met his friends, the nucleus of what later came to be called the “beat generation.” Taylor went to work as an actress on stage, radio, and television (with the usual assortment of accompanying dead-end day jobs).  In the early 1950s, the Cooks hosted a series of legendary parties at their ground floor apartment on 112th Street, near the Barnard and Columbia campuses. Joyce Johnson, in her memoir Minor Characters, recalls the place as “like an apartment at the bottom of a well – midnight even on a sunny day. The door was never locked. You never knew whom you’d find there. Psychologists, Dixieland jazz musicians, poets, runaway girls, a madman named Carl Solomon whom an old Columbia classmate of [Donald’s], Allen Ginsberg, had met in a psychiatric ward.” Nor were Solomon and Allen Ginsberg the only Beat Generation luminaries to attend these gatherings. There were also William S. Burroughs,Lucien CarrGregory Corso, and Jack Kerouac.
She found herself strongly drawn to the jazz that was favored by Donald’s beat friends, hearing in this predominantly African-American genre what the beat writer John Clellon Holmes later called “the music of inner freedom, of improvisation, of the creative individual rather than the interpretive group.”
She also found herself drawn to the intensely individualistic fiction written by the beat writers, with its focus on the individual sensibility, the individual point of view. She became interested during these same years in self-actualization, self-realization, the kinds of things that would come to be known a couple of decades later as elements in the “human-potential movement.”
In the ’40s and ’50s, it seemed to Joan (and to a lot of other people) that the thinkers who had the most to offer to individuals seeking to realize or actualize their previously untapped potential were the Russian G.I. Gurdjieffand his chief disciple, P.D. Ouspensky Much of her spare time she devoted to auditing graduate courses in psychology at Columbia, where Cook was pursuing a Ph.D.  A few years later, very similar ideas were set forth by American psychologists like Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow under the name of “Humanistic Psychology,” they would reach a much wider audience than Gurdjieff or Ouspensky had ever managed to attract. But Joan Kennedy Taylor was a very early convert to individualism in psychology, and she had to make do with what was available at the time of her conversion.  Later similar ideas would be promoted by Nathaniel Branden, the psychologist at one time associated with Ayn Rand.
In the mid-1950s, Taylor abandoned acting and went into publishing, taking a job at Alfred A. Knopf and Company. It was in 1957, James Pegolotti reports, when, “[a]s a publicity assistant at Knopf, Joan read an advance copy of [Ayn] Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and found the book fascinating. She wrote a letter of appreciation to the author, who responded by inviting her to lunch. The two women established a friendship, partly because of Joan’s deep interest in ‘Objectivism.’ For Taylor, Rand blended literary aptitude and economic philosophy into an attractive package.”  Joan Kennedy Taylor first became involved in the libertarian movement in the early 1960s, when she was a student at the Nathaniel Branden Institute in New York City. As a student of Objectivism, she espoused the political views of Ayn Rand: the nonaggression principle, natural rights, a free market, and a state so minimal that it had no power to tax and had to raise its revenues by charging fees for its services or, perhaps, running a national lottery. Taylor was in her early 30s when she adopted these political views; before that time, she seems to have been pretty much apolitical.  The Fountainhead, jazz, beat writing, the first vague stirrings of the human-potential movement  suggests a general inclination in the direction of individualism, but isn’t explicitly political.
This changed in 1957, when Joan was 30. While working as a publicity assistant at Knopf, through an associate who worked at Random House, she got hold of an advance copy of Atlas Shrugged.
“I read it over Labor Day Weekend 1957,” Joan told interviewer Duncan Scott in 2004, “and I was blown away, absolutely. I had read The Fountainhead before, but I was really impressed by this — so much so that I wrote her a fan letter.”
Joan’s was only the second letter Rand had received from a reader about Atlas Shrugged. And, as Joan told Duncan Scott, Rand
was impressed with my letter, and she spoke to her publicity person at Random House, asking if she knew me — and she did — and so the next thing I knew I got a call from Jean Ennis, the publicity person at Random House, saying, “Ayn Rand got your letter, she liked it, and she wants to have lunch with you.”
They had lunch and talked for hours.  Rand “said that she wanted me to meet her ‘children,’ Nathaniel and Barbara Branden, and we set up a date when I would come to her house and meet them.”
Barbara Branden in this period was putting in 40 hours a week as an editorial coordinator at St. Martin’s Press and teaching philosophy at Long Island University in her spare time. Nathaniel Branden, Joan recalled, “was working as a psychologist … and he was planning — or hoping — to give a lecture course on Ayn Rand’s philosophy. … I remember … him asking me if I would be interested in taking it, and I said yes.”
The first lecture in Nathaniel’s completed course, “Basic Principles of Objectivism,” was first delivered, according to Barbara Branden “in January of 1958, a few months after the publication of Atlas Shrugged … in a small hotel room.” Joan was there, along with around two dozen others who had read Atlas Shrugged and seen the small ads in New York newspapers promoting a series of lectures on Rand’s ideas.
And as the Objectivist movement grew  by leaps and bounds in the next decade, Joan was there. a personal friend of Ayn Rand and a frequent guest in her home. Her social life increasingly centered around the Nathaniel Branden Institute and Objectivism. When she married her second husband, David Dawson, over Thanksgiving weekend of 1958, Ayn Rand and her husband Frank O’Connor were among the dozen wedding guests.
Taylor began writing about politics from her new Objectivist perspective and soon founded and edited a monthly political magazine, Persuasion (1964–1968), the first political magazine ever personally endorsed and recommended by Ayn Rand. In the December 1965 issue of The Objectivist Newsletter, Rand wrote that Persuasion “does a remarkable educational job in tying current political events to wider principles, evaluating specific events in a rational frame-of-reference, and maintaining a high degree of consistency. It is of particular interest and value to all those who are eager to fight on the level of practical politics, but flounder hopelessly for lack of proper material.”  Rand, who later abjured the “L-word” and denounced libertarians as hippies and anarchists at that time told Joan that the word for her political philosophy alone, that described the viewpoint found in Persuasion, was “libertarian.” 
It was six years later, during the 1964 Barry Goldwater for President campaign, Joan told interviewer Duncan Scott in 2004, that
