Garrett, Rand, Galt And The Fun Of Writing

I often wonder what happened to America’s battle of ideas. I lift my gaze wistfully from the gutter – where the current debate takes place, nonsensical 140-character arrows hurled back and forth over a pile of garbage – to contemplate dejectedly the past when the titans of American thought sat astride our purple mountains, rallying a nation to the orbit of their conviction and the consequence of their immense talent. A colossal contest it was, the minds of noble men wrestling with each other over the soul of the greatest nation on earth. They built agendas, waged campaigns and organized coalitions – the clamoring of the populace serving to enhance the volume of the debate, lending it energy and purpose if not substance; for that they already had.

They were not afraid of their talent, those confident men of old. Industrialists, journalists and elected leaders who were also novelists, poets; artists – the last a calling card that served to legitimize, not invalidate their authority. People like William Buckley and Whittaker Chambers following the giants of the Old Right – classical liberals like John Roderigo Dos Passos, H.L Menken, Rose Wilder Lane, Albert Jay Nock and of course Garet Garrett, economist and journalist.

Today – of course – novels are reserved for the likes of Tom Clancy and Dan Brown – cotton candy of the mind, serving better the big screen where ideas come in last place after violence and sex. Nouveau artists and Hollywood stars who feel entitled to lead through the sheer brazenness of their banality – juxtaposed as it always is against ignorance masquerading as outrage; condescension as thought; opinion as understanding.

But I digress.

I just finished reading Garet Garrett’s short novel “The Driver”. Garrett is of course that figure of roaring twenties classicism. Economist, journalist, writer and novelist. ‘Liberal’, in the true sense of the word – ‘that which is conducive to a free society’. The novel is about Henry Galt, a Wall Street speculator who becomes a railroad man. A heroic figure of daring risks who, through his exceptional motive capacity, not only saves a railroad system – but also the stuttering motor of the national economy. The novel is a defense of sound money:

“It is my idea,” said Galt, “that the financial institutions of the country, instead of lending themselves out of funds in times of high prosperity ought then to build up great reserves of capital to be loaned out in hard times. That would keep people from going crazy with prosperity at one time and committing suicide at another time (…). Great Midwestern Properties will decrease their capital expenditures as prices rise and increase them as prices fall. We won’t have any more depressions (p 183).”

It is about the role of the industrialist in the development of national wealth and the battle of one man against those who line up against him, including many in his own government who use their public trust – coercive power – to attempt and destroy him.


The Driver by Garet Garrett

For the astute observer, there are of course similarities with Ayn Rand’s epic novels. Henry Galt and John Galt. The powerful railroads that crisscross America. The focus on the motive power of man; and the classical liberal ideas of responsibility, hard work, individuality and private property. This is only natural – we all acquire inspiration through the process of synthesizing what we learn into something new. Perhaps Garrett was an inspiration to Rand, as Rand has been an inspiration to me. If that is the case, then Rand has become Garrett’s greatest and most successful pupil. We never know who reads us – we novelists. Whose hearts we touch; whose lives we inspire. Whether it is a private man in the quiet of his home who becomes a better person – or a juggernaut who takes our ideas to the moon. Yet we continue on, with the confidence that somewhere in the darkness our words are finding a resting place. This, my friends, is how the battle of ideas is won.

And – at least for me – is what makes writing all the more fun.

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Sortie du roman de Joel Hirst aux éditions de l’Institut Coppet

Le nouveau roman de Joel Hirst, consacré au djihadisme, aux luttes entre la raison et la religion, et à la soif de liberté, sort aujourd’hui 19 septembre. N’hésitez à découvrir cette odyssée d’un jeune Touareg en quête de liberté et de compréhension du monde, déjà disponible sur Amazon au format papier (346 pages, 17,95€) et […]

Source: Sortie du roman de Joel Hirst aux éditions de l’Institut Coppet

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À paraître ce lundi : un roman sur le djihad aux éditions de l’Institut Coppet

