This Life is Not a Test

  This Life is not a test.

This Life is an Actual Life. It is not a Prelude to another Life or a Reprise of a former Life.

Repeat. This Life is not a test.

If this Life were a test, you would have been given complete instructions on where to go and what to do from Day One.

This Life is the Only Life you will ever have. Make the most of it. Make the best of it. Choose Objectivism.


A Career for Heroes

     Although this book is not a How-To type of book, it is better — it could be a Why-To book for someone who is bright, ambitious and looking for a career in which to make a living.

In Pursuit of Wealth: the Moral Case for Finance should interest any person, especially any young person thinking about a career.  Careers in finance include brokerage, commercial and investment banking, corporate finance, hedge funds, private equity firms, venture capitalists, financial planners, public accountants and more. Authors, Yaron Brook and Don Watkins (who’ve written two previous books together), approach finance from a novel point of view: the moral case.

You might exclaim, “Moral case? What does morality have to do with finance?”

To which the correct reply is, “Everything.”

The authors’ idea of morality is not biblical, not about self-sacrifice, and not about rewarding the undeserved.  Their view comes from Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand.

In Rand’s view, the man who profits thorough productive achievement is doing something moral. He is supporting his own existence and pursuing his own happiness by using his mind to create values – the values that human beings need to live and enjoy life. And this is as true for bankers, traders, and investors as for any other producer.”[i]

Few books before this one have dared to tell the moral story that finance is good.

The book starts with the core functions of finance and explains how finance enriches the world. Finance enables entrepreneurs to offer products, boost their production, and get goods and services to market sooner. Goods and services of all kinds: energy, food, clothing, building materials, computers, phones and countless other values make our lives easier, more productive, and more pleasant – often in ways that we could not even imagine, let alone duplicate.

Finance is a field that you should be able to feel great about while making money. Financiers help entrepreneurs change the world. Their knowledge of markets and money enable them to take risks that average people wouldn’t take.  Using capital (money), financiers help inventors, entrepreneurs and investors turn their own ideas into products to make money. As a result, financiers often reap rewards that most people only dream about.

The authors provide a welcome objective look into the historical opposition to finance. The Bible condemns finance. Islam outlaws finance.  Finance, even from the Enlightenment to today, has a long history of inarticulate apologists ineptly explaining its importance and meaning to human life.

Bureaucrats and politicians generally consider finance a “necessary evil” at best. They love to regulate finance.  Many people despise finance. Others are afraid of finance. Those in the ivory towers of academia and the back rooms of media reporting stigmatize and dismiss finance.

Brooks and Watkins get it right. They say, “We would all be far worse off but for the productive achievements of this maligned and vilified group of individuals.”[ii]

Brooks and Watkins show in clear terms the morality of finance and the vital role finance plays in our modern human life. They also provide an in-depth look at the fallacies of the “inequality” movement and a number of current financial controversies including index funds, insider trading, the so-called taxpayer subsidies of Wall Street, and the killing effect of Dodd-Frank on small business.

There is a fascinating chapter on the cultural stereotype of businessmen as greedy robbers and murderers.  A “real-life” example of this cultural stereotype considers Steve Jobs, the productive genius and Bernie Madoff, the self-destructive fraud, as moral equals.

A career in finance rewards those who pursue it with a good living, and for those who pursuit it with a passion, intelligence and devotion, the possibility of an excellent living, even an astounding living.

If you have the skills and interest, and would like a career that has a long history of making human society better on every level (despite what the ivory tower tells you), you could embrace a career in finance with peace of mind, knowing that the need for finance is inescapable and continuing to increase in modern society.

Finance is a career that offers opportunity at every level – so that the person just starting out has the chance to grow into the hero he or she wants to be.

Whether decide to pursue a career in finance or you are already in finance or are in another career entirely, from reading In Pursuit of Wealth: the Moral Case for Finance, you can gain a fresh, exciting vision of the value of finance to the world, a vision to last a lifetime.

Page vii.

ii Page v.

“I Just Acted”: The Facts Gun Control Advocates Seek to Evade

by Dr. Michael Hurd

November 6, 2017 (republished by permission)

Johnnie Langendorff (l), Stephen Willeford

On Sunday afternoon, Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, walked out of the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, where he had just opened fire on parishioners during mass. Dressed in all black tactical wear and body armor, he strode across the parking lot.