my husband, David Dawson, and I were two of twenty-five students of Objectivism who went down to Republican Headquarters and signed up and registered as Republicans and petitioned to form a Young Republican Club. We did. We formed the Metropolitan Young Republican Club, which was an Objectivist front for Goldwater. We were all students of Objectivism.
Within a few months, the Metropolitan Young Republican Club established a newsletter, Persuasion, with Joan Kennedy Taylor was as editor. Within a few more months, the campaign was over, and there was no further need for a newsletter whose chief reason for existing seemed to be promotion of Senator Goldwater’s effort to get elected president. But Joan had enjoyed her stint as editor of a political periodical and wanted to continue it. Ayn Rand came riding to the rescue.
Rand had already let Joan know that she admired her work on Persuasion. As Joan described their conversation to Duncan Scott many years later, “She told me, ‘You’re a good editor. … I can tell that because [an editor of a small publication like Persuasion] might have just one or maybe two good writers, but all of your writers are good and that means the editor’s good.'”
But Rand had more than just praise for Joan. She also had a suggestion. If Joan wanted to keep Persuasion going, Rand told her, “Take it out of the Young Republican Club — buy it from them or something like that. Set up a corporation, so that I can endorse you in The Objectivist. Because I wouldn’t want to endorse anything that was specifically of a political party.”
Joan saw the opportunity and took it. She established an independent corporation, Persuasion, Inc., and took over the magazine from the Republican Club.
Rand’s endorsement, the only one she ever extended to any political magazine, appeared in the December 1965 issue of The Objectivist Newsletter under the headline “A Recommendation.” It began with a caveat. “One cannot recommend a magazine or a periodical over whose future content one has no control, except conditionally or provisionally.”
She described Persuasion as “a modest little periodical which I have watched for almost a year and found to be excellent in its particular field.” Persuasion, she wrote, was “not a philosophical or theoretical, but specifically a political publication,” one that did “a remarkable educational job in tying current political events to wider principles, evaluating specific events in a rational frame-of-reference, and maintaining a high degree of consistency.” The magazine would be “of particular interest and value,” Rand thought, “to all those who are eager to fight on the level of practical politics, but flounder hopelessly for lack of proper material.”
The endorsement launched the new, independent Persuasion in style. As Joan told Duncan Scott 40 years later, “we got like a thousand subscriptions or something from Ayn’s endorsement.”
Joan asked her mentor’s advice on how she should portray Persuasion publicly. As she told a couple of interviewers in later years, the members of the editorial staff of Persuasion “were all students of her philosophy … but [Persuasion] was to deal entirely with politics.” So she put the question directly to Ayn Rand: “What do I call the view that we hold?” she asked. “It certainly isn’t Republican. On the other hand I can’t say it’s Objectivist; we have no position on art, epistemology, metaphysics, whatever, only on politics.”
Rand’s answer was straightforward, and so was her advice. “That was when she explained to me,” Joan wrote decades later, “that the name for her political philosophy, considered by itself, was libertarianism, and [she] suggested that Persuasion should call itself a libertarian publication. And so we did.”
When the Objectivist movement collapsed in the wake of the Rand-Branden split four years later, Joan closed Persuasion. She felt she had no choice; if she failed to cave in to Rand’s demands that she denounce Nathaniel and Barbara Branden, she herself would be denounced, along with Persuasion, in the pages of Rand’s magazine, The Objectivist. So she closed Persuasion, with regrets, and walked away.
She moved up to her summer home in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and pursued other interests. Taylor’s first book, When to See a Psychologist, written with clinical psychologist Lee M. Shulman, appeared in 1968. In the early 1970s, she worked as a co-therapist with various clinicians at both the Stockbridge, Massachusetts Free Clinic and the Austen Riggs Center. She began studying law in a Manhattan attorney’s office and worked her way up to paralegal status. She also began working on behalf of feminist causes, which had gradually attracted her interest since the early 1960s when she read The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan.  
In the mid-1970s, she joined the Libertarian Party and embarked on several years of political activism under its auspices. She helped to write the national party platform in the late 1970s, advised the party’s Ed Clark for President campaign of 1980 on feminist issues, and indefatigably promoted the ERA and abortion rights to a party membership that was not particularly receptive to feminist concerns.
One day in early 1977, she received an call from an  Roy A. Childs Jr., 28 years old, who was taking over the editorship of a small publication called Libertarian Review, with the assignment of turning it into a monthly magazine of issues, events, and ideas — a sort of National Review or The Nation or The New Republic, only monthly (rather than weekly or fortnightly), and from a libertarian perspective.  
Childs, like other Ayn Rand fans, had seen Rand’s endorsement of Persuasion when he was still in high school, had sent off for a sample copy and had then subscribed. For the new magazine he was launching, he hoped to attract an editorial staff and a group of associate editors who would represent both the Rothbardian and the Randian elements within the libertarian movement. Would Joan like to write for the magazine? Would she be interested in becoming an associate editor?
At this time, Libertarian Review was published out of offices in New York City, but it moved to San Francisco at the beginning of 1978, and by then, Childs was aggressively working to persuade his donors and funders, Charles Koch and Ed Crane, to make Joan a full-time member of the magazine’s staff. As she put it 15 years later,
I was a person who had worked in the anti-draft movement and who had done some political writing, but I had published nothing in this area for nine years. I was living in western Massachusetts in a rural setting, living a very domestic life. Roy didn’t care for that. Roy decided that I should be a political person. … And he assigned me articles to write. … He made me an associate editor of the Libertarian Review. We visited each other in New York, and he came to Massachusetts to visit me and my husband. And we were together a great deal. He educated me. He made me read books. He lobbied to get me on the staff of the Libertarian Review, and got me a staff job [there] which I took.
Now in her early 50s, she was at last ready to embark on the most important and productive period in her career — the period that would establish her as an important intellectual figure in the libertarian movement.

