Ayn Rand Essay Contest History

The Ayn Rand Institute: The Center for the Advancement of Objectivism, commonly known as the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI), is a 501(c)(3)nonprofitthink tank in Irvine, California that promotes Objectivism, the philosophy developed by Ayn Rand. Its stated goal is to "spearhead a cultural renaissance that will reverse the anti-reason, anti-individualism, anti-freedom, anti-capitalist trends in today's culture".[2] The organization was established in 1985, three years after Rand's death, by Ed Snider and Leonard Peikoff, Rand's legal heir. Jim Brown is the CEO of ARI, succeeding Yaron Brook as its operational executive in January 2017.[3]

ARI has several educational and outreach programs, which include providing intellectuals for public appearances, supporting Objectivist campus clubs, supplying Rand's writings to schools and professors, assisting overseas Objectivist institutions, organizing annual conferences, and running the Objectivist Academic Center.[2]


During her lifetime, Rand helped establish The Foundation for the New Intellectual to promote Objectivist ideas. The Foundation was dissolved some 15 years after her death, having been made redundant by the Ayn Rand Institute. Although Rand objected to Objectivism becoming an organized movement, she supported like-minded individuals working toward a common goal.[4] Peikoff, her legal heir, was convinced to start the organization after businessman Ed Snider organized a meeting of possible financial supporters in New York in the fall of 1983.[5] Peikoff also agreed to be the first chairman of the organization's board of directors.[6]

In 1983, a group of Objectivists, including George Reisman, organized the Jefferson School of Philosophy, Economics, and Politics. The Jefferson School held a two week-long conference at the University of California, San Diego later that year, a conference which continued to occur every two years and is the predecessor of ARI's current annual Objectivist Conference.[7]

ARI began operations on February 1, 1985, three years after Rand's death, in Marina del Rey, California. The first board of directors included Snider and psychologist Edith Packer. Snider was also one of the founding donors for the organization, along with educational entrepreneur Carl Barney.[7][6] Its first executive director was Michael Berliner, who was previously the chairman of the Department of Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education at California State University, Northridge. ARI also established a board of governors, which initially included Harry Binswanger, Robert Hessen, Edwin Locke, Arthur Mode, George Reisman, Jay Snider, and Mary Ann Sures, with Peter Schwartz as its chairman.[8] M. Northrup Buechner and George Walsh joined the board of advisors shortly thereafter.[9]

ARI's first two projects were aimed at students. One was developing a network of college clubs to study Objectivism. The other was a college scholarship contest for high-school students based on writing an essay about Rand's novel The Fountainhead.[9] Later, additional essay contests were added based on Anthem, We the Living, and Atlas Shrugged.[10] In 1988, ARI began publishing Impact, a newsletter for contributors.[11]

In 1989, a philosophical dispute resulted in ARI ending its association with philosopher David Kelley.[12] Some members of the board of advisors agreed with Kelley and also left, including George Walsh.[13] Kelley subsequently founded his own competing institute now known as The Atlas Society, which remains critical of ARI's stance on loyalty.[14]

In 1994, ARI launched the Objectivist Graduate Center, which offered both distance-learning and in-person courses.[7]

In January 2000, Berliner retired as executive director, replaced by Yaron Brook, then an assistant professor of finance at Santa Clara University. Onkar Ghate began working for ARI later that year, and ARI launched the Objectivist Academic Center.[7]

In 2002, ARI moved from Marina del Rey to larger offices in Irvine, California.[15]

In 2003, ARI launched the Anthem Fellowship for the Study of Objectivism, a fellowship that financially supports universities who have Objectivist professors.[7]

Charity Navigator, which rates charitable and educational organizations to inform potential donors, gives ARI three out of four stars. According to the latest data from Charity Navigator, ARI spends 85.1% of its expenses on programs, 9.5% on fundraising, and 5.3% on administration.[16] As of September 2016[update], ARI's board of directors consists of Brook; Berliner (co-chair); Arline Mann (co-chair), retired attorney, formerly of Goldman, Sachs & Co.; Carl Barney, CEO of several private colleges; Harry Binswanger, long-time associate of Ayn Rand; Peter LePort, a surgeon in private practice; Tara Smith, professor of philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin;[17] and John Allison, CEO of the Cato Institute and former CEO of BB&T.[18]

Peikoff retains a cooperative and influential relationship with ARI.[19] In 2006, he remarked that he approved of the work ARI has done[20] and in November 2010 that the executive director "has done a splendid job."[21] Peikoff was a featured speaker at the 2007 and 2010 Objectivist Conferences.[22] In August 2010, he demanded a change to ARI's board of directors, resulting in the resignation of John McCaskey.[23]

In 2008, ARI established the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights in Washington, D.C.; however, the center is no longer in operation.

A central goal for ARI throughout the 2010s has been to spread Objectivism globally. ARI helped establish the Ayn Rand Center Israel in 2012, the Ayn Rand Institute Europe in 2015, and the Ayn Rand Center Japan in 2017. Each of these organizations are separate legal entities from the U.S.-based ARI but are affiliated with ARI.

