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Objectivism, the Journal, and the Future: An Interview with Craig Biddle

Capitalism Magazine: Who is Craig Biddle?

Craig Biddle: I’m a guy who is fortunate to have discovered “Who is John Galt?” I’m a writer and editor specializing in books and articles from an Objectivist perspective, and I’m a husband and father who can best be described as extremely lucky.

Capitalism Magazine: How did you discover Ayn Rand’s works?

Craig Biddle: I used to design furniture for a living, and one day a client who knew I was interested in philosophy suggested that I read The Fountainhead. I was not a reader of fiction, let alone of 700-page novels, but my client spoke so highly of the book that I humored her and borrowed it. A few days later, I opened it thinking I’d just read a page or two and get bored. Well, that didn’t happen. I couldn’t put it down. Over the next few years, I read and studied Rand’s works feverishly, and I not only became convinced of the truth of her philosophy, I also developed an interest in communicating the ideas professionally.

Capitalism Magazine: Tell us about your book Loving Life.

Craig Biddle: As the subtitle indicates, it’s about “The Morality of Self-Interest and the Facts that Support It.” The book is a highly concretized, systematic introduction to rational egoism. It addresses and debunks the false alternative of religion vs. subjectivism (the notion that if there is no God anything goes); it discusses and debunks the so-called “is-ought dichotomy” (the idea that moral principles can’t be derived from observable facts); it shows why the requirements of human life constitute the standard of moral value; and it presents the basic principles of rational egoism and laissez-faire capitalism. In short, it demonstrates why everyone should be selfish and what that means in practice.

Capitalism Magazine: Can you expand on the idea that “if there is no God anything goes?” That’s the idea that moral laws come from God via faith and are not obtainable from reality via reason?

Craig Biddle: Exactly. It’s the widespread notion that in order for there to be moral laws, there must be a moral law “maker.” But as Ayn Rand demonstrated, and as I elaborate in Loving Life, moral principles are matters not of a “supernatural” being’s will, but of the natural requirements of human life and happiness. The things man needs in order to live and prosper–from conceptual knowledge to long-range goals to self-respect to romantic love–and the principled actions he must take in order to achieve such values–from thinking to producing to being honest to being just–these are natural requirements of living on Earth, not “supernatural” decrees from another dimension. And they are discovered by means of observation and logic, not through revelation or faith.

Capitalism Magazine: Do you have another book in the works?

Craig Biddle: I do, and I’ve just resumed work on it after having shelved it for a couple years to get The Objective Standard off the ground. This book, which is tentatively titled “Good Thinking,” is about the principles of rational thinking and the fallacies that are violations of those principles. Whereas Loving Life demonstrates that being moral consists in being selfish, “Good Thinking” demonstrates what being selfish means in the realm of cognition; it’s about how to use one’s mind in the service of one’s life, liberty, and happiness.

Capitalism Magazine: Any idea when we can expect to see it in bookstores?

Craig Biddle: My schedule is so unpredictable that I’d rather not venture a guess. I have a draft, but I want to rewrite parts of it; then I need to edit it, which is a slow, painstaking process; and I have to do this while editing, publishing, and marketing the journal, which is quite time consuming.

Capitalism Magazine: Tell us about The Objective Standard, and why you saw a need for it?

Craig Biddle: The Objective Standard is a journal of culture and politics written from an Objectivist perspective. Article topics range from education to health care to terrorism to environmentalism to business to science to the arts. And all the articles are based on the idea that there are demonstrably objective standards by reference to which we can assess what is true or false, good or bad, right or wrong. For instance, a recent article titled “Moral Health Care vs. ‘Universal Health Care’” shows that so-called “universal health care” is factually immoral, that health care providers have a moral right to use and dispose of their products as they see fit, that the government has no moral right to coerce them in any way, and that the recognition of these facts is good for everyone–including “poor” people who need health care. Another article, titled “The False Promise of Classical Education,” shows that, far from being the solution to today’s educational problems, classical education actually cripples children’s minds by violating the requirements of cognition. And another, titled “‘No Substitute for Victory': The Defeat of Islamic Totalitarianism,” surveys key historical attacks against America along with her responses to those attacks, highlights the moral and practical issues involved, and identifies the principles of victory that Americans must grasp and apply if we are to win the current war. These and other sample articles are available for free on our website.

The need for such a journal springs from the fact that neither the journals of the right nor those of the left nor those of what I call the mushy middle recognize the existence of rationally demonstrable, objective standards. Whereas conservatives typically hold that objective standards are God-given truths to be accepted on faith, and whereas liberals typically hold that objective standards are conservative myths to be rejected as dogma, and whereas “moderates” avoid forming opinions on such matters, our authors demonstrate that objective standards are rationally graspable facts based on observation, logic, and the requirements of human life. For elaboration on this distinction, I refer your readers to my essay “Introducing The Objective Standard,” which is also accessible for free on our website.