When Roy phoned Joan to let her know that he had won approval to add her to the  staff of the Libertarian Review, she was delighted. She had already discussed the idea with her husband David Dawson, and they had decided to move to San Francisco. They had the previous summer in the City by the Bay to make sure they’d be comfortable living so far from New York, and the experiment had been a success. They began making arrangements to leave their home in Stockbridge, Massachusetts and motor West.
At last, in mid-April of 1979, their car was fully checked out for the trip. They were scheduled to leave in three days,  expected in San Francisco by the end of the month. Joan was to start work on May 1. And then, on April 15, income-tax day, David suddenly dropped dead of a heart attack at age of 52.
After recovering from the shock, Joan considered what to do. She could stay in Stockbridge and live off the meager fees she could collect for freelance writing, copyediting, and proofreading jobs, while dealing as best she could with the difficulty of getting around, especially in winter — for Joan had never learned to drive a car. She could go back to New York and earn her keep as a paralegal. She could even take attorney Paul Morofsky’s advice and go back to school; she could earn a law degree of her own. She had been working for Morofsky as a paralegal for a year and a half now, commuting back and forth from Stockbridge on the bus and staying a few nights every week in Manhattan. He thought she could have a brilliant future in the legal profession. Already, she had developed a strong interest in constitutional law.
On the other hand, she could pursue that emerging interest in constitutional law outside the legal profession, as a journalist, writing about Supreme Court cases and related matters in the pages of the Libertarian Review edited by Roy Childs Jr. She could go to San Francisco after all, find a place to live, and try to build a new life from scratch in a new place.  She joined the staff of the monthly magazine Libertarian Review, where she began writing regularly on feminist and other topics. 
She arrived in San Francisco one day in May of 1979, with little more than the clothes on her back and the contents of a couple of suitcases. As she herself told it 15 years later,
When I arrived [in San Francisco, Roy] decided that I should room with him, and he introduced me to a whole new group of people. He made the difference between my being a disconsolate widow trying to pick up the pieces of her life, and being a writer that Roy projected he was very fortunate to have gotten onto the magazine. He gave me a new circle of friends, a new life, and created really a new family for me in the staff of the Libertarian Review.
Thus began a long Will and Grace relationship between Childs and Taylor.  Childs, a lonely, morbidly obese, gay alcoholic, who despite being a great writer, amazing orator, skilled editor, and friend of such luminaries as Robert Nozick, and libertarian movers and shakers like Howie and Andrea Rich, and members of Ayn Rand’s 50’s inner circle like novelist Kay Nolte Smith, painter Joan Mitchell Blumenthal and psychiatrist Allan Blumenthal, spent most of his adult life depressed over never having finished college and mooning over a college romance.  Joan, now once divorced and once widowed, was an older, sober, stabilizing force in Roy’s life.