That’s when he met Stephen Willeford, 55, a local plumber. Willeford lives near the church, and when he heard shooting, he grabbed his rifle and rushed over.

While Kelley was armed with a powerful AR-15 and was formerly a military member, Willeford engaged Kelley, getting into a shootout. One witness said that when he came face to face with Kelley, Willeford “didn’t hesitate; he shot in between Kelley’s body armor, hitting him in his side,” the Daily Mail reported.

Wounded, Kelley dropped his Ruger assault rifle and jumped into an SUV to flee.

But another local resident, Johnnie Langendorff, who works at a nearby auto parts store, had just pulled up the intersection nearest the church and saw the gunfight. After Kelley sped away, “The other gentleman [Willeford] said we needed to pursue [the shooter] because he shot up the church,” Langendorff told the San Antonio Express. “So that’s what I did. I just acted.”

When you take away the ability of a good person to act against a violent and evil one when it counts, you’re assaulting the right to life in the most basic way possible.”

Life is about achieving and maintaining values. Values refer to all kinds of things — your career, your children, your romantic partner, your house, your hobbies, your ideas and beliefs. But the most fundamental value is life. Without life, there are no values. So when confronted with a life-or-death situation, you act. Otherwise, your values all disappear.

It’s horrible that some people value life so little that they sadistically seek to end it, not only for themselves but for innocent others. The execution of children that went on in this church is more unspeakable than anything we have yet seen, and that is saying something.

But the bright spot in all this, if there is a bright spot, is that there are people able and willing to fight for life when it really counts. That’s what these men did, and that’s what others like them do, as well. And although it’s politically incorrect to praise the police these days, it’s also what law enforcement people have done, in virtually every single one of these instances where the killer does not make it out alive.

Guns are horrible instruments of execution. But they are also beautiful things — when in the right hands. There is good, and there is evil. Guns remind us of this fact. Some of us don’t want there to be a good and evil, but there is, just the same.

People blathering on about “we’ve got to have gun control” don’t even know what they’re talking about. Yet the issue is deeper than that. When you take away the ability of a good person to act against a violent and evil one when it counts, you’re assaulting the right to life in the most basic way possible. So long as there are evil people with weapons, we need to have good people with even better weapons. Nothing else will do.


This post is reprinted with the permission of Dr. Michael J. Hurd. 

Michael J. Hurd is an American psychotherapist, podcast host, author, public speaker, and commentator. He considers himself an Objectivist. This post is reprinted from his website,


The Moral Case Against Gun Control

Dr. Hurd’s statement makes the moral case against gun control because gun control is a direct threat against our inalienable right to life. The right to life is the bedrock of our Constitution and of all real-world morality:

When you take away the ability of a good person to act against a violent and evil one when it counts, you’re assaulting the right to life in the most basic way possible.”

The people of the United States, or any country, do not cede their right of self-defense to their  government, although many people mistakenly believe they do.  Inalienable rights cannot be ceded and the government cannot acquire inalienable rights. The government is required to protect our inalienable rights, not to take them over.

Gun rights are an important issue.  Government data bases are and should be data bases of the guilty: people who have been proven guilty and by their own actions, incapable and unworthy of responsible gun ownership.

Anti-gun forces urge our government to take away all gun rights of private citizens, and repeal the people’s right to defend themselves against evil.  They would turn every good person into a helpless potential victim.  They would skew justice in favor of those who have no intention of obeying gun laws or any other laws.  Is that what we really want?

When a government, in the name of protecting the innocent, seeks to prevent every innocent person from having the means to fight those who would murder them, their families, friends and neighbors, that government is wrong.

Do we want a government that does exactly the opposite of what government is supposed to do? Are we, the people of the United States, content with a future as helpless, potential victims?

How many more innocents will be randomly or brutally murdered? How many will die because the elites do not trust the average person to be adult enough or honest enough to handle guns?  How much longer will the trusting anti-gun millions keep their heads in the sand, pretending that if good people don’t have guns, bad people won’t get guns?

When will the average, law-abiding, gun-fearing citizen realize that it is time for him (or her) to take up the study of arms?  In some parts of the country, many people like Stephen Willeford and Johnnie Langendorff have the skill and experience to act with confidence against horrific evil.  It is time for all good people to explore and acquire the means, methods and skills of responsible gun ownership.

