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Social Democrat vs. Objectivist. Sparks Fly.

Take a social democrat and an Objectivist. Give them a couple of hours to discuss their views on life and society. The result?

An illuminating, often fiery, conversation.

That’s what happened when Yaron Brook, chairman of the Ayn Rand Institute’s board, appeared on the widely syndicated The David Pakman Show.

Partly an interview, partly a debate, the conversation between Brook and Pakman begins with an overview of Ayn Rand’s philosophy. Objectivism, Brook explains, is a philosophy of reason and individualism. In the following three episodes of the series, they clash over questions such as “Is capitalism moral?,” “Should we have welfare programs?” and “Does pure capitalism work?” Much to his credit, Pakman engages seriously with Brook’s arguments, raising numerous challenges and objections throughout.

The conversation is particularly illuminating because, while much of the discussion is on political-economic issues — regulation, welfare programs, “cronyism” — it becomes evident that these concrete disagreements stem from something deeper. They stem from contrasting premises about human nature and what is morally right and morally wrong.

Among the topics Brook and Pakman discuss:

  • How Objectivism compares with Nietzsche’s philosophy and with Existentialism
  • Why “corporate power” (or economic power) differs fundamentally from political power
  • Why it’s the freer, capitalist elements in society — rather than regulations and welfare — that enable prosperity
  • How to make sense of the debate around “economic inequality”
  • Why the fundamental enabler of “cronyism” is an unlimited government, not the rise of “money in politics”
  • What factors led to the Trump phenomenon

One upshot of the Brook-Pakman conversation is putting in focus how Objectivism differs sharply, not only from social democratic views, but also from libertarian and conservative perspectives.

Watch the four-part conversation here:


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Elan Journo

Elan Journo is a senior fellow and vice president of content at the Ayn Rand Institute. His books include Illuminating Ayn Rand (2022), Failing to Confront Islamic Totalitarianism: What Went Wrong After 9/11 (2021) and What Justice Demands: America and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (2018). Elan is a senior editor of New Ideal.

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