Grants Get Ayn Rand's Ideas into Kentucky Universities

by ekramer on November 11, 2009

The late philosopher Ayn Rand advocated abolishing all forms of government intervention in the economy. And lately, she’s been in the spotlight — with reported sales spikes of her 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged and two new books out about her. But even before markets tumbled last October, the study of Rand had been getting attention from some Kentucky universities. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer reports.

One of Ayn Rand’s biggest fans recently spoke at the University of Louisville’s College of Business. BB&T bank chairman John Allison talked about philosophy and leadership. And he had this to say the ayn-randwriter.

“Ayn Rand is a modern philosopher. And I think her ideas are very powerful,” Allison says. “And I strongly recommend that people should read Atlas Shrugged. And I think it’s very relevant to what’s going on today.”

Allison’s visit came a year after the college announced it would receive a $1 million grant from the BB&T Charitable Foundation to offer a course and other events focused on capitalism and including Rand’s philosophy. It also went to purchase copies of Rand’s opus — Atlas Shrugged — for 44 students.

This semester, Professor Stephen Gohmann is teaching a new course called Capitalism and Economic Freedom.

“So, today we’re going to cover Rand,” he tells today’s class. “And one of the big parts of that first chapter we had to read was this moral meaning of capitalism.”

Students here don’t deal with numbers. They study philosophies — like those conceived by 17th century philosopher Thomas Hobbes; Adam Smith, whose Wealth of Nations was published in 1776; and, of course, Rand, who asserted that real freedom can exist only under capitalism.

Today, the students discuss Atlas Shrugged and Rand’s philosophy of objectivism. Both celebrate people guided by reason and who adhere to what Rand describes as a moral obligation to pursue self interest.

Ayn Rand in Class 012 for webHer ideas resonate with some students. Others, like Zachary Bartsch, find her ideas fuzzy, especially when she calls capitalism a moral system.

“Rand valued individualism, hard work and property rights as a morality,” he says, “whereas if somebody else values community and family and togetherness, communism might be a more moral choice for them.”

Gohmann asked the dean of the college of business about applying for the BB&T grant because of his own interest in Rand’s ideas. While, Rand is part of the class Gohmann’s created, so are works by Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx.

“In this class, I’m not trying to give any political point of view,” Gohmann says. “We’re just trying to look through different writings. I just think it’s interesting because when you do look at these extreme cases then students start thinking more about where we might really want to be or where they might really want to be.”

U of L isn’t the only school to receive such a grant. Since 2005, BB&T has given about $6 million to some 60 schools to endow teaching positions and require including Rand’s ideas in courses — sometimes in economics; other times in philosophy. The schools include Duke University, University of Texas at Austin and Kentucky’s Murray State University. It received $1 million this year and now offers economics and communications courses that include Rand.

Some critics say these grants are part of an ideological campaign that undermines academic freedom. In 2006, North Carolina’s Meredith College turned down BB&T money after some faculty objected.

Philip Altbach is a professor at Boston College who has written about higher education issues worldwide. He doesn’t support strings attached philanthropy.

“If the Ku Klux Klan wanted to endow a chair in race studies, there would be, needless to say, a lot of objections raised,” he says.

But Jennifer Burns doesn’t see a problem with the BB&T funding. She’s an assistant professor of history at the University of Virginia and author of the new book Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right.

Burns says today people see Rand’s influence in the work of business executives and policymakers, including former Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan. It naturally follows her ideas would be covered in the classroom.

“A whole host of conservative and libertarian and capitalist ideas are being included in curricula that weren’t before,” Burns says. “And students have become more sensitized to politics in the classroom and more interested in hearing a broad range of perspectives.”

Meanwhile, Philip Altbach says philanthropy that stipulates including specific ideas in curricula is likely limited, because it constitutes very little of university funding. However, other critics say they fear a rise in strings attached funding on college campuses.

Comments Closed


Ragnar D November 11, 2009 at 2:53 pm

Congratulations to the college students at the U of L College of Business for getting the opportunity to study a rational philosophy and learn the only moral basis for capitalism.

John Galt November 12, 2009 at 1:02 am

“Rand valued individualism, hard work and property rights as a morality,” he says, “whereas if somebody else values community and family and togetherness, communism might be a more moral choice for them.”