Chaque trimestre, l’Institut Coppet entend publier une traduction inédite. Après Rothbard (L’éducation gratuite et obligatoire) et avant Mises (Mémoires) et Hayek (L’idéal politique de l’État de droit), nous tentons un pari en ouvrant le spectre habituel de nos travaux et en publiant un roman sur la radicalisation et le djihad : le livre s’intitule Les […]

Source: À paraître ce lundi : un roman sur le djihad aux éditions de l’Institut Coppet

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As Venezuela Goes ‘Rouge’

The human race as an entity does not learn well. We are not very teachable – are we? We aren’t quick to identify patterns, likenesses; those times when your gut tells you ‘Wait, I’ve seen this before somewhere’. Maybe this is why we approach every impending tragedy the same – automatically denying what we don’t want to see, hoping against hope that it won’t happen again, fearful of saying something pessimistic lest we be called out by the haters or the mockers as ‘unbalanced’. “Woooww there tiger,” they are wont to say, their sneers echoing through cyberspace, “don’t get carried away now,” when we bring up the impending catastrophe.

Inaction rests nicely upon the cushion of disbelief.

I wasn’t around during the Second World War, but the stories describe well the skepticism. “That can’t be true,” the experts said about the holocaust, “this is the 20th century, that can’t happen now! This is Europe, that can’t happen here.” Yet happen it did. The same was true during the Rwandan genocide – UN commanders sending their increasingly desperate cables back to the mother-ship in New York, to rest buried in a pile of others upon the abandoned desks of the bureaucrats who had gone to happy hour, or the theater or the opera. “Don’t exaggerate,” their response, “we cannot afford to be hysterical.” Were the circumstances similar for Stalin’s death camps? Was this how the famine in Ethiopia started? The disintegration of Yugoslavia? Don’t we still behave this way about North Korea’s torture prisons? 250,000 political prisoners; ‘No that can’t be. I’ve seen the pictures, doesn’t seem so bad to me… Don’t exaggerate.’


Venezuela’s government is becoming increasingly Khmer ‘Rouge’. Not Castro-Communist, the oppressive weight of the old bearded godfather stifling any dreaming, thinking, reading; any activity, economic and other. A protracted standstill, a nation sitting on the curb, aging. Boredom – with intermittent bouts of starvation, sporadic violence only. But nothing for the newspapers, right? Not Stalinist either – a massive organized purge amid exalted acts of national defiance; exceptional universities and great gulags; majestic theaters and prodigious prisons – astronauts and athletes, philosophers and physicists – and slaughter. Nor is it really Maoist – the planners’ great leaps forward into starvation. These were the dreams of Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarianism.

No, Nick Maduro’s Venezuela is decidedly ‘Rouge’ – the glorification of ignorance, stupidity; a warden-government turning the lights out on a civilization.

I wasn’t born either during the days before the killing fields, so I don’t have a sense of the nature of that denial. “They can’t be that bad,” must have been some of the reactions, and “no, they’d never do that” or, most probably, “they can’t last any longer – they are a spent force, they will have to surrender soon.” In that regard, I imagine it felt a lot like what’s going on in Venezuela. As the professional commies flee, rapidly disassociating themselves from yet another failed experiment, the government has become more foolhardy. The decay has made it more wanton – somehow more carnal. The old discussions of ideals and utopias are absent; now they talk about bodily functions. They snicker about sex; their torture has become more corporeal – excrement and nudity and rape. As the great thinkers flee the world their misbegotten ideas created, and former allies fall away or turn their backs on the grotesqueness, the nouveau leadership falls back desperately on arguments of self-sufficiency, spawning forced-labor laws, rationing, and a more sinister discrimination, based on identity. Starvation again. Extreme nationalism has replaced Hugo Chavez’s ill-fated pan-Latin Americanism. Disappearances. Expulsions. Silence.


None of this bodes well for the future. Yes, I will surely be called an alarmist. I was called that a decade ago, when Hugo Chavez’s oil boom had inebriated a continent. No matter. Avoiding the Bolivarian killing fields must now be our primary goal.