Although they pretend otherwise, the anti-gun faction wants a repeal of the right to bear arms. Their goal is complete confiscation of guns from ordinary Americans. Are all Americans really ready to accept the dictates of the power elites and live their lives as disarmed, potential victims?   I, for one, hope not.

As Dr. Hurd stated, ” So long as there are evil people with weapons, we need to have good people with even better weapons.”

The United States was the first (and still the only) country in human history founded on the ideas of individual sovereignty, inalienable rights, equality under the law and the freedom to pursue and achieve your future.

In conclusion, I suggest that widespread, responsible gun ownership may be necessary for your own survival, the survival of those you love, and the freedom you care about so deeply.

Objectivism in Context

Ayn Rand in New York City

With a clearer understanding from Sciabarra … Rand’s achievement becomes breathtaking in its comprehensiveness.”

A Review of Ayn Rand: the Russian Radical  by Chris Matthew Sciabarra (2 editions)

Ayn Rand (1905-1982) was a controversial novelist-philosopher, the founder of a new system of philosophy she called “Objectivism.”  She remarked, “I am challenging the cultural tradition of 2,500 years.”

The Provocative Book Title

1st Edition 1995

The title of Chris Matthew Sciabarra’s book is provocative, and Rand would have considered it insulting.  I’m sure Sciabarra did not mean to insult, but did mean to provoke interest.  Interest is good.

Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, Rand lived through the Russian Revolution and rise of the Soviets. She despised Russia and everything about it. Rand immigrated to the US and became a proud American citizen.

2nd Edition 2013

Rand considered herself a radical for capitalism, meaning free-market, laissez-fare capitalism as protected by a properly limited government (Capitalism the Unknown Ideal).  Her work included a revolutionary new concept of epistemology (Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology) and a new theory of ethics which rejects altruism (The Virtue of Selfishness) and is itself the foundation of Rand’s ideas on politics and art.

Most contemporary academic philosophers ignore Ayn Rand. To academia, the notion of a novelist-philosopher is unprecedented, even rude. The idea of an outsider inventing a philosophy that challenges everything since Thales is unacceptable to those inside the ivory towers.

Sciabarra’s Purpose

The purpose Sciabarra set is simple: “to provide an enriched appreciation of Ayn Rand’s contributions.”  Ayn Rand: the Russian Radical (ARTRR) first appeared in 1995. The second edition (2013), added biographical materials relating to Rand’s early training in philosophy and her college transcript.

Sciabarra’s admiration for Rand is evident.  He is storming the fortress of academic philosophy, by exploring how Ayn Rand’s thought relates to the academic philosophy that has thus far largely spurned her.

Purpose of the Review

My purpose in writing this review is to show the important ways in which Sciabarra succeeds. His work does increase the appreciation of Rand and spread interest in her and the values of Objectivism to the culture. I will also show how his perceptive questions are valuable in that they are questions crying for answers, even when Sciabarra’s own answers may provoke hostility.

The Scope of Rand’s Achievement

Simply put, Ayn Rand acknowledged only three previous philosophers — Plato, Aristotle and Kant. She acknowledged only Aristotle as an essential influence on her thinking.

Sciabarra takes strong exception to Rand’s own view of essential influences, declaring that there are important connections between Rand’s thought and that of her Russian teachers.

Clearly, thanks to Sciabarra, a fuller understanding of Rand emerges — not as merely a fourth giant among a great three, but as the one who saw through the lacks and mistakes of the hundreds of thinkers in the 2,500 years since the birth of philosophy.

Ayn Rand presented herself as a hero among three giants of thought. Sciabarra presents Rand as the hero among countless philosophers and writers.

The discrepancy between Rand’s view of her achievement and Sciabarra’s view of Rand is easy to explain. On the declaring of influences, Ayn Rand would have discarded as an influence, anyone whose basic premises were in contradiction to reality. Since of the three systems builders in the history of philosophy, only Aristotle based his thought on the primacy of reality, it is apropos that Aristotle is the only one Rand acknowledges.

However, for the student of the history of philosophy, Rand’s place among the top three as well as the hundreds of less important thinkers is not clear until one has the picture of the complexity of building a philosophical system, and the primacy of reality upon which to base it.

With a clearer understanding from Sciabarra of some of the methods employed, arguments, contradictions and failures over the centuries, Rand’s achievement becomes breathtaking in its comprehensiveness.