The student who made that comment should explain how communism values family and togetherness, especially considering that under communism, the working father would often be taken out of the home and sent to some remote part of Russia to work at the state’s whim. Explain how communism, which tells productive people to sacrifice their lives to the state, promotes togetherness, whatever that word means.

The concepts of ‘family ‘ and togetherness’ used by that student, are an anti-concept

Joshua Lipana November 12, 2009 at 4:43 am

This is great news. I’m really glad more people are being introduced to Ayn Rand’s ideas. I agree with John Allison’s recommendation of Atlas Shrugged, it really is one of the greatest books ever written.

Wingnut November 12, 2009 at 7:13 am


Readers, you DO see the pyramid scheme symbol on the back of the USA one dollar bill, right? You DO see the servitude infestation in capitalism, right? And do you see the “pay up or lose your wellbeing” Chicago mob-like felony extortion widespread within capitalism? Do you see the “join or starve” felony extortion done to the 18 year olds… by this ugly competer’s church called capitalism? See how forcing competer’s religions onto 18 year olds… kills membership in the cooperator’s church (Christianity/socialism)?? Do you understand that AmWay (American Way) (New World Order) got “the exclusive” (legal tender) on the TYPE of survival coupons (money) accepted in supply depots (stores) and leverages 18 year olds into the organization via that felony activity as well? (It puts AmWay-coupon slaving requirements called price tags… on all the survival goods). Do you understand how farmyard pyramids work… from your childhood?? Remember?? Upper 1/3 are “heads in the clouds” while the kids on the bottom ALWAYS GET HURT from the weight of the world’s knees in their backs? Still with me? Do you see anything illegal, immoral, or just plain sick… in any of this pyramid scheme’s activities?

Us American Christian socialists are still patiently awaiting the natural fall of the pyramid-o-servitude, or the busting of the free marketeers felony… by the USA Dept of Justice. Us Christians are VERY CLOSE to issuing a cease and desist order until the servitude and inequality goes away… which means it turns into a commune. Commune is a word we LOVE when used in the word “community”… but its one the caps HATE when used in the term “commune-ism”. Go fig. PROGRAMMED!!

Do a Google IMAGE SEARCH for ‘pyramid of capitalist’ to see a full color picture made way back in 1911, when capitalism was first discovered to be a con/sham instigated by the Free Masons/Illuminati. Folks sure bought into the thing… hook, line, and sinker just the same. The caps didn’t even check if a string was attached! Now THAT’S easy fishing, eh?

Time to level the felony pyramid scheme called capitalism. Abolish economies and ownershipism worldwide, and hurry. Economies just cause rat-racing, and rat-racing causes felony pyramiding. BUST IT, America! Look to the USA military supply/survival system… (and the USA public library system) for socialism and morals done right. Equal, owner-less, money-less, bill-less, timecard-less, and concerned with growth of value-criteria OTHER THAN money-value. Quit doing monetary discrimination immediately, and make it illegal. There are MANY measurement criteria of “value”… not just dollars. Try morals, efficiency, discrimination-levels, repairability, etc etc. Economies are cancerous tumors, and to cheer for their growth… is just insane. Profiting causes inflation, so if caps LIKE inflation, and if they LIKE a terrible time in afterlife when they meet the planet’s ORIGINAL OWNER before caps tried to squat it all with ownershipism, then keep it up with the felony pyramiding. I dare you. While us Christians are finally bulldozing that pyramid scheme back to level, lets make servitude and “join or starve” (get a job or die) illegal in the USA, and lets level the architecture seen in USA courtrooms, too. Right now, USA courtrooms are church simulators or “fear chambers”, by special design. Sick.

Isn’t that back-of-the-dollar pyramid… a Columbian freemason symbol? And WHERE is the USA gov located? District of Columbia? (Not even part of the USA!). How much more blatant can ya get? The “Fed” runs a pyramid scheme called the free marketeers. If you’re using the “federal reserve note” certificates, or using no-other-living-thing-on-the-planet entitles of ownership, you’re bought into a servitude/slavery con/sham… called capitalism. Pyramiding 101. Now THAT’S curriculum, eh? Now you’ve got the goods to teach about THE COOPERATOR’S CHURCH, which is the opposite of the competer’s church. The cooperator’s church has mostly been banned by the “separation of church and state” cock’n’bull. Thus, there are no morals officers or ethics officers anywhere near business/economies.