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The Chimera of Inequality

I thought I’d reblog an old article I wrote two years ago. More relevant today than ever:

“Most of us forget that in the past wealth was always obtained by the subjugation of others or the theft of their goods. All the elites in the empires of old built their fortunes by taking land, enslaving peasants, and sacking the bounty of wealthy neighbors. Inequality was said to be ordained by God and preserved by blue blood and one’s condition at birth. Capitalism changed all this.”

Joel D. Hirst's Blog

They then turn their lazy eye upon the villain – capitalism and the capitalist countries – ostensibly because we have more. They rail against corporate pay; the desperately poor making common cause with the accidentally rich in denouncing tycoons and masters of industry or those who have built for themselves great wealth. They lobby for central plans which – at the point of a gun – take from some to give to others; with the only real beneficiaries being the intermediaries of this theft.

The truth is that this analysisis the result of tunnel vision and a stunning lack of retrospection.

I recently returned from a trip to Vienna – where I spent the evenings wandering through the old parts of town; passing in front of the palaces and churches and mansions of the imperial overlords of old. Massive structures of arrogant opulence built not by those who created but…

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9/11 On My Mind

It was a bright fall Boston morning fifteen years ago when I walked out of my rented room to saunter down the sidewalk towards my university. I was young, green, naïve – in graduate school. I was studying development – that post-soviet ‘end of history’ idea that assumed America had no more enemies, freedom had been achieved and everything else was just a matter for the ‘experts’. To help those held back by the unfree world. My own compassion came from my experience as a Missionary Kid, and the desire to share Christ’s love with the needy – the ‘social gospel’ it is often called, which is a fine and true motivation. My thoughts were not particularly political – although that would quickly change.

At any rate, as I arrived outside of the union a friend – I think he was from Ethiopia or Eritrea – said, “You’d better take a look at the news. Seems there has been a plane crash in New York.” I said “Thank you”, appreciative of his concern for his adoptive country and went inside. Plane crashes are relatively common, and I didn’t think much of it until I stepped in front of the television. The next several hours were spent watching in increasing horror what was unfolding.

And, quickly, I started to learn.

I learned what hate is. Pure, unadulterated and irrational. A group of angry, rich young men who were willing to give up everything to murder innocents. Crowds on the Arab Street celebrating the destruction, firing their weapons in the air and lifting their middle fingers for the cameras. I learned what enemies were. Hugo Chavez observing a minute of silence for the terrorists; the Taliban defying the world to shelter Bin Laden.

I also learned what stupidity is. A ‘professor’ calling us to class, continuing with his lesson on this-or-that theory with the words ‘well, there’s nothing that we can do about it anyway,’ as if the world had not just changed forever. A girl – a fellow student – bursting into tears and me, in my foolishness trying to comfort her as I was quickly rebuffed, “Oh, I’m not crying over the attack, I’m crying over the inevitable American response,” as if we were not freshly mourning 3000 dead. As if we were not justified to fight back. Blame America and damn the victims – ideas that defy reason, yet that do abide.

Yet after and beside all this I also learned about greatness. Firefighters and policemen running into still-smoldering buildings looking for survivors. Pilots rushing to fighter jets – not knowing what was out there but firm in their resolve to keep our country safe. The message “We Are All Americans”, a great surging echo resonating across the length and breadth of the world. A president – in his finest hour – giving the speech of his life. Noble and dignified and angry – without hate – a scene that still brings tears to my eyes. The remarkable restraint of my fellow Americans, not taking out their anguish on our fellow Americans who look, sound or believe differently. Through the grief, maybe because of it, the western world’s greatest moment.

Everything has changed since that awful day fifteen years ago. For the world, for America, for me. We’ve made some stupid decisions; and we’ve done some remarkable things. We’ve grieved and mourned and celebrated – we’ve revved up as we continue to come to grips with the fallout from that, the most significant of all days. A frazzled world looks exhaustedly into the future as we grapple with the eternal question, “When will this end? When will they stop? When will they let us be?” a question without a good answer. I knew the world before 9/11. My son, however, did not. My role in the aftermath has been decided and defined, and continues to play out – his is as-of-yet hidden in an opaque tomorrow.