Over the next year and a half, Joan also established ties with the Cato Institute, then in its second year of operation out of a suite of offices in San Francisco about half a block down the street from the ones that housed the Libertarian Review. These ties with Cato would last for the rest of her professional life. She began by accepting a position as a biweekly commentator on Byline, Cato’s daily radio program, which ran Monday through Friday on more than 150 radio stations coast to coast throughout the 1980s. Meanwhile, she was becoming more involved with the Libertarian Party. Soon she was writing for reason magazine and Inquiry Magazine, as well as the Libertarian Review.
 Joan’s work at the Libertarian Review ended, as a period of consolidation occurred, with Inquiry magazine closing, followed by Libertarian Review. After three years in San Francisco, the magazine moved one final time, to Washington, DC, and a year later, ceased publication. 

Joan moved on to the Manhattan Institute in New York City. living for much of her time there in a Chelsea high rise (where her friend Roy Childs, Jr. followed her, living in the same block while he edited the newsletter for Laissez-Faire Books, until shortly before his death in the early 1990s).  Thirty years ago, under the presidency of Bill Hammett, a former student of Objectivism who had fallen under the sway of Friedrich Hayek while doing his undergraduate work at the University of Chicago in the early 1960s, the Manhattan Institute was essentially libertaria. As director of the book publishing program of the Manhattan Institute, 1981–1985, Taylor promoted a then virtually unknown political scientist named Charles Murray and commissioned him to write the book that became Losing Ground (1984), editing his manuscript as it was written, arranging for its publication by Basic Books, and masterminding the publicity campaign that made it not only a bestseller, but, according to at least one source, one of the seventeen most influential works of sociology ever published.
When Joan left the Manhattan Institute, she moved on to the Foundation for Economic Education (still in New York state, not yet in Atlanta),  an editor of The Freeman, the original magazine of the modern American libertarian movement. In her spare time, she worked out her revisionist history of feminism.
She had first joined the party in 1976 in Massachusetts, and within the first year of her membership she had impressed her fellow party members with the depth of her knowledge, with her verbal facility, and with her gift for diplomacy — her ability to moderate differences, find common ground, and work with people toward mutual goals despite serious disagreements.
“It seemed to Joan that any individualist was by definition also a feminist. Were not women individuals, just as men were?”  She was elected by her fellow Massachusetts party members to become the only woman on the 20-member Platform Committee at the 1977 national Libertarian Party convention in San Francisco. Two years later, in 1979, a few months after she arrived in San Francisco to work on the Libertarian Review, she served as chair of the Platform Committee at the National Libertarian Party Presidential Nominating Convention in Los Angeles, the convention that nominated the ticket of Ed Clark and David Koch to represent the party in the 1980 presidential election against John Anderson, Jimmy Carter, and, of course, the winner, Ronald Reagan.  Joan’s purpose in becoming involved in the Libertarian Party in the first place was to persuade the Massachusetts branch of the party to endorse the Massachusetts Equal Rights Amendment, which declared that
all people are born free and equal and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights; among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness.
It further stipulated that “equality under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of sex, race, color, creed or national origin.” Joan’s purpose in becoming involved in the national party was to persuade its members to support the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution.
Such a position was not easily marketed to libertarians in the 1970s — though this fact never ceased to mystify Joan. It seemed to her that any individualist was by definition also a feminist. Were not women individuals, just as men were? It seemed to Joan that any libertarian was by definition also a feminist. Did not women own their own bodies, just as men did? Were they not entitled to the same rights that men enjoyed?
What sort of “libertarian” would balk at amending the US Constitution to recognize the equal rights of women, when these rights had been systematically abrogated and denied in large and small ways, both by the federal government and by state and local governments, ever since the founding of the United States?
Joan had read Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. She had agreed with Edith Efron, who reviewed Friedan’s book for Ayn Rand’sObjectivist Newsletter (the July 1963 issue) and called it “a brilliant, informative and culturally explosive book” which “should be read by every woman — and by every man — in America.”
If some libertarians in the 1970s thought of feminism as a movement that sought special handouts and other privileges to be bestowed upon women by the federal government, Joan believed this situation was caused, fundamentally, by historical ignorance. Perhaps it was from Murray Rothbard, whom she knew and worked with during her period in San Francisco, that she learned the importance of revising the official historical record from time to time, so that the truth about what actually happened in the past is not forgotten.
In any case, the fact is that her next major libertarian project after her work at the Libertarian Review was done — and the principal reason libertarians of today should find Joan Kennedy Taylor a figure of enduring interest — was her revisionist history of the feminist movement, published in 1992 under the title Reclaiming the Mainstream: Individualist Feminism Rediscovered.
Joan placed the origins of the American feminist movement in the abolitionist movement of the 19th century. In the 1830s, as that movement began gathering steam and attracting more and more nationwide attention, it also began attracting more and more supporters — most of them men, but many of them women.
“It was in this cause,” Joan wrote, “that women became politically active in the United States.” There was a problem, however. Women in the America of the 1830s “had some legal rights, but they … did not have the political rights that men did. They could not vote, hold public office, or serve on juries.” In fact, “there was only one political avenue open to them, and they discovered it — the First Amendment right to petition.”
The petition process was an important tool of the abolitionists from early on. Joan noted that
when ex-president John Quincy Adams was elected to the House of Representatives from Massachusetts and gave his first speech to the House in December of 1831, he presented petitions from a group of Quakers, asking for the abolition of slavery and the slave trade in the District of Columbia. This was to become a major issue for him as a congressman.
The Quakers didn’t see their request granted, needless to say. “This first petition,” Joan wrote, “was routinely sent to Congress’s standing Committee on the District of Columbia, which didn’t act on it. But more and more petitions against slavery began arriving in Congress.” Within a couple of years, “in December 1833, a national American Antislavery Society was formed. … It promoted the sending of petitions to Congress.”
As a result, Joan wrote,
by the end of 1835, petitions were coming in, not just from Quakers and other abolitionists, but from ordinary citizens in almost every northern and western congressional district. In May 1836, the House of Representatives passed a gag resolution to dispose of the petitions by resolving that petitions relating to the subject of slavery should be ignored and that no action was to be taken on them — they would neither be printed nor referred to committee.
Adams fought against this, but the gag rule remained in effect for more than six years, “until December 3, 1842.” Over that six-year period, however, the petitioners did not give up hope. Nor did they stop working. Thanks to their tireless efforts, Joan wrote,
more and more petitions were collected and signed, even though they would be refused and unread. In the session of Congress that began in December 1837, more than 200,000 petitions were sent to Congress, signed by millions of citizens, at a time when the entire population of the North was only about 10 million. The petitioning continued, and most of the volunteers collecting and signing these petitions were women.
And those women could hardly fail to notice the treatment they too often received from their seemingly rather ungrateful male colleagues in the abolitionist movement. “In 1840,” Joan reported,
two antislavery workers, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, went to London as delegates to a World Anti-Slavery Convention. They were horrified to find that they and the other female delegates were not allowed to sit in the meeting with the male delegates, but were required to listen to the proceedings from seats in the gallery. The American abolitionist leader, William Lloyd Garrison, was so incensed by their treatment that he refused to take his seat as a delegate and sat with the women.
And it wasn’t just the men in the abolitionist movement whose behavior had begun to disturb these politically involved women. The laws that men had made — even here in the United States, the nation founded on the proposition that “all men are created equal” — treated women very badly indeed. It was no accident, Joan believed, that it was not until “women first banded together to agitate to end slavery” that they first “became aware of how many laws enslaved them.” The longer they thought about it, after that, the more preposterous it began to seem. “How could one believe that slaves should have civil rights and still believe in denying those rights to the women who were championing their cause?” Joan asked rhetorically.
Surely these supposedly free women were no less intelligent, no less worthy, no less human than these unfortunate members of another race enslaved on our shores. Yet, like the slaves, American married women in 1848 could not own property, could not sign contracts, could not vote, could not control their own earnings, could be physically beaten, and could be returned to their homes by force if they ran away.
So the abolitionist women turned their attention to what would later be called “feminist” concerns. Two of them, Stanton and Mott, organized what Joan called the “first Woman’s Rights Convention” in 1848. Stanton and Mott called it “a convention to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of women.” It was a resounding success, attracting some three hundred attendees, and became the first of a series of such conferences held over the next dozen years in other parts of the country.

