The Ayn Rand Institute: The Center for the Advancement of Objectivism, commonly known as the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI), is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit think tank in Irvine, California that promotes Objectivism, the philosophy developed by Ayn Rand. Its stated goal is to “spearhead a cultural renaissance that will reverse the anti-reason, anti-individualism, anti-freedom, anti-capitalist trends in today’s culture”. The organization was established in 1985, three years after Rand’s death, by Ed Snider and Leonard Peikoff, Rand’s legal heir. Jim Brown is the CEO of ARI, succeeding Yaron Brook as its operational executive in January 2017.
ARI has several educational and outreach programs, which include providing intellectuals for public appearances, supporting Objectivist campus clubs, supplying Rand’s writings to schools and professors, assisting overseas Objectivist institutions, organizing annual conferences, and running the Objectivist Academic Center.
During her lifetime, Rand helped establish The Foundation for the New Intellectual to promote Objectivist ideas. The Foundation was dissolved some 15 years after her death, having been made redundant by the Ayn Rand Institute. Although Rand objected to Objectivism becoming an organized movement, she supported like-minded individuals working toward a common goal. Peikoff, her legal heir, was convinced to start the organization after businessman Ed Snider organized a meeting of possible financial supporters in New York in the fall of 1983. Peikoff also agreed to be the first chairman of the organization’s board of directors.
In 1983, a group of Objectivists, including George Reisman, organized the Jefferson School of Philosophy, Economics, and Politics. The Jefferson School held a two-week-long conference at the University of California, San Diego later that year, a conference which continued to occur every two years and is the predecessor of ARI’s current annual Objectivist Conference.
ARI began operations on February 1, 1985, three years after Rand’s death, in Marina del Rey, California. The first board of directors included Snider and psychologist Edith Packer. Snider was also one of the founding donors for the organization, along with educational entrepreneur Carl Barney. Its first executive director was Michael Berliner, who was previously the chairman of the Department of Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education at California State University, Northridge. ARI also established a board of governors, which initially included Harry Binswanger, Robert Hessen, Edwin Locke, Arthur Mode, George Reisman, Jay Snider, and Mary Ann Sures, with Peter Schwartz as its chairman. M. Northrup Buechner and George Walsh joined the board of advisors shortly thereafter.
ARI’s first two projects were aimed at students. One was developing a network of college clubs to study Objectivism. The other was a college scholarship contest for high-school students based on writing an essay about Rand’s novel The Fountainhead. Later, additional essay contests were added based on Anthem, We the Living, and Atlas Shrugged. In 1988, ARI began publishing Impact, a newsletter for contributors.
In 1989, a philosophical dispute resulted in ARI ending its association with philosopher David Kelley. Some members of the board of advisors agreed with Kelley and also left, including George Walsh. Kelley subsequently founded his own competing institute now known as The Atlas Society, which remains critical of ARI’s stance on loyalty.
In 1994, ARI launched the Objectivist Graduate Center, which offered both distance-learning and in-person courses.
In January 2000, Berliner retired as executive director, replaced by Yaron Brook, then an assistant professor of finance at Santa Clara University. Onkar Ghate began working for ARI later that year, and ARI launched the Objectivist Academic Center.
In 2002, ARI moved from Marina del Rey to larger offices in Irvine, California.
In 2003, ARI launched the Anthem Fellowship for the Study of Objectivism, a fellowship that financially supports universities who have Objectivist professors.
Charity Navigator, which rates charitable and educational organizations to inform potential donors, gives ARI three out of four stars. According to the latest data from Charity Navigator, ARI spends 85.1% of its expenses on programs, 9.5% on fundraising, and 5.3% on administration. As of September 2016[update], ARI’s board of directors consists of Brook; Berliner (co-chair); Arline Mann (co-chair), retired attorney, formerly of Goldman, Sachs & Co.; Carl Barney, CEO of several private colleges; Harry Binswanger, long-time associate of Ayn Rand; Peter LePort, a surgeon in private practice; Tara Smith, professor of philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin; and John Allison, CEO of the Cato Institute and former CEO of BB&T.
Peikoff retains a cooperative and influential relationship with ARI. In 2006, he remarked that he approved of the work ARI has done and in November 2010 that the executive director “has done a splendid job.” Peikoff was a featured speaker at the 2007 and 2010 Objectivist Conferences. In August 2010, he demanded a change to ARI’s board of directors, resulting in the resignation of John McCaskey.
A central goal for ARI throughout the 2010s has been to spread Objectivism globally. ARI helped establish the Ayn Rand Center Israel in 2012, the Ayn Rand Institute Europe in 2015, and the Ayn Rand Center Japan in 2017. Each of these organizations are separate legal entities from the U.S.-based ARI but are affiliated with ARI.
