Thai Royal Navy Seizes Tiny Floating Galt’s Gulch

(p. A1) American software engineer Chad Elwartowski thought he had found the perfect refuge from the long arm of meddlesome, overbearing governments. It was a home floating in the turquoise waters far off the coasts of Thailand and Indonesia.

Last year, he joined a project that built an octagonal fiberglass pod and mounted it atop a floating steel spar that reached 65 feet down into the ocean, like a giant keel.

It was to be a place for people to gather and live by their own rules, he said, beyond the jurisdiction of any government. “I was free for a moment,” he wrote on his Facebook page after settling in with his girlfriend in March. “Probably the freest person in the world.”

Not anymore. He and his (p. A8) girlfriend, Supranee Thepdet, are in hiding on dry land after the Royal Thai Navy said their nautical haven was within Thai jurisdiction and accused them of trying to set up their own micro-nation. Last Monday, a utility ship towed the abandoned seastead to shore as evidence. Police say they are figuring out whether to request an arrest warrant for endangering Thai sovereignty—which potentially carries the death penalty.

The concept of a seastead—a homestead at sea—is a popular one in libertarian and cryptocurrency circles. Mr. Elwartowski, 46 years old, described it in a YouTube video as the closest he could get to the secret enclave cut off from the rest of society depicted in Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged.”

For the full story, see:

James Hookway. “Libertarian Nirvana at Sea Runs Into an Opponent: the Thai Navy.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, April 29, 2019): A1 & A8.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 28, 2019, and the title “A Libertarian Nirvana at Sea Runs Into a Stubborn Opponent: the Thai Navy.”)

The Ayn Rand novel mentioned above, is:

Rand, Ayn. Atlas Shrugged. New York: Random House, 1957.

“Rand’s Entrepreneur Is the Promethean Hero of Capitalism”

(p. B1) Few, if any, literary philosophers have had as much influence on American business and politics as Ayn Rand, especially now that Donald J. Trump occupies the White House.

President Trump named Rand his favorite writer and “The Fountainhead” his favorite novel. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson has cited “Atlas Shrugged” as a favorite work, and the C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo, said the book “really had an impact on me.”

. . .

(p. B2) In business, Rand’s influence has been especially pronounced in Silicon Valley, where her overarching philosophy that “man exists for his own sake, that the pursuit of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose, that he must not sacrifice himself to others, nor sacrifice others to himself,” as she described it in a 1964 Playboy interview, has an obvious appeal for self-made entrepreneurs. Last year Vanity Fair anointed her the most influential figure in the technology industry, surpassing Steve Jobs.

. . .

“Rand’s entrepreneur is the Promethean hero of capitalism,” said Lawrence E. Cahoone, professor of philosophy at the College of the Holy Cross, whose lecture on Rand is part of his Great Courses series, “The Modern Political Tradition.” “But she never really explores how a dynamic entrepreneur actually runs a business.”

. . .

“Mention Ayn Rand to a group of academic philosophers and you’ll get laughed out of the room,” Mr. Cahoone said. “But I think there’s something to be said for Rand. She takes Nietzschean individualism to an extreme, but she’s undeniably inspirational.”

As the mysterious character John Galt proclaims near the end of “Atlas Shrugged”: “Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it’s yours.”

For the full commentary, see:

James B. Stewart. “COMMON SENSE; Tough Times For Disciples Of Ayn Rand.” The New York Times (Friday, July 14, 2017): B1-B2.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date July 13, 2017, and has the title “COMMON SENSE; As a Guru, Ayn Rand May Have Limits. Ask Travis Kalanick.”)

Ayn Rand’s magnum opus, quoted above, is:

Rand, Ayn. Atlas Shrugged. New York: Random House, 1957.

Are We “Made of Sugar Candy”?

(p. 11) Less a conventional history than an extended polemic, “Capitalism in America: A History,” by Greenspan and Adrian Wooldridge, a columnist and editor for The Economist, explores and ultimately celebrates the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter’s concept of “creative destruction,” which the authors describe as a “perennial gale” that “uproots businesses — and lives — but that, in the process, creates a more productive economy.”

. . .

. . . , Greenspan’s admiration for the rugged individualists who populate the novels of Ayn Rand (who merits a nod in this history) and the frontier spirit that animated America’s early development shows no sign of weakening as Greenspan has aged. He and Wooldridge lament that Americans are “losing the rugged pioneering spirit” that once defined them and mock the “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces” that now obsess academia.