In Joan’s view, if the contemporary feminist movement was earning itself a black eye among libertarians by extolling the supposed benefits of federal programs that would privilege certain women at the expense of everyone else.

The last two decades of Taylor’s life were devoted almost entirely to her feminist concerns. From 1989 to 2003 she served as national coordinator of the Association of Libertarian Feminists (and as editor of its newsletter), and throughout the 1990s she also served as vice president and as a member of the board of directors of Feminists for Free Expression, a group of which she had been a founding member. She taught courses at the New School (then still the New School for Social Research) – one on “Different Voices: Feminism at the Crossroads” and another on “Women and the Law.” As a writer on feminist topics, she contributed to magazines and books, she lectured all over the country, and she published two books of her own, Reclaiming the Mainstream: Individualist Feminism Rediscovered (Prometheus, 1992) and What to Do When You Don’t Want to Call the Cops: A Non-Adversarial Approach to Sexual Harassment (New York University Press, 1999).  Joan focused her attention most sharply, not on the conferences and alliances and election campaigns that early feminists involved themselves in, but rather on the ideas that motivated them. “The thesis of this book,” she wrote, near the beginning of Reclaiming the Mainstream,
is that what we now call “feminism” began early in the nineteenth century as an individualist movement, and, further, that it is this individualism that has been the defining characteristic of the mainstream of that movement ever since. This does not mean that individualism has always predominated. Since the early days of the movement, there have been two philosophical strands of thought within it: individualism and collectivism, and from time to time one or the other strand has become dominant. When the collectivists predominate, the individualists become less active and return to cultivating their gardens.
Joan Kennedy Taylor was diagnosed with bladder cancer early in 2002 and was given less than a year to live. Nearly four years later, late in 2005, she died from the effects of the cancer and related kidney failure, just short of her 79th birthday. Not long before the cancer robbed her of the strength to write, so that she had at last to curtail her many years of service as an officer of the Association of Libertarian Feminists, she managed to complete one more book, outlining a libertarian solution to the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace. At the time of her death, as a pioneer in the definition and promotion of individualist or libertarian feminism, Joan had earned an honored place in the libertarian tradition.  Her friends started a blog after her passing to record their memories of her.  She was posthumously awarded the 2005 Thomas Szasz prize for advancing liberty.

Much of the material above is taken from Jeff Riggenbach’s memoir of Joan Kennedy Taylor.  Updates and additions original to this blog.

Libertarian women’s history month: Isabel Patterson

18 Mar

Isabel Paterson (January 22, 1886 – January 10, 1961) was a Canadian-American journalist, novelist, political philosopher, and a leading literary critic of her day.    She was slight, just over five feet tall, with a delicate taste in food and drink, a deep love of nature, and a nationally famous sense of humor. Stubborn and sharp-witted, she was also one of the New Deal’s fiercest foes.

Along with Rose Wilder Lane and Ayn Rand, who both acknowledged an intellectual debt to Paterson, she is one of the three founding mothers of American libertarianism. Paterson’s best-known work, her 1943 book The God of the Machine, a treatise on political philosophyeconomics, and history, reached conclusions and espoused beliefs that manylibertarians credit as a foundation of their philosophy. Her biographer Stephen D. Cox (2004) believes Paterson is the “earliest progenitor of libertarianism as we know it today.” Ayn Rand wrote in a letter in the 1940s that The God of the Machine “does for capitalism what Das Kapital does for the Reds and what the Bible did for Christianity.”

Born Isabel Mary Bowler in rural Manitoulin IslandOntario, she moved with her family to the west when she was very young. She grew up on a cattle ranch in Alberta. Paterson’s family was quite poor and she had eight siblings. A voracious reader who was largely self-educated, she had brief and informal public schooling during these years: about three years in a country school, from the ages of 11 to 14. In her late teen years, Bowler left the ranch for the city of Calgary, where she took a clerical job with the Canadian Pacific Railway. As a teenager, she worked as a waitress, stenographer, and bookkeeper, working at one point as an assistant to future Canadian Prime Minister R. B. Bennett.