Capitalism Magazine: How has TOS been received by your target market and by the intellectual community?

Craig Biddle: It’s been well received. Subscribers tell us that the articles are clear, illuminating, and a joy to read; and given our renewal rate, that appears to be the general consensus. A substantial percentage of our readers are new to the ideas, having discovered the journal through advertisements in magazines such as Commentary and The New Republic, and we receive enthusiastic correspondence from many of these readers, who are thrilled to have discovered an oasis in today’s intellectual desert. TOS articles have been praised by intellectuals including Andrew Bostom, Robert Spencer, and Diana West; featured on Arts & Letters Daily and Tech Central Station; used in college courses by non-Objectivist professors; translated into Hebrew and Italian; and attacked for taking black-and-white, principled stands on the issues. This is the kind of reception we had hoped for.

Capitalism Magazine: What’s in store in terms of articles, marketing, distribution, and the like?

Craig Biddle: We have lots of great articles in the hopper. Subjects range from Rockefeller and the vindication of capitalism, to the art of motivation in education, to the ethics of the “new atheists,” to the evil of the FDA. And articles in future issues will be substantially shorter than those in the past, which means more articles per issue. Also, future issues will feature a dedicated Book Reviews section, which I think readers will really enjoy. And beginning with the Summer 2008 issue, the journal will be available on newsstands.

Capitalism Magazine: Given that America is not a capitalist country but a mixture of freedom and statism, what would you say is the greatest impediment, in the short and long run, to pure, laissez-faire capitalism?

Craig Biddle: The greatest impediment to capitalism today is today’s so-called “capitalists.” Capitalism, like all human values, is conceptual. If the concept of “capitalism” is perverted to mean the kind of social system advocated and implemented by the conservatives–a system of faith-based initiatives, corporate welfare, mandatory health insurance, Sarbanes-Oxley, “The Forward Strategy of Freedom,” and the like–then capitalism is doomed before it even gets a hearing.

Genuine capitalism–which is not what we have in America today–is the social system of individual rights, in which the government does one thing: protects everyone’s right to act on his own judgment, so long as he doesn’t violate the same right of others. Under capitalism, everyone is free to keep, use, and dispose of the product of his efforts–free to achieve whatever kind and degree of prosperity he is willing and able to achieve–free to live his life as he sees fit. Under capitalism, there is no forced altruism–no stealing from Peter to pay Paul, no tying Peter’s hands so he won’t outperform Paul, no forbidding Peter and Paul to engage in consensual adult sex, no forbidding Mary to have an abortion, and no sacrificing soldiers to spread democracy to savages who want theocracy.

Capitalism is not the social system of self-sacrifice; it is the social system of self-interest, and it cannot be supported or defended with the ethics of self-sacrifice. Until today’s alleged advocates of capitalism become explicit advocates of egoism, their efforts will lead only to more statism. And until they muster the courage to challenge the traditional ethics of altruism, they cannot begin to understand or advocate the ethics of egoism.

The only way capitalism stands a chance of being understood and embraced on a scale sufficient to turn the statist tide is through the spread of rational philosophy. And I think this applies to both the short and the long run. The best strategy for the immediate moment–and for tomorrow and next year and next decade–is to introduce active-minded people to Objectivism, especially to its centerpiece, rational egoism, without which capitalism doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

Capitalism Magazine: What are your thoughts on the presidential candidates and the forthcoming election?

Craig Biddle: This election is like a moral dilemma posed by a corrupt ethics professor: “Suppose you are faced with a presidential election, and your alternatives are Barack Obama and John McCain–what should you do?” I’m writing a piece on this nightmare for the Summer issue of TOS, and since the subject would be impossible to discuss fruitfully in a brief interview, I’ll refer readers to that essay for my analysis.

Capitalism Magazine: What value can fans of Ayn Rand gain from The Objective Standard that they cannot obtain elsewhere?

Craig Biddle: They can gain clarity in regard to the nature and implications of The Philosophy for Living on Earth. The proper application of philosophic principles to cultural and political issues is not obvious. TOS zeros in on the relevant principles pertaining to various issues, explains why these principles objectively govern the issues, and demonstrates their proper applications. No other periodical begins to do this.

Capitalism Magazine: Anything else you would like to add or comment on?

Craig Biddle: Yes, I’d like to thank you for the interview–and for creating Capitalism Magazine, which I regard as another important tool for disseminating the right ideas.