Tag Archives | Left-Libertarian
I’m at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, speaking to the Society of Undergraduate Philosophers about Eudaimonistic Approaches to Libertarianism on Thursday, and to the Students for a Stateless Society about Robert Nozick, Class Struggle, and Free-Market Socialism on Friday.
Here are the powerpoint slides for my presentation at the AERC this past weekend, “Surrogacy Contracts and Inalienable Rights: A Rothbardian Analysis.”
In The Fountainhead, Rand offers a satirical description of an architectural costume party:
That winter the annual costume Arts Ball was an event of greater brilliance and originality than usual. Athelstan Beasely, the leading spirit of its organization, had had what he called a stroke of genius: all the architects were invited to come dressed as their best buildings. It was a huge success.
Peter Keating was the star of the evening. He looked wonderful as the Cosmo-Slotnick Building. An exact papier-mâché replica of his famous structure covered him from head to knees; one could not see his face, but his bright eyes peered from behind the windows of the top floor, and the crowning pyramid of the roof rose over his head; the colonnade hit him somewhere about the diaphragm, and he wagged a finger through the portals of the great entrance door. His legs were free to move with his usual elegance, in faultless dress trousers and patent-leather pumps.
Guy Francon was very impressive as the Frink National Bank Building, although the structure looked a little squatter than in the original, in order to allow for Francon’s stomach; the Hadrian torch over his head had a real electric bulb lit by a miniature battery. Ralston Holcombe was magnificent as a state capitol, and Gordon L. Prescott was very masculine as a grain elevator. Eugene Pettingill waddled about on his skinny, ancient legs, small and bent, an imposing Park Avenue hotel, with horn-rimmed spectacles peering from under the majestic tower. Two wits engaged in a duel, butting each other in the belly with famous spires, great landmarks of the city that greet the ships approaching from across the ocean. Everybody had lots of fun.
Many of the architects, Athelstan Beasely in particular, commented resentfully on Howard Roark who had been invited and did not come. They had expected to see him dressed as the Enright House. (Fountainhead, II.11)
Rand’s account was based on an actual historical incident that she recorded in her journals while working on the novel:
The Beaux-Arts Ball (January 23, 1931) where famous architects wore costumes representing one of their buildings. “Human Skyline for Beaux-Arts Ball.” … Note the little guy with the glasses peering through a hole in his headpiece – the Waldorf-Astoria. (Journals of Ayn Rand, p. 160)
Here, presumably, is the photo Rand saw:
(CHT Jesse Walker.)
I’ve gotta say, the Chrysler Building guy is cheating. Hat aside, his costume looks less like a building than like some sort of actual and rather snazzy clothing.
At a mass meeting, thought is eliminated. And because this is the state of mind I require, because it secures to me the best sounding-board for my speeches, I order everyone to attend the meetings, where they become part of the mass whether they like it or not, “intellectuals” and bourgeois as well as workers. I mingle the people. I speak to them only as the mass.
— Adolf Hitler
No witness for the truth dare become engaged with the crowd. The witness for the truth – who naturally has nothing to do with politics and must above everything else be most vigilantly on the watch not to be confounded with the politician – the God-fearing work of the witness to the truth is to engage himself if possible with all, but always individually, talking to everyone severally on the streets and lanes, in order to disintegrate the crowd – or to talk even to the crowd, though not with the intent of educating the crowd as such, but rather with the hope that one or another individual might return from this assemblage and become a single individual.
— Søren Kierkegaard
Unfortunately, the Hitler quote is from Rauschning’s Conversations With Hitler (a.k.a. The Voice of Destruction a.k.a. Hitler Speaks), which means its authenticity is fairly dubious. Still a nice pair of quotes though.
That Ayn Rand was a fan of Louis Sullivan is no secret; the character of Henry Cameron in The Fountainhead is obviously based on him, and she speaks favourably of his Autobiography of an Idea in her introduction to We the Living.