From my first reading in 1995 and again in 2017, I view the complex picture of philosophical exploration that emerges as the primary benefit of the book.

Ayn Rand’s Method vs the History of Philosophy

ARTRR includes a lengthy contrast of methods, principally dualism and the dialectic.

Sciabarra postulates that Ayn Rand’s method is consistent with her first encounters with philosophy in Russia where the influence of Marx dominated the philosophical landscape. Marx himself said that Aristotle was a dialectical thinker.

Ayn Rand did not directly address either dualism or the dialectic method in her epistemology. In her Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, she started with active awareness and proceeded through cognition, consciousness, concepts, abstraction, definition, arriving at axiomatic concepts and identity.

Provocative Characterization of Rand’s Method

Sciabarra calls Rand’s method “dialectical libertarianism.” This designation takes considerable unpacking. It is important to mention that ARTRR is Sciabarra’s central book in a trilogy on this subject. Marx, Hayek, and Utopia is the opening book. Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism is the closing.

I find that the idea that Rand learned the dialectical method in Russia is a reasonable conclusion, but it is not a convincing label for Rand as a mature thinker. To be clear, I have not read Sciabarra’s full trilogy, and do not presume to speak to this idea in essence.

There is evidence that efforts to apply dialectical reasoning broadly have been in our culture for many years.  For example, after WWII in the late 1950s, school children, myself among them, learned about the war dialectically: there was Communism (hypothesis–noble, but doesn’t really work), Nazism (antithesis—repugnant, killed 6 million Jews) and liberal Democracy (synthesis–the practical good, free countries of Europe and the US).

Libertarianism is a loosely organized movement, professing the ideology of freedom. Ayn Rand specifically rejected libertarianism as a movement without philosophical foundation. Clearly, Rand would consider Sciabarra’s labeling of her method as “dialectical libertarianism” insulting to her life, work and memory, as well as being irrelevant to her accomplishment.

The question Sciabarra raises for me, which I find riveting, even revolutionary, is what is there about Rand’s method that allows her to disregard all the methods and their many variations, and still wind up with a complete, cogent and organic philosophical whole?

To my knowledge, no other book intended for the lay market has stimulated that question, framed as Sciabarra has done, specifically with the history of philosophy as the background.  The exploration of this question, which has interested me greatly, is the second most important benefit I have gleaned from ARTRR.

Ayn Rand as a Student at Petrograd State University

The new edition of ARTRR includes three appendices relating to Rand’s college education and the results of Sciabarra’s efforts to find, preserve and understand the historical facts of Ayn Rand’s introduction to philosophy as a student in Russia. Without Sciabarra’s efforts, this valuable information would otherwise have been lost.  This benefit of Sciabarra’s work is clearly priceless.

The Contention of “Open” Objectivism

The concept of objectivism refers to a number of loosely defined philosophical attitudes that say that reality is real and consists of everything outside of the mind.  The earlier manifestations of objectivism lack any cohesive theory or prominent theoretician.

No one is claiming that the concept of objectivism is closed – all concepts are open ended, as Rand herself pointed out. But Rand’s Objectivism is her specific work product. The law protects Rand’s work product under copyright until it comes into public domain.

By capitalizing the term for her system, Ayn Rand made Objectivism her “brand.” When modern scholars refer to “open” Objectivism, they refer specifically to the philosophy of Ayn Rand.

For example, none of the admirers of Ayn Rand, including those favoring “open” objectivism would confuse Rand’s philosophy with “logical objectivism.” This is the idea that logical truth does not depend upon the contents of human ideas but exists independent of human ideas. The independence of ideas from the humans who have them is a variant of Platonism, which Rand rejected.

Webster’s dictionary defines “objectivism” as “any of various theories asserting the validity of objective phenomena over subjective experience.”  The American Heritage Dictionary goes somewhat further: “One of several doctrines holding that all reality is objective and external to the mind and that knowledge is reliably based on observed objects and events.”

In sum, I believe that Sciabarra comes down on the wrong side of the question of “Open” Objectivism when he declares Rand’s philosophy open.

However, the question is moot.  The genuine concern should be to answer the question of what will happen to Ayn Rand’s Objectivism when the copyright runs out.