So on this solemn day of remembrance, I thank my God for America, who I love and serve. I pray for my son’s generation, that they will know what lasting peace is. And I pray for wisdom for our leaders as they continue to lead us in this new struggle to preserve our liberty; as well as confusion for our enemies – who’s hate for the light still endures.

God Bless America.

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Paris, As She Was

Paris. We’re supposed to say the name of the city in a whisper; reverent and pious. We who are privileged with travel are expected to send text messages back to our friends full of words like ‘magnificent’ and ‘stunning’; tweeting pictures of gargoyles into the void. Delectable – inspired – exquisite. We post lots on Facebook, demanding that replies like “Wow, you are in Paris!” fill our feed, attesting to our sophistication, and yes, our superiority. The faux philosophers of the new world order like to talk about Paris, copies of Thomas Piketty in hand, as a magical land free from the laws of economics which so obfuscate them; toward which we all must strive if we wish to secure our place in their order. Talking of Tucson, Tombstone and Gilbert? Too provincial – it is to those who pontificate about Paris that the world belongs.


We’re not supposed to complain about the metro – dirty and broken down and always late. We’re not supposed to talk about the ‘tagged’ walls marking the territory of this or that or the other minority gang. We’re supposed to ignore the racism – when a woman glares and screams something out of a half-lowered window of her slow-moving car which those of us who speak French know means ‘go home’, attached to an epithet I won’t trouble you with.

We’re supposed to see cafés full of people who we must consider to be our betters, how can they not be? They are drinking wine and smoking on the Rue Montmartre. We’re not supposed to know that there is a cordon around the city buttressing old Paris – the Paris full of fat tourists and euro-intellectuals – from the ghettos, where most working class and almost all the immigrants live. Gunfights at night, robberies, violence, discrimination. Hate. Terrorism. We’re supposed to ignore the soldiers walking swagger style in front of the beautiful old buildings.

Notwithstanding all this, and my skepticism, as I walked down ancient avenues and beside famous buildings, I suppose I finally ‘got it’. Because – using the tools of my imperfect trade – I finally saw Paris for what she had been, not what she has become. Her history, the past of struggle and violence and war – of significance. The Arc de Triomphe, blotting out the herd of Japanese with selfie-sticks to replace them with an arrogant Hitler, hands clasped behind his back admiring his newest conquest. Down the narrow streets beside the Seine ignoring the trashed electric cars plugged into vandalized posts, replacing them with barricades of angry revolutionaries. The house we had rented, haunted by ghosts of the past and memories of when it had hosted poets, writers, musicians – and probably Nazis.

We revere Paris for her role as one of the centers of western ‘liberalism’ (in the correct use of that word – meaning that which is suited to an un-coerced life). The Reign of Terror. Headless queens and dungeons full of tortured prisoners. Thomas Jefferson; and the ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen’. Our struggle too – those of us who have taken the torch. Incidentally Paris is again at the forefront of another epic struggle for liberty; this time against forces of totalitarian religion seeking to destroy the secular republic, of which the French are so proud and so protective.

For me, the most important facet of this story comes from her more recent history. Because I too am a novelist (although if I were forced to live from this trade, I would most certainly also eat pigeons), and as such also a romantic: I see only the saga of the grand moments of Parisian literature, divorcing them from the booth where plastic Eifel Tower statues are sold for a few euros. Visions of Hemingway running around the Jardin du Luxembourg. The Hotel d’Angleterre; and of course the great Shakespeare and Company. A remarkable era, and my imagination did run wild.

Alas, I may never return to Paris. The epicenter of our world’s fight for freedom has moved an ocean away. Hemingway is dead; the Belle Époque is over. My generation of novelists and artists and freedom fighters must build our own mise en scène, we cannot steal theirs; despite how badly we would love the Paris of the past to live on. (Who knows, maybe Gilbert Arizona will be next?) And we can always go back in our minds to see her as she was – back in the days of her vibrant past.

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