Objectivist Summer Conference

I was surprised that so many people were interested in
learning all about the Objectivist
Summer Conference
I attended from July 5 to 17, and now that I’m finally home and my blog is working properly, it’s time
to spill the beans.

I went to the conference as a “working scholar” — which
meant that I went free in exchange for helping to run the conference. The work involved setting up rooms, making
sure the other participants had passes to the events, and generally being an
errand boy. A pretty
deal considering that the full cost probably exceeds my annual

I arrived in LA on the fifth and paid an outrageous amount
to drive to the resort where
it was being held. The place was very
nice, with great facilities all around and the best breakfast I have ever
had. The only problem was that a lunch at
the hotel cost the equivalent of a normal five-course dinner with lobster, so I
often took a cab into town with the other working scholars to try out the local
cuisine instead.

On to the actual conference.
The general attitude I held during the conference can best be described
as “shock and awe.” As I walked down to lobby
on my way to the first lecture, I casually passed by Yaron Brook, president of
ARI, Dr. Gary Hull, whose lecture was my first introduction to Objectivism, Dr.
John Ridpath, Dr. Andrew Bernstein, and Dr. Edwin Locke,
all philosophers and lecturers whom I had been reading for the last three years. Then, if I weren’t
dazed enough as it was, I heard and saw a lecture on sculpture by Mary Ann Sures, who knew Ayn Rand for many years.

The daily schedule I followed basically went like this: I
would get up around seven for breakfast and usually meet fellow Objectivists
from all over the world in the process, and then run to set up for my 8:30
week-long class. At ten, I would listen
to the first general lecture, and then go to lunch with some of my fellow working
scholars. After lunch, I would attend
the second general lecture, followed by two more week-long
classes. After the classes, we would either have the evening off, or some planned event, such as
a banquet, a discussion panel, or a Q&A session. At night, the college-age group would get
together to play parlor games (balderdash, mafia, cards, etc) stop by the bar,
or go out to town. Sometime after midnight, I would come back and collapse into
bed exhausted and eager for the next day.

The quality of the general lectures and week-long
classes varied widely, but all of them certainly exceeded the usual mindless
garbage I was used to as a liberal arts undergrad. Where I could choose optional classes, I went
for anything related to economic and ethical issues, and not surprisingly,
those were my favorite topics. Here are
some of lectures I liked best: “Vanderbilt
and American Free Enterprise” by Eric Daniels, “Capitalism: The System of the
Mind” by Andrew Bernstein, “The 19th-Century
Atomic War” by David Harriman, and one that I disagreed with but
found fascinating: “The Cause and Consequence of the Great
Depression” by Richard Salsman. Also notable was “Nietzsche and the Nihilism
of Our Times” by John Ridpath, which reminded me of an
essay I wrote a year ago called “The
Virtues of our Time: Collectivism, Nihilism and
.” Of the classes I took,
my favorites were “Refuting the Moral Accusations Against
Capitalism” by Dr Bernstein and “Aristotle as Ethicist” by Greg Salmieri. Greg btw,
is not only a budding philosopher, but plays
the blues
like a pro, as I witnessed for myself.

Overall, the information presented at the conference served
to integrate my current knowledge of Objectivism, fill in many gaps, and
provide the factual and historical context necessary to connect the abstract concepts
I have been learning to reality.

The most complex and
information-packed lectures were Dr. Peikoff’s lectures
on Induction, which I found to be an exhaustive but thoroughly enjoyable
experience. I have to admit that I
lacked to proper background to properly understand much
of the material he presented, and will have to wait for the tapes or book to
more fully grasp that fascinating subject.
The sleep deprivation I experienced throughout the conference certainly didn’t help, so I compensated by consuming massive amounts
of hard candies to keep the blood flowing to my brain.

What else? Well, the other working scholars were fellow college
students, and since most of them were leaders of their own campus Objectivist clubs,
we used the occasion to discuss strategy, plans, and the hostility Objectivist
groups faced on college campuses. Some
of them had the fortune to go to Duke, which is not only top five in philosophy,
but has not one but two prominent Objectivist professors teaching
classes with overwhelming demand from students and support from the
administration (backed up by large donations) — despite strong opposition by
the philosophy department. Others went
to the University of Toronto,
which has an Objectivist Club of 250+ members, (from the general area)
publishes its own newspaper, and regularly hosts prominent speakers. Yet others went to school in Belgium,
where openly advocating capitalism or Objectivism on campus can easily get you
beat up or even expelled. Overall, I
felt fortunate that local campus opposition to my club is restricted to tearing
down and writing on fliers rather than burning them and rejecting student
organization status.

In sum, the conference was an awesome experience, and the most
relaxing, educational, and intensive two weeks of my life. I should add that I loved the location as
well, and would love to live in southern California
someday, especially if Gray Davis loses the recall. The beaches and eateries around Santa
Monica were great despite the nanny lifeguards who
went after me for swimming too far out, and the annoying pedestrian lights that
interrupted my beachside experience with their loud beeping. You can check out the photos I took here.

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0 Responses to Objectivist Summer Conference

  1. Why did you disagree with Salsman’s analysis of the Great Depression? Did he focus on the Austrian causes (credit bubbles), monetarist causes (Fed screwed up by violating gold standard), or supply-side causes (taxes, sticky markets due to regulations)? Please elaborate.

  2. See my post at the ObjectivismOnline forum for my explanation.

  3. Bevo

    I heard that you went out drinking with Mike, Keenan, and Robert Garmong, and that Mike lost his flip flops. Did he finally chase them down? Oh and you never answered the question from RadCap: “how does one swing a position as ‘working scholar’ anyway?”

  4. Yes, Mike found his sandals.
    To get a working scholar position, you have to be an OAC student. On top of that, I had to apply to ARI and submit a few essays and such.

    Now, who are you?? (My trusty net-sniffing bloodhounds got lost around marketscore.)

  5. Bevo

    Mike knows me. Ask him.

  6. Elle

    Ran into your blog on a random search for reviews of the Objectivist Conference. This may not reach you at all, buy I enjoyed hearing from someone who’s been to one (I’m planning on going to the one being held in Virginia this coming summer). I was wondering how the atmosphere was for students (as I’m 19) and whether or not there were very many in the 18 to 25 demographic.

    Take care,
    Elle Clark
    [email protected]

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