This hardscrabble youth probably led Paterson to attach great importance to productive “self-starters”. Although she was articulate, well-read, and erudite, Paterson had extremely limited formal education, an experience she shared with Rose Wilder Lane, who was also Paterson’s friend and correspondent for many years.

The Bowler (Isabel’s maiden name) family traveled throughout the West and times were hard. She left home at 18 and began a series of jobs — so many she lost count. In 1910 she married Canadian  Kenneth Paterson, but left him within weeks. As to why she married him, no one knows.  Fans of Patterson (and of Ayn Rand) won’t all appreciate this speculation, but looking at Patterson’s photos, hearing about her derring-do adventures (like flying), her short, early, and singular marriage, and her tempestuous relationship with the young Ayn Rand, it’s hard not to see some lesbian potential.

These experiences provided fodder for her novels. During these years, in a foray south of the border, Paterson landed a job with a newspaper, the Inland Herald in Spokane, Washington. Initially she worked in the business department of the paper, but later transferred to the editorial department. There her journalistic career began. Her next position was with a newspaper in Vancouver,British Columbia, where for two years she wrote drama reviews.

In 1914, Paterson started submitting her first two novels, The Magpie’s Nest and The Shadow Riders, to publishers, without much success. It was not until 1916 that her second novel The Shadow Riders was accepted and published by John Lane Company, which also published The Magpie’s Nest the following year in 1917.

After World War I, she moved to New York City, where she worked for the sculptor Gutzon Borglum. He was creating statues for the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine and would later carve the memorial at Mount Rushmore. Paterson also wrote for the World and the American in New York.  Paterson was not just adventurous with her words — calling Eleanor Roosevelt “a pathetic fool” for instance — but the first time she flew, November 5, 1912, she set a record for reaching an altitude of 5,000 feet, flying higher than any woman had to that point. The 26-year old Canadian frontier girl sat beside pilot Harry Bingham Brown in the tiny Wright biplane, constructed of cloth and wood and said afterward, “It was the greatest experience of my life.”
In 1921, Paterson became an assistant to Burton Rascoe, the new literary editor of the New York Tribune, later the New York Herald Tribune. For 25 years, from 1924 to 1949, she wrote a column (signed “I.M.P.”) for the Herald Tribune’s “Books” section. Paterson became one of the most influential literary critics of her time. She covered a time of great expansion in the United States literary world, with new work by the rising generation of Ernest HemingwayF. Scott Fitzgerald and many others, African Americans of the Harlem Renaissance, as well as the first American generation of the great waves of European immigrants.  Her friends during this period included the famous humorist Will Cuppy.  In 1928 she became an American citizen, at the age of 42.

Her favorite Depression book was Garrett’s The Bubble that Broke the World, and she understood the Austrian view that the Depression was a curing of the boom created by the government’s cheap money, and that the hard times continued because of government price supports and programs that hampered the liquidation of what Austrians would call malinvestments.
She railed against FDR’s gold seizure from a female point of view:
Never shall we forget the line of women we saw turning in their savings, under threat of ten years in jail and ten thousand dollars fine, while the multimillionaire Senator Couzens stood up bravely on the floor of the Senate and promised to “hunt them down” if they tried to hold out a few dollars

She was notorious for demonstrating her sharp wit and goring of sacred cows in her column, where she also first articulated many of the political ideas that reached their final form in The God of the Machine. Her thinking, especially on free trade, was also foreshadowed in her historical novels of the 1920s and 1930s. Paterson opposed most of the economic program known as the New Deal, which American president Franklin D. Roosevelt put into effect during the Great Depression. She advocated less government involvement in both social and fiscal issues.

By the late 1930s, Paterson led a group of younger writers, many of them other Herald Tribune employees, who shared her views. One was future Time magazine correspondent and editor Sam Welles.

Another was the young Ayn Rand. From their many discussions, Paterson is credited with adding to Rand’s knowledge of American history and government, and Rand with contributing ideas to The God of the Machine. Paterson believed Rand’s ethics to be a unique contribution, writing to Rand in the 1940s, “You still don’t seem to know yourself that your idea is new. It is not Nietzsche or Max Stirner… Their supposed Ego was composed of whirling words – your concept of the Ego is an entity, a person, a living creature functioning in concrete reality.”   Rand had studied history and philosophy in Soviet Russia, but she didn’t read widely. Just who provided Rand the education in the glories of free markets that most people identify her with?