The authors quote Winston Churchill: “We have not journeyed across the centuries, across the oceans, across the mountains, across the prairies, because we are made of sugar candy.” But now, they conclude, “sugar candy people are everywhere.”

Their prescription for American renewal — reining in entitlements, instituting fiscal responsibility and limited government, deregulating, focusing on education and opportunity, and above all fostering a fierceness in the face of creative destruction — was Republican orthodoxy not so long ago. Before the Great Recession it was embraced by most Democrats as well, and more recently by President Bill Clinton, the recipient of glowing praise in these pages.

No longer. “Capitalism in America,” in both its interpretation of economic history and its recipe for revival, is likely to offend the dominant Trump wing of the Republican Party and the resurgent left among Democrats. It’s not clear who, if anyone, will pick up the Greenspan torch.

For the full review, see:

James B. Stewart. “Creative Destruction.” The New York Times Book Review (Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018): 11.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Nov. 2, 2018, and has the title “Alan Greenspan’s Ode to Creative Destruction.”)

The book under review, is:

Greenspan, Alan, and Adrian Wooldridge. Capitalism in America: A History. New York: Penguin Press, 2018.

“Progress Isn’t Made by Looking in the Rearview Mirror”

(p. A9) Even in death, Donald Panoz defied convention. His family reported that Mr. Panoz, 83 years old, died of pancreatic cancer Sept. 11 [2018] at his home in Duluth, Ga., after he “enjoyed his last cigarette.”
The red-haired entrepreneur, an apostle of Ayn Rand, founded Elan Corp., which developed technology used in nicotine skin patches used to wean people from cigarettes.
. . .
“I never become hostage to anything I do,” he told the Atlanta paper. “Progress isn’t made by looking in the rearview mirror.”
. . .
His partner in founding Mylan, Milan “Mike” Puskar, once summed up Mr. Panoz this way: “There’s nothing college could have taught him. Don has vision, and you can’t teach vision. He’s not a technical person, but he’s a master salesman. He always wanted to know: Why not?”
Donald Eugene Panoz (pronounced PAY-nose) was born Feb. 13, 1935, in Alliance, Ohio, and grew up in West Virginia and Pittsburgh.
. . .
Mr. Panoz . . . moved his family to Ireland in 1969 to set up Elan, whose research projects included delivery of medicine via skin patches. He chose Ireland partly because it offered lower taxes and less red tape. Elan initially was known for reformulating medicines developed by other companies and later pursued research on drugs for multiple sclerosis and other diseases.
. . .
His business successes, he told the Scotsman newspaper in 2002, were “just about being able to recognize an opportunity.” He added: “We’ve had plenty of failures, too. We just don’t talk about them. It’s best to leave them behind.”
. . .
In line with his libertarian leanings, Mr. Panoz gave out copies of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” to his children and many others.

For the full obituary, see:
James R. Hagerty. “‘Restless Entrepreneur Founded Elan and Mylan.” The New York Times (Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018): A9.
(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)
(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date Sept. 28, 2018, and has the title “‘Don Panoz Hopped From Pharmaceuticals to Wine, Resorts and Race Cars; Entrepreneur helped found Mylan and built Elan before setting up a winery and resort in northern Georgia.” The passages above, after the word “mirror,” appear in the online, but not in the print, version of the obituary.)

The novel by Ayn Rand, mentioned above, is:
Rand, Ayn. Atlas Shrugged. New York: Random House, 1957.

A Dinner to Remember

(p. 6) The economist Dambisa Moyo, author most recently of “Edge of Chaos,” loves Agatha Christie’s “detestable, bombastic, tiresome, egocentric little creep” Hercule Poirot.
. . .
You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?
1) Vikram Seth, the economist turned novelist. His “A Suitable Boy” remains one of my all-time favorite books. 2) Ayn Rand, the philosopher and novelist. I am drawn to her irreverence — a woman ahead of her time. 3) Maya Angelou, the poet who penned “Still I Rise” and “Phenomenal Woman” … enough said.

For the full interview, see:

Dambisa Moyo. “‘BY THE BOOK; Dambisa Moyo.” The New York Times Book Review (Sunday, April 29, 2018): 6.

(Note: ellipsis between sentences added; ellipsis internal to sentence, and bold question, in original.)
(Note: the online version of the interview has the date April 26, 2018. The first sentence and the bold question are by the unnamed writer-interviewer. The answer after the bold question is by Moyo.)