What’s less seldom recognised is just how closely Rand was indebted to Sullivan’s autobiography – as well as to Claude Bragdon’s introduction to that work. In what follows, then, I’ve paired Rand’s descriptions of Cameron’s ideas and career in The Fountainhead with the corresponding passages from Sullivan and Bragdon:
He held the conviction that no architectural dictum, or tradition, or superstition, or habit, should stand in the way of realizing an honest architecture, based on well-defined needs and useful purposes: the function determining the form, the form expressing the function. …
He said only that the form of a building must follow its function; that the structure of a building is the key to its beauty; that new methods of construction demand new forms ….
|Louis Sullivan has the distinction of having been, perhaps, the first squarely to face the expressional problem of the steel-framed skyscraper and to deal with it honestly and logically. … To him the tallness of the skyscraper was not an embarrassment, but an inspiration – the force of altitude must be in it; it must be a proud and soaring thing, without a dissenting line from bottom to top. Accordingly, flushed with a fine creative frenzy, he flung upward his tiers and disposed his windows as necessity, not tradition, demanded, making the masonry appear what it had in fact become – a shell, a casing merely, the steel skeleton being sensed, so to speak, like bones beneath their layer of flesh. Then, over it all, he wove a web of beautiful ornament – flowers and frost, delicate as lace and strong as steel. …||
The explosion came with the birth of the skyscraper. …. Henry Cameron was among the first to understand this new miracle and to give it form. He was among the first and the few who accepted the truth that a tall building must look tall. While architects cursed, wondering how to make a twenty-story building look like an old brick mansion, while they used every horizontal device available in order to cheat it of its height, shrink it down to tradition, hide the shame of its steel, make it small, safe and ancient – Henry Cameron designed skyscrapers in straight, vertical lines, flaunting their steel and height. …
It was deemed fitting by all the people that the four hundredth anniversary of the discovery of America by one Christopher Columbus, should be celebrated by a great World Exposition …. Chicago was ripe and ready for such an undertaking. … It was to be called The White City by the Lake. … The landscape work, in its genial distribution of lagoons, wooded islands, lawns, shrubbery and plantings, did much to soften an otherwise mechanical display ….
The Columbian Exposition of Chicago opened in the year 1893.
The Rome of two thousand years ago rose on the shores of Lake Michigan, a Rome improved by pieces of France, Spain, Athens and every style that followed it. It was a “Dream City” of columns, triumphal arches, blue lagoons, crystal fountains and popcorn. Its architects competed on who could steal best, from the oldest source and from the most sources at once. It spread before the eyes of a new country every structural crime ever committed in all the old ones. …
|The work completed, the gates thrown open 1 May, 1893, the crowds flowed in from every quarter …. These crowds were astonished. … They went away, spreading again over the land, returning to their homes, each one of them carrying in the soul the shadow of the white cloud, each of them permeated by the most subtle and slow-acting of poisons …. Thus they departed joyously, carriers of contagion …. There came a violent outbreak of the Classic and the Renaissance in the East, which slowly spread westward, contaminating all that it touched, both at its source and outward …. through a process of vaccination with the lymph of every known European style, period and accident …. We have Tudor for colleges and residences; Roman for banks, and railway stations and libraries, or Greek if you like – some customers prefer the Ionic to the Doric. …||
It was white as a plague, and it spread as such.
People came, looked, were astounded, and carried away with them, to the cities of America, the seeds of what they had seen. The seeds sprouted into weeds; into shingled post offices with Doric porticos, brick mansions with iron pediments, lofts made of twelve Parthenons piled on top of one another. The weeds grew and choked everything else. …
Nor is Sullivan’s influence confined to The Fountainhead. His remark later in the autobiography that the natural man “reverses the dictum ‘I think: Therefore I am.’ It becomes in him, I am: Therefore
I inquire and do! It is this affirmative ‘I AM’ that is man’s reality” anticipates both Prometheus’s discovery in Anthem – “I am. I think. I will. … What must I say besides?” and John Galt’s advice in Atlas Shrugged, “reversing a costly historical error, to declare: I am, therefore I’ll think.”