“They’d sit up until four or five in the morning — and Ayn would be sitting at the master’s feet,” Rand’s niece remembers.
One night, when they were talking, I went to bed, but I could hear the conversation, and it was if Pat were the guru and teacher — and Ayn didn’t do that. Ayn would be asking questions, and Pat would be answering. It was very strange.
Isabel Paterson is the “Pat” Mimi Sutton was referring to — a “radical individualist in both theory and practice,” explains Stephen Cox in his The Woman and the Dynamo: Isabel Paterson and the Idea of America.
For all the fervor that Ayn Rand inspires, little notice is paid to the woman who most inspired her.
Both Roosevelt and his predecessor, Herbert Hoover, tried to inspire confidence by keeping unsuccessful firms afloat at the expense of successful ones. Strangely, investors declined to be stimulated, no matter how fervently they were exhorted to trust government programs. For Paterson, that result was tediously predictable. She told readers she was “tired of being told that ‘credit depends on confidence.’ Fudge. Credit depends on real assets, sound money and a clean record. … When any one asks us to have confidence we are glad to inform him that the request of itself would shatter any remaining confidence in our mind.”
To Paterson, the notion that federal experts can plan to ensure the people’s welfare was a ridiculous projection of childish fantasies—“a mother’s boy economic program with a kind maternal government taking care of everybody out of an inexhaustible income drawn from mysterious sources.” Perfect planning requires perfect foresight—and who possesses that?
Paterson’s Golden Vanity, one of the few good novels about the Depression, focuses on reputed experts’ outrageous failures of foresight. Its climactic scene is a confrontation between an investor and the financier she entrusted with her money—a man who worked, with the government’s assistance, to create a baffling maze of bad investments. When she hears him admit, “We could not foresee…,” she has finally had enough. “Why couldn’t you foresee?” she demands. “If you can’t foresee, what are you paid for?” She is wrathful, and there is dignity in her wrath.  I haven’t read it but is sounds like a scene from Atlas.
The fundamental problem, Paterson proposed, is confusion of the economy with politics. In 1932, when Hoover was still in office, she said that “our ‘best minds’ … have already got the political machinery dangerously entangled with the economic system, disrupting both; and they are now demanding that the government should save them from what they’ve done to it.” As others stood for separation of church and state, Paterson stood for separation of state and economy. She wanted no new programs to save an economy that government programs had already disrupted. Readers wrote to her, asking her to identify her own plan for the government to solve the nation’s problems. She replied, “What these correspondents really demand is dope. If we don’t believe in their dope, what dope can we suggest in place of it? None whatever. We do not even know a remedy for gullibility.”
Her idea was simply to leave people alone to make their own investments, to earn profits and keep them, and to liquidate unprofitable enterprises.  She remembered the nation’s relatively quick recovery from the economic crisis of her girlhood, the depression of the 1890s: “This country experienced bankruptcy in the nineties. Part of the loss was borne by foreign bondholders. That part of the situation is now reversed. It is a much worse bankruptcy. But that is all it is.” She knew that once the incompetent were permitted to go bankrupt, the competent could “pick up the pieces.”
Such notions were contemptuously disregarded by the public intellectuals of the 1930s, men who considered Paterson a reactionary lady novelist, lacking the ability to comprehend big, hairy-chested Keynesian or Marxist theories. Edmund Wilson, America’s leading literary critic, informed Paterson that she was “the last surviving person to believe in [the] quaint old notions on which the republic was founded.”
She maintained, however, that “the principle of the lever remains the same.”  Among the rising generation of conservative and libertarian intellectuals whom she influenced was a young escapee from the Soviet Union, Ayn Rand. At that time, Rand was an author without an audience. An avid reader of Paterson’s weekly newspaper columns, she sought the older writer’s acquaintance during the dark days following the election of 1940, when the Republicans ignominiously lost to Roosevelt for a third time. During the next few years, Rand sat at Paterson’s feet, learning about economics, politics, and American history. When Rand published her breakthrough novel, The Fountainhead, in 1943, she inscribed her gift copy to Paterson, “You have been the one encounter in my life that can never be repeated.”
Soon afterward, Rand started the long process of writing the 1,168-page Atlas Shrugged, a work of original genius that was nevertheless distinctively influenced by Paterson’s ideas. Both women were rigorous individualists, but when it came to images of the capitalist system as a whole, Rand yielded to Paterson.
In Rand’s opinion, The God of the Machine, Paterson’s great work of economic and historical theory, “does for capitalism what Das Kapital did for the Reds” and “what the Bible did for Christianity.” In her book, Paterson conceptualized capitalism as an enormous circuit connecting producers and consumers throughout the world, using real money and real profits to generate new efficiencies and larger amounts of energy. She stipulated that government’s proper role was to safeguard the infrastructure of this system, keeping it free from force and fraud. If government went beyond that and tried to manage the economy, it could only divert its energy and, eventually, short-circuit and destroy it.
This is exactly the way in which Rand depicts the world in Atlas Shrugged. The novel’s central story concerns a railroad and the people who try to keep it running, despite the government’s best efforts to connect it to projects that sap its energy. With every new government plan to stimulate a lagging economy, the railroad’s profits dwindle, its lines shorten, industrialists who rely on it go bankrupt, and consumers have less access to the means of life. Eventually, there is a massive breakdown. The circuit of production and consumption can be reconnected only by individuals who plan their own economic behavior. The greatest of these is the man who best understands how energy is generated.
It is a compelling picture of the world —one that demonstrates the importance of the literary imagination as a generator of intellectual energy. Indeed, if modern libertarian ideas had been forced to wait until professional economists and politicians conveyed them to the public, they would never have been conveyed. The task required people of imagination who were willing to offer America an alternative vision of itself. To put it bluntly, the task required people who could really write.  Paterson’s The God of the Machine was one of four magisterial libertarian works to be published in the dark days of 1943. Although her book was more well-known than Albert Jay Nock’s Memoirs of a Superfluous Man, which was released that year, Rose Wilder Lane’s The Discovery of Freedom, and especially Rand’s The Fountainhead were much more popular.
In the first third of The Fountainhead, economic ideas do not dominate. It was only in the remainder of Rand’s first great success that, “after many months of intense discussions with Paterson about political philosophy and American history and institutions, does she develop the political meaning of Roark’s experience,” Cox explains.
Lane, like Rand, had the benefit of picking Paterson’s brain, and Cox writes, “It is possible that Lane derived many of her key concepts from her all-night conversations with Paterson.”
However, Discovery and God of the Machine are very different books, as Cox points out: “Libertarian readers have generally turned to Lane for emotional satisfaction and to Paterson for intellectual challenge.”
“Just who was it that provided Rand the education in the glories of free markets?”
Paterson made her living as a novelist and columnist. However, while her column in the New York Herald Tribune was “Turns With a Bookworm,” she was given the latitude to write about most anything she wanted, which often turned out to be economics and politics.