Meantime, the competer’s church actually MERGED with “state”, and apparently is trying to merge with the KY school system, too. Look out, kids. A bandwagoning and railroading is headed your way. Don’t accidentally climb aboard that “yay us” hayride. Its a planet killer, and a great way to get a giant “F” on your afterlife report card. Stay with PURE no-compete Christianity/socialism… its far better than the competer’s church called the free marketeers.

Larry “Wingnut” Wendlandt
MaStars – Mothers Against Stuff That Ain’t Right
Bessemer MI USA

Dr. Robin R. West November 12, 2009 at 10:08 am

Thank you Wingnut! Unwittingly, you have cut to the chase and provide a clear example of the real problem. Here. Ayn Rand is a legitimate philosopher with ideas worthy of discussion and study. The adoption of some of her ideas as part of a schools curriculum is not an instance of indoctrination. The ironic twist, however, is that if colleges were to adopt your point of view, indoctrination is exactly what we would get–institutions that censor philosophies, points of view, or opinions that challenge whatever the politically correct cause celebres happens to be at any given moment. Institutions of higher learning are supposed to be bastions of academic freedom; the market place of ideas. Ayn Rand deserves to be part of free and open political and philosophical discussions.

In closing, I would just say, that if socialism/communism (there is not much difference between the two) are economically, morally, philosophically , and socially superior to capitalism, then I do not understand why you and other of your ilk are so afraid of exposing your point of view to challenges. Personally, if I truly believe that my point of view represents the truth, then I would invite all other ideological challengers to bring it on. Truth and right thinking will stand the test of false prophets.

Wingnut November 12, 2009 at 2:09 pm

Hi. What makes you think that “my” (though NOT mine… socialists never do ownership) evidence-backed easily-seen phenomena (point of view, as you so trivially call it) can’t stand up to challenges? Bring it on. I’m not afraid of challenges, and neither is the monetary-discriminationless and ownerless socialism used for the military’s supply/survival system. I welcome the challenge. But moreover, you WILL have to face up and own up to the structure of capitalism, as it disintegrates all around you, and you physically FEEL the impact of inequality and wellbeing rationing. You get to LIVE the lesson which I only tell the story-of. I am only the messenger. The message is MUCH larger and more powerful… and it will defend itself. But the kids should be warned of the giant “yay capitalism, yay America” BS-a-thon coming soon to a classroom near them. And so, I told them the story of capitalism and now they can be prepared. Lets see how BB&T holds up against the warning, shall we? You don’t have a choice… as the word it out, now. Folks are now seeing the other side of the coin… finally. America’s 125 channels of Purina Sheeple Chow (tv) can’t proliferate the propaganda about capitalism being “ok” anymore. Time to cope and deal with a collapsing pyramid scheme… happening right in your foreclosed-upon front lawns. Isn’t enlightenment FUN? Bring on the challenges and bring on the debate. Truth will win, even though socialists don’t do competing, winning, or losing. Those are rat-racing and pyramiding things, so no thanks. Lets just say that truth, once its presented, will prevail.

MichaelM November 12, 2009 at 2:47 pm

To all honest minds passing by, please take note of Wingnuts comment above. It is prototypical of most capitalist opposition in that it fails to distinguish between capitalism itself and capitalism encased in a mixed politics with statism that is a confusion of free and coerced interrelationships among men. Rand, about whom Wingnut clearly knows next to nothing, restored capitalism to its core meaning: a political system that defends individual rights.

That means that genuine and unadulterated capitalism guarantees every individual autonomy in his relationships with other men and concomitantly requires each to grant the same autonomy to others. In Rand’s capitalism, the government is restricted to the performance of one single task: to guarantee that all interrelationships among men shall be voluntarily entered into. The rule above all other rules would be that:

No person shall initiate the use of force to gain, withhold, or destroy any tangible or intangible value of any other person who either created it or acquired it in a voluntary exchange.

In a society under that rule, there would be no possible means to gain wealth or services from anyone without offering them something they valued more in exchange. There would be no way to gain unearned wealth, so greed would be impotent. There would be no way to gain involuntary servitude, so no one could enslave the masses. Nothing could be obtained from you without your consent.

