“Atlas Shrugged Part II” opened this weekend, with box office receipts just shy of its predecessor’s take of $1.7 million, even though this installment debuted at more than three times as many theaters. Perhaps that’s an incomplete measurement, however, because the film’s producers have been counting on support from right-wing activist networks and institutional players. To many of them Ayn Rand’s books provide a tidy defense of economic freedom. Movies are easier to read than books, so the new Atlas movie essentially plays the role of educational material they don’t have to pay to produce.
That cooperation is a notable development in itself because the Ayn Rand Institute, whose founder Leonard Peikoff sold the rights to the movie, was at one time notoriously parochial, opposed to both libertarianism and the GOP. Now a former board member, John Allison, has left to lead the libertarian Cato Institute–a move which at one time would have provoked an excommunication from ARI–while the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity is holding screenings of the film. More than 1.5 million copies of Atlas Shrugged have been sold since Barack Obama’s election. Clearly cooperation between Objectivists and the rightwing is at an all-time high. I spoke last week with Yaron Brook, the current president of ARI, about what is changing:
I don’t think there’s been a significant change in terms of our attitude towards libertarians. Two things have happened. We’ve grown, and we’ve gotten to a size where we don’t just do educational programs, we do a lot more outreach and a lot more policy and working with other organizations. I also believe the libertarian movement has changed. It’s become less influenced by Rothbard, less influenced by the anarchist, crazy for lack of a better word, wing of libertarianism. As a consequence, because we’re bigger and doing more things and because libertarianism has become more reasonable, we are doing more work with them than we have in the past. But I don’t think ideologically anything of substance has changed at the Institute.
In other words, don’t expect an ex cathedra denunciation of John Allison. It’s worth noting, though, that absent substantive ideological change, the official position of the ARI remains that libertarianism is “evil.”
I also inquired as to whether he thought “bringing the war to the civilians,” as he suggested to Bill O’Reilly about Iraq in 2004, was a good strategy to pursue in Afghanistan. He doubted such a strategy would be efficacious.