Moyo’s book, mentioned above, is:
Moyo, Dambisa. Edge of Chaos: Why Democracy Is Failing to Deliver Economic Growth, and How to Fix It. New York: Basic Books, 2018.

Kid Paid $100,000 to Skip College and Mine Asteroids

(p. 18) As I sat down for lunch at a restaurant in Los Angeles, I placed a copy of “Valley of the Gods,” by Alexandra Wolfe, on the table, and a waitress walking by stopped to peer at the cover. . . .
“It’s about Silicon Valley,” I began. “It follows this young kid, John Burnham, who gets paid $100,000 by this weird billionaire guy, Peter Thiel, whom you’ve probably heard of; he’s a big Trump supporter and spoke at the Republican National Convention?” — a blank stare from the waitress. “Anyway, Thiel pays him (and a bunch of other kids) to forgo college so Burnham can mine asteroids, but he doesn’t actually end up mining the asteroids and. . . .”
. . .
The book begins with the protagonist, Burnham (or antagonist, depending whose side you’re on), who isn’t old enough to drink yet but is debating dropping out of college to follow the Pied Piper of libertarian and contrarian thinking, Peter Thiel, to Silicon Valley. As Wolfe chronicles, Thiel, who has a degree from Stanford University and largely credits where he is today (a billionaire) to his time at that school, started the Thiel Fellowship, in 2011, which awards $100,000 to 20 people under 20 years old to say no to M.I.T., Stanford or, in Burnham’s case, the University of Massachusetts, to pursue an Ayn Randian dream of disrupting archetypal norms.
It won’t be giving away the ending by pointing out that it doesn’t end well for Burnham.

For the full review, see:
NICK BILTON. “Denting the Universe.” The New York Times Book Review (Sunday, FEB. 19, 2017): 18.
(Note: ellipsis at end of second paragraph, in original; other two, added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date FEB. 14, 2017, and has the title “Pet Projects of the New Billionaires.”)

The book under review, is:
Wolfe, Alexandria. Valley of the Gods: A Silicon Valley Story. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017.

Libertarian Lessons from the “Little House”

(p. C25) Nothing about Laura Ingalls’s birth to a modest Wisconsin family on Feb. 7, 1867, suggested she would become one of the most significant voices in the canon of the American frontier. A century and a half later, the contribution Laura Ingalls Wilder made still seems astonishing — a fact not lost on her publisher. As a new anniversary-themed batch of “Little House on the Prairie” books rolled in this fall — with homespun-looking covers and introductions by luminaries including Laura Bush and Patricia MacLachlan (author of the gentle Newbery Medal-winning novel “Sarah, Plain and Tall”) — I found myself plunging back into the “Little House” world I’d loved as a child, with a strange feeling of urgency.
. . .
“Little House in the Big Woods” was published in 1932, when Laura was 65 and Rose, her only child, was long divorced, an accomplished, but increasingly broke journalist and author. Rose Wilder Lane had lost both her own money and money she invested for her parents in the 1929 stock market crash, and they were scrounging by, with Almanzo hauling loads and Laura selling eggs and apples and writing occasional pieces about farm life.
Out of desperation Rose suggested that her mother write down the stories of her pioneer childhood, heavily revised the resulting manuscript and found a publisher. In the rest of the books, as well, she provided substantial editing. Some historians insist that Rose — who later became an outspoken antigovernment polemicist and is called one of the godmothers of the libertarian movement, along with Ayn Rand — should be considered the books’ ghostwriter. Christine Woodside’s recent book, “Libertarians on the Prairie,” makes this case, cataloging libertarian messages Rose embedded in the books. (Some are overt: “The politicians are a-swarming in already,” says one character in “The Long Winter.” “They’ll tax the lining out’n a man’s pockets,” he cries. “I don’t see nary use for a county, nohow.”)

For the full commentary, see:
MARIA RUSSO. “READER’S NOTEBOOK; A ‘Little House’ Tinged with Red and Blue.” The New York Times (Fri., FEB. 10, 2017): C25.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date FEB. 7, 2017, and has the title “READER’S NOTEBOOK; Finding America, Both Red and Blue, in the ‘Little House’ Books.”)

Woodside’s book, mentioned above, is:
Woodside, Christine. Libertarians on the Prairie: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Rose Wilder Lane, and the Making of the Little House Books. New York: Arcade Publishing, 2016.