Thus has Rand shown that it is radical unadulterated capitalism that is the only purely benevolent politics. In order to oppose her principles, one must advocate the use of violence or the threat thereof to achieve one’s ends. And that exposes the dirty little unmentioned rule inherent in Wingnut’s “Christian socialism” — the guarantee that whatever any majority wants from an unwilling minority, they may take it by physical force. That is the politics of enslavement, not capitalism.

Dr. Robin R. West November 12, 2009 at 3:17 pm

Wow! You are quite the rambler and appear well-versed in Marxist (lets be up front and call it what it is) ideology and talking points. While I will be the first to admit that capitalism may not be perfect (no system is), the benefits far outweigh the bad. Moreover, capitalism has a historically proven track record showing that wherever it is introduced, things get better. On the other hand, socialism has a track record that proves wherever it is imposed, government gets bigger, and personal liberty diminishes. You can spout socialist rhetoric all you want, but the facts (historical and contemporary) speak for themselves. Moreover, there has never been a Marxist Revolution in the history of the world (1917 was not a Marxist revolution; it merely replaced one autocracy for another).

Now that we are both clear on our politics let me try to get you to understand the point I was trying to make in my previous posting. First, I was not challenging your attachment to socialism. I am a college professor. My intent was to advocate for the concepts of academic freedom, intellectual liberty and open-mindedness–a willingness to explore ideas, even the ones with which I don’t necessarily agree. I am opposed to indoctrination in the classroom-capitalist, socialist, or any other. The best way to avoid it is to look at all perspectives of an idea or issue.

One of the purposes of higher education is to seek out the truth. So, again I say, this is accomplished by examining all of the possibilities of an idea or issue. In this instance all I am saying is that it is academically appropriate in a college philosophy or economics class to consider the ideas of Ayn Rand–to discuss and weigh them against the views of others, including Marx and Engels.

The problem is that Ideologues like yourself, as well as those on the other side of the ideological spectrum have a real problem with the concepts of academic freedom and open-mindedness. Ideologues have convinced themselves that they are right. However, deep down inside, ideologues are very much aware of the flaws inherent in their ideology. However, rather than expose these weaknesses to the light of truth, ideologues become anti-intellectual bullies; seeking to silence and censor any who would dare to challenge them. This is to what I am opposed.

Wingnut November 12, 2009 at 4:57 pm

Again, kids, a competer’s church has paid to build a monastery inside of UKL. The opposing/correcting forces to that infiltration are NOT being presented or represented. RAILROADING WARNING! Ask military members if THEY think they’ve lost freedoms in participating in their money-less free-basic-issue supply system, or in the “all luxuries in repositories for all to share” recreational services system. Most will say they GAINED freedoms, because they no longer are in fear over obtaining survival goods. They are on a “big team” whose members take care of each other, and share everything. They don’t use money, they use freely-handed-out requisition forms. They don’t do titles of ownership, as everything belongs to “team”. They don’t work FOR, they work WITH… because its a socialism… just like the discriminationless public library system.

Yes, I know what you were trying to say, Professor West. But until ALL sides are given an equal say and equal ability to build temples and training camps inside of UKL, then UKL is potentially a severely-biased operation. Kids, watch out. Bandwagoning warning!!! Don’t be affected by hoopla and glitter. Think for yourselves, and pay attention to the giant pyramid edu-symbols out in the planet’s sandbox. They were built by previous generations to remind us that we are here to study pyramids… and eventually level them, socially-speaking. Stay off the “junk”. Capitalism currently has the exclusive on the currency.

Bust it. At minimum, allow other pyramid scheme companies besides AmWay/New World Order… to use THEIR kind of currency. Christian redbacks would be fine. Flood the planet with them. At least the “In God We Trust” on the redbacks… wouldn’t be a lie, like it is on the greenbacks. Greenbacks should change THEIR motto to… “in hide-gouging we trust”… or maybe… “DON’T TRUST ANYONE OR ANYTHING”. That’s more apropos for enjoyment-addiction-inducing rat-racing systems like capitalism and economy usage. Once more, for fun… not a single other living creature on the entire planet… uses economies. Hint hint. If UKL is wise, they’ll back-away BB&T with a very hot poker.

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