In 1946, the novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand started writing Textbook of Americanism, a series of brief and accessible essays that she felt would define the essential ideas and character of her adopted homeland. Publishing them in a small magazine called The Vigil in the form of answers to basic questions, Rand only completed nine sections, which ranged from “What is the basic issue in the world today?” to “What is the basic principle of America?” to “What is the proper function of government?”
Over 70 years later, Rand’s dream sees its completion in A New Textbook of Americanism, a collection edited by Jonathan Hoenig, a Rand devotee who founded the investment fund Capitalist Pig and appears regularly on Fox News, where he’s one of the few guests to call out Donald Trump for his protectionism, cronyism, and anti-immigrant stances. The new volume reprints Rand’s original contributions while adding fresh new material from a host of contemporary writers associated with the Ayn Rand Institute, including Leonard Peikoff, Yaron Brook, Amy Peikoff, Andrew Bernstein, and others. The new essays are wide-ranging and provocative, answering such questions as “How to Recognize a Nazi,” “How Are Fortunes Made in a Capitalist System?,” and “What Should a Distinctively American Foreign Policy Do?”
For today’s podcast, I spoke with Hoenig about what Rand meant by Americanism, why that’s important, and whether he’s optimistic about a country that he himself says is growing more collectivist on both the right and the left. We also talked about the fault lines between Rand’s Objectivism and the modern libertarian movement, Rand’s argument for complete abortion rights and her thoroughgoing secularism, and what it will take to revive the sort of individualism that Hoenig, like Rand, says is the essential foundation of America.
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Photo courtesy of Jonathan Hoenig.
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