New Yorker Magazine by axUtrWCN

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									A group I founded in its present “facilitative format” is featured in the New Yorker Magazine.

True Believers
Ayn Crowd.
    By Lizzie Widdicombe
The New Yorker, Talk of the Town
April 13, 2009, page 24
    Every month, a group of Ayn Rand enthusiasts
get together at the Midtown Restaurant, on Fifty-fifth
Street, for ice water and grilled cheese and a
discussion of Objectivism – the philosophy, expressed
in Rand's novels, that celebrates the individual over
the collective, and argues that laissez-faire capitalism
is the only just social system. There was a special
buzz at the most recent meeting: for months, Rand's
novel “Atlas Shrugged” – which describes an American
economic apocalypse, spurred by socialist-style
government intervention – has been on the best-seller
lists. “This economic crisis has sparked so much
interest!” Robert Flanzer, a dentist, said. He has been
a disciple of Rand's since the sixties, and for a long
time drove a car with a license plate that said
“JOHN GALT” (the hero of “Atlas Shrugged”).
    About twenty participants gathered around a long
table at the front of the restaurant and introduced
themselves. Jim Smith, who was wearing a maroon
polo shirt, is the group's founder. “I've been a follower
of Ayn Rand for five years,” he said. He used to be
a “spiritual care manager,” but now works in wealth
management. Then came Francisco Villalobos, who
owns a fitness consulting company; Isabelle McQueen,
a shamanic healer; and a flight attendant named
Matthew Simpson, who said, “I wouldn't say I'm a
follower. I hate authority. I hate the establishment.
So that's me.” The core members of the group had
known Rand back when she ran a salon, called The
Collective, in the sixties, and sometimes gave
lectures at the McAlpin Hotel, on Thirty-fourth Street,
and in the basement of the Empire State Building.
(“She was like a cuddly grandma,” one said.)
    Paul Bell, another disciple of Rand's, rose and
started the discussion. “Generally, at these meetings,
we get together to schmooze,” he said. “This time,
there are serious concerns.” He wanted to talk about
Alan Greenspan, Rand's best-known acolyte, who
offended Objectivists last fall by conceding, before
Congress, that he'd “found a flaw” in his trust in
free-market capitalism. Bell gave a little history
lesson: “Let's flash back to the sixties” – around
the time Greenspan taught at the Nathaniel Branden
Institute, named for Rand's chief protege and lover.
“My understanding is that Miss Rand was an enormous
admirer of Alan Greenspan,” Bell said. He suggested
that Greenspan changed after he went to Washington
– that he got “Potomac fever”. “I learned from Ayn
Rand many years ago that contradictions do not exist
in reality,” Bell said. “Is Alan Greenspan an Objectivist
or a statist? Is he controlled by the power in Washington,
or did he go there to spread free-market ideals?”
    A laid-off Wall Streeter asked, “Has Greenspan ever
clarified what he meant when he said that the free
market had failed?” Bell said that he hadn't, and the
conversation drifted to a scene in “Atlas Shrugged” in
which a desperate politician offers to make John Galt
“Economic Dictator”.
    Bell's wife, Iris, got up to speak. (She has designed
the covers for two books about Rand.) “I want to go
back to Greenspan,” she said. “If he'd stayed out of
the Fed, I don't know if we'd have gained anything.
He was friends with people on both sides of the aisle.
Wasn't he a tennis player? People would come to him
with such-and-such a law and say, ‘Should we do this?
And he'd say, ‘No! Don't do this!’ He probably stopped
a lot of bad things from happening.” The Objectivists
nodded.
    Eleanor Rosenblatt, Dr. Flanzer’s girlfriend, asked,
“Do you think Andrea Mitchell was an influence?”
    The discussion moved on to other signs of social
decline: the M.T.A., gangs on the Lower East Side,
which, a musician named Andy George said, is still
run by the Bloods and the Crips. “When civilization
collapses, we'll just have to organize an Objectivist
gang,” someone suggested. “We'll call ourselves
the Galts.”
    Benny Pollak, a computer programmer at Barclays
Capital, asked, “If Ayn Rand were alive today, what
do you think would be her attitude toward the
current meltdown?”
    “‘I told you so’?” Villalobos suggested.
    “‘I'm eighty-four and still smoking,’” someone
else said.
    Bell stood up. “The one thing I learned,” he said,
“having had the privilege of being alive at the same
time she was, is that there was no end to the surprises
that came out of that woman's head.”
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