In January 2017, ARI announced Jim Brown as its CEO, succeeding Yaron Brook as its operational executive.
In March 2018, ARI announced that Tal Tsfany, co-founder of the Ayn Rand Center Israel, will take over as the president and CEO of ARI on June 29, 2018.
ARI runs a variety of programs, many of which are aimed at students. It sends free books to schools, sponsors student essay contests and campus clubs, and offers financial assistance to students applying to graduate school. It also has an online bookstore, offers internships for current and recently graduated college students, and provides speakers for public lectures and media appearances.
ARI organizes a week-long Objectivist Conference (OCON) each summer in a different city throughout the United States. OCON primarily consists of lectures, social events, and professional mentoring. Speakers have included ARI-affiliated Objectivists as well as like-minded intellectuals, such as Flemming Rose and Dave Rubin.
ARI also hosts a three-day Ayn Rand Student Conference (AynRandCon) each fall, aimed at college and graduate school students.
The Objectivist Academic Center (OAC) is an educational program that conducts online classes on Objectivism and related fields. Entry to the program requires admission after application, which requires college transcripts and admission essays. OAC does not offer college credits and is rather intended as a supplement to a college education.
In recent years, the Ayn Rand Institute has made a concerted effort to promote Objectivism globally. Institutions affiliated with ARI in countries outside the United States are separate legal entities.
In October 2012, ARI helped establish the Ayn Rand Center Israel (ARCI) to promote Objectivism in Israel and the Middle East. Its current director is Boaz Arad. In 2016, ARCI launched the Atlas Award for the Best Israeli Start-up, presented annually at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. Judges for the award include Yaron Brook and Shlomo Kalish. Moovit was the first recipient of the award in 2016, and Zebra Medical Vision won the award in 2017.
In April 2015, ARI helped establish the Ayn Rand Institute Europe to promote Objectivism in Europe. The current chairman of ARI Europe is Lars Seir Christensen, CEO and co-founder of Saxo Bank. In February 2017, ARI helped establish the Ayn Rand Center Japan. ARI has also helped establish Objectivist clubs at schools throughout the world, including in Mexico, Argentina, the United Kingdom, Bulgaria, India, and China.
ARI has also helped guide the independent Spain-based Objetivismo Internacional, which seeks to spread Objectivism in the Spanish-speaking world.
ARI promotes Objectivism, the philosophy developed by Ayn Rand. ARI sponsors writers and speakers who apply Objectivism to contemporary issues, including religion, politics, and art.
Since Objectivism advocates atheism, ARI promotes the separation of church and state, and its writers argue that the religious right poses a threat to individual rights. They have argued against displaying religious symbols, such as the Ten Commandments, in government facilities and against faith-based initiatives. ARI intellectuals argue that religion is incompatible with American ideals and opposes the teaching of “intelligent design” in public schools.
ARI is strongly supportive of free speech and opposes all forms of censorship, including laws that ban obscenity and hate speech. In response to the Muhammad cartoons controversy, ARI started a Free Speech Campaign in 2006. Steve Simpson, director of legal studies at ARI, has argued that campaign finance is a free speech issue and that laws that limit it are thus a violation of the First Amendment. Accordingly, Simpson and ARI strongly supports Citizens United.
ARI has taken many controversial positions with respect to the Muslim world. They hold that the motivation for Islamic terrorism comes from their religiosity, not poverty or a reaction to Western policies. They have urged that the U.S. use overwhelming, retaliatory force to “end states who sponsor terrorism”, using whatever means are necessary to end the threat. In his article “End States Who Sponsor Terrorism”, which was published as a full page ad in The New York Times, Peikoff wrote, “The choice today is mass death in the United States or mass death in the terrorist nations. Our Commander-In-Chief must decide whether it is his duty to save Americans or the governments who conspire to kill them.” Although some at ARI initially supported the invasion of Iraq, it has criticized how the Iraq War was handled. Since October 2, 2001, ARI has held that Iran should be the primary target in the war against “Islamic totalitarianism”.
ARI is generally supportive of Israel. Of Zionism, Yaron Brook writes, “Zionism fused a valid concern self-preservation amid a storm of hostility with a toxic premise ethnically based collectivism and religion.”
ARI is highly critical of environmentalism and animal rights, arguing that they are destructive to human well-being. ARI is also highly critical of diversity and affirmative action programs, as well as multiculturalism, arguing that they are based on racist premises that ignore the commonality of a shared humanity.
ARI supports women’s right to choose abortion, voluntary euthanasia, and assisted suicide.
ARI denounces neoconservatism in general. For example, C. Bradley Thompson wrote an article entitled “The Decline and Fall of American Conservatism”, which was later turned into the book, with Yaron Brook, Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea.
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Ayn Rand Institute – Wikipedia