Paterson and Rand promoted each other’s books and conducted an extensive correspondence over the years, in which they often touched on religion and philosophy. An atheist, Rand was critical of the deist Paterson’s attempts to link capitalism with religion. Rand believed the two to be incompatible, and the two argued at length. Their correspondence ended after they quarreled in 1948. During a visit to Rand at her home in California, Paterson’s remarks about writer Morrie Ryskind and abrasive behavior toward businessman William C. Mullendore, other guests of Rand, resulted in Rand’s disillusionment with “Pat.”  In 1948, an argument ended their friendship. As Paterson had written, “one genius is about all a house will hold,” and each of these geniuses had a very considerable temper. But there was an even more important reason for the break-up: Paterson’s belief in God.  Similarly, Paterson had broken with another friend and political ally, Rose Wilder Lane, in 1946.

Writer Albert Jay Nock wrote that Lane’s and Paterson’s nonfiction books were “the only intelligible books on the philosophy of individualism that have been written in America this century.” The two women had “shown the male world of this period how to think fundamentally… They don’t fumble and fiddle around – every shot goes straight to the center.” Journalist John Chamberlain credits Paterson, Lane and Rand with his final “conversion” from socialism to what he called “an older American philosophy.”
Paterson further influenced the post-WWII rise of lettered American anti-statism through her correspondence with the young Russell Kirk in the 1940s, and with the young William F. Buckley in the 1950s. Buckley and Kirk went on to found the National Review, to which Paterson contributed for a brief time. However, she sometimes sharply differed from Buckley, for example by disagreeing with the magazine’s review of Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged.  Buckley Jr., laying the foundation for the modern conservative movement with the creation of National Review in 1955, identified Paterson as one of the people he most wanted to write for him. He got her, too—for a while. She left NR because—an individualist in every respect—she preferred not to be edited.

As her own fame supplanted Paterson’s, Ayn Rand allowed the older woman’s influence on her to fall into the shadows, though she did mention her book to her fans, to the students of her philosophy at the Nathaniel Branden Institute, and in the bibliography of her book Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.  Nor did she ever completely disavow her link to the “one encounter” that had decisively influenced her career.
Russell Kirk, the philosopher of American conservatism, had his own quarrelsome relationship with Paterson. Yet, he said, she “stood out courageously, in defiance of the Lonely Crowd. I thought that everyone must be reading her … and could never forget her.”
Biographer Stephen Cox sums up her life:  Probably no one who encountered Isabel Paterson easily forgot her. Now a new generation needs an introduction. In this moment when, under stress, basic ideas are being recovered, Atlas is surging in popularity, and the historic failures of the New Deal are being re-examined, it is time to revisit her wit and learning. “The principle of the lever remains the same.”  
In her retirement, Paterson declined to enroll in Social Security and kept her Social Security card in an envelope with words “‘Social Security’ Swindle” written on it.
Paterson died on January 10, 1960, and was interred in the Welles family plot at Saint Mary’s Episcopal Churchyard in Burlington, New Jersey.

  • “Most of the harm in the world is done by good people, and not by accident, lapse, or omission. It is the result of their deliberate actions, long persevered in, which they hold to be motivated by high ideals toward virtuous ends… when millions are slaughtered, when torture is practiced, starvation enforced, oppression made a policy, as at present over a large part of the world, and as it has often been in the past, it must be at the behest of very many good people, and even by their direct action, for what they consider a worthy object.” (The God of the Machine)

Libertarian historian David Beito notes that Patterson opposed the use of nuclear weapons in WWII:  Novelists Zora Neale Hurston and Isabel Paterson had much in common including opposition to the New Deal and a shared belief individualism. Both also opposed the dropping of the atomic bomb. In 1946, Hurston, who later supported the presidential campaign of Robert A. Taft, wrote that she was “amazed at the complacency of Negro press and public” towards Truman’s foreign policy actions. According to Hurston, Truman “is a monster. I can think of him as nothing else but the BUTCHER of ASIA. Of his grin of triumph on giving the order to drop the Atom bombs on Japan. Of his maintaining troops in China who are shooting the starving Chinese for stealing a handful of food…. Is it that we are so devoted to a ‘good Massa’ that we feel that we ought not to even protest such crimes? Have we no men among us? If we cannot stop it, we can at least let it be known that we are not deceived. We can make any party who condones it, let alone orders it, tremble for election time. Carla Kaplan, ed., Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters (New York: Doubleday, 2002), 546.
At about the same time, Paterson cited the atomic bomb as an example of Truman’s use of science “to fry Japanese babies in atomic radiation.” Their deaths did not even have practical value to Paterson, who had predicted an almost immediate surrender of the Japanese upon the landing of a U.S. invasion force. The only bright spot for her was that Truman compromised his demand of unconditional surrender by letting the Japanese to keep the emperor. Stephen Cox, The Woman and the Dynamo: Isabel Paterson and the Idea of America (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 2004).