Ayn Rand died in 1982, but her work lives on and her reputation is growing. How will history remember her? Will philosophy absorb Objectivism into the miscellany of variations purporting to be reality based, but actually founded on Platonic or Kantian principles? Will philosophy succeed in burying Objectivism entirely? Will Objectivism supplant the all the other objectivist theories and capture the ivory citadel as well as the culture?

In Conclusion

In the space of this review, my intention was to convey to the reader a taste of the immense context-expanding value I found in ARTRR.

Chris Matthew Sciabarra has rewarded me with a refined sense of the enormity of the task before us. Truly, despite my sometimes harsh sounding criticisms, I believe that Sciabarra, like myself is working and living by Ayn Rand’s principles, and has come not to bury her, but to praise her.

Independent thought and spirited discussion will be crucial elements in spreading Ayn Rand’s Objectivism to philosophy qua philosophy. Infighting, passion and controversy can be great incentives for the next generations to expand on philosophy’s unanswered questions.

Why the crisis of our age is not a moral crisis

In The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand had gotten as deep as collectivism, the political result of altruism.  In Atlas Shrugged, she had gotten further and named altruism as the core anti-concept behind collectivism.

But to me, when I read Anthem, written in “the dark ages of the future,” as the book jacket above proclaims,  the genuine cause was most evident, even though it is not specifically named. For years this question haunted me: if altruism is so evil and the moral is the practical, what deeper mistake sustains altruism?

Answer: The refusal to face reality.

I have to admit, I didn’t get it the first time.

In Anthem, only Equality 7-2521 faces reality consistently and without fear. Rand’s opening words, “It is a sin to write this….” tells you immediately that the issue is not morality, but something deeper.

In other words, the hero, Equality 7–2521 is ignoring the sin (the morality he has been taught) because he knows something else is more important and contradicts it (reality). The story of Anthem is a coming-of-age story in which the morality of altruism is rejected because it contradicts real-world observations.

He discovers the nature of the contradiction when he re-invents electric light and tries to share its inestimable benefit with society and is forced to flee for his life.

From the point of view of human epistemology, Rand named three axioms in ITOE¹: existence, consciousness and identity. Something exists. It can be apprehended by consciousness. It has a nature.

However, when all three are named as axioms from the point of human consciousness, it is easy to make the same mistake that collectivists and altruists make: that the first two axioms are simultaneous, and the third is the product of applying the second to the first.

In reality, the nature of any thing in existence depends on existence — whether consciousness exists to identify it or not.

There is built up in human cultures world-wide the inability to acknowledge that the unknown and the unknowable are legitimate concepts which act as place holders for missing information because infallibility, omniscience and omnipotence is given to nothing and no one.

Instead people pretend to know, convince themselves and others that they do know, and spill oceans of blood to protect themselves from finding out that they don’t know. It is for this reason that I came to believe that the crisis of our age is deeper than the moral problem of altruism. It is actually an existential problem.

The Enlightenment was the period in human history when Man came closest to conquering his fears and fantasies. Kant is usually thought of as an Enlightenment philosopher, but he was the first of the anti-Enlightenment.

When you affirm A = A, that is an existential affirmation. When you say A = non-A, at the same time and in the same respect, that is a contradiction you can hold in your head only. To fail to resolve a contradiction is to embrace an error in thinking. To embrace an error in thinking is to hold emotion (fantasy or fear) above reality. To hold emotion as the controller of your mental processes is to abandon your nature as a rational being, your outlook as an efficacious being, and your potential as a happy being.

The problem of our age is existential, and until Objectivists recognize and focus on the fact that the existential mistake is the source of the power of altruism over people, I think we will continue to endure frustration and disappointment.

¹Ayn Rand. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology.  The Objectivist. New York. 1973.

Hello world!

Ilene Skeen

If you often feel that you know a whole bunch of stuff, but have trouble putting things together so you can act with confidence, you’ve come to the right place.

With me, you’ll do a lot of thinking about ideas, history, yourself and winning your place in the world.  My hope is to excite you to empower yourself to go after the good life with all the drive, dedication and energy you can muster.

The benefit to you will be an exciting,  fruitful and productive life — a life of which you can be justly proud.

I can only call things as I see them and understand them. I promise to do my best.

Coming Soon  

I believe in starting things from the beginning. For humans, life is the beginning and the philosophy of a happy, productive life begins with absolute knowledge of what life is.