In January 2017, ARI announced Jim Brown as its CEO, succeeding Yaron Brook as its operational executive.[3]


ARI runs a variety of programs, many of which are aimed at students. It sends free books to schools, sponsors student essay contests and campus clubs, and offers financial assistance to students applying to graduate school.[2][10] It also has an online bookstore, offers internships for current and recently graduated college students, and provides speakers for public lectures and media appearances.[24]


ARI organizes a week-long Objectivist Conference (OCON) each summer in a different city throughout the United States. OCON primarily consists of lectures, social events, and professional mentoring. Speakers have included ARI-affiliated Objectivists as well as like-minded intellectuals, such as Flemming Rose and Dave Rubin.

ARI also hosts a three-day Ayn Rand Student Conference (AynRandCon) each fall, aimed at college and graduate school students.

Objectivist Academic Center[edit]

The Objectivist Academic Center (OAC) is an educational program that conducts online classes on Objectivism and related fields. Entry to the program requires admission after application, which requires college transcripts and admission essays. OAC does not offer college credits and is rather intended as a supplement to a college education.[25]

International efforts[edit]

In recent years, the Ayn Rand Institute has made a concerted effort to promote Objectivism globally. Institutions affiliated with ARI in countries outside the United States are separate legal entities.

In October 2012, ARI helped establish the Ayn Rand Center Israel (ARCI) to promote Objectivism in Israel and the Middle East.[26] Its current director is Boaz Arad. In 2016, ARCI launched the Atlas Award for the Best Israeli Start-up, presented annually at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.[27] Judges for the award include Yaron Brook and Shlomo Kalish.[28]Moovit was the first recipient of the award in 2016, and Zebra Medical Vision won the award in 2017.[27]

In April 2015, ARI helped establish the Ayn Rand Institute Europe to promote Objectivism in Europe.[29] The current chairman of ARI Europe is Lars Seir Christensen, CEO and co-founder of Saxo Bank.[29] In February 2017, ARI helped establish the Ayn Rand Center Japan.[30] ARI has also helped establish Objectivist clubs at schools throughout the world, including in Mexico, Argentina, the United Kingdom, Bulgaria, India, and China.[31]

ARI has also helped guide the independent Spain-based Objetivismo Internacional, which seeks to spread Objectivism in the Spanish-speaking world.[32]

Ideas promoted[edit]

ARI promotes Objectivism, the philosophy developed by Ayn Rand. ARI sponsors writers and speakers who apply Objectivism to contemporary issues, including religion, politics, and art.[33]

Since Objectivism advocates atheism, ARI promotes the separation of church and state, and its writers argue that the religious right poses a threat to individual rights.[citation needed] They have argued against displaying religious symbols, such as the Ten Commandments, in government facilities[34] and against faith-based initiatives.[35] ARI intellectuals argue that religion is incompatible with American ideals[36] and opposes the teaching of "intelligent design" in public schools.[37]

ARI is strongly supportive of free speech and opposes all forms of censorship, including laws that ban obscenity and hate speech.[38][39] In response to the Muhammad cartoons controversy, ARI started a Free Speech Campaign in 2006.[40] Steve Simpson, director of legal studies at ARI, has argued that campaign finance is a free speech issue and that laws that limit it are thus a violation of the First Amendment. Accordingly, Simpson and ARI strongly supports Citizens United.[41][42]

ARI has taken many controversial positions with respect to the Muslim world. They hold that the motivation for Islamic terrorism comes from their religiosity, not poverty or a reaction to Western policies.[43] They have urged that the U.S. use overwhelming, retaliatory force to "end states who sponsor terrorism", using whatever means are necessary to end the threat.[44] In his article "End States Who Sponsor Terrorism", which was published as a full page ad in The New York Times, Peikoff wrote, "The choice today is mass death in the United States or mass death in the terrorist nations. Our Commander-In-Chief must decide whether it is his duty to save Americans or the governments who conspire to kill them." Although some at ARI initially supported the invasion of Iraq, it has criticized how the Iraq War was handled.[45] Since October 2, 2001, ARI has held that Iran should be the primary target in the war against "Islamic totalitarianism".[44]

ARI is generally supportive of Israel.[46] Of Zionism, Yaron Brook writes, "Zionism fused a valid concern – self-preservation amid a storm of hostility – with a toxic premise – ethnically based collectivism and religion."[47]

ARI is highly critical of environmentalism and animal rights, arguing that they are destructive to human well-being.[48][49] ARI is also highly critical of diversity and affirmative action programs, as well as multiculturalism, arguing that they are based on racist premises that ignore the commonality of a shared humanity.[50][51]

ARI supports women's right to choose abortion,[52] voluntary euthanasia, and assisted suicide.[53]

ARI denounces neoconservatism in general. For example, C. Bradley Thompson wrote an article entitled "The Decline and Fall of American Conservatism",[54] which was later turned into the book, with Yaron Brook, Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea.[55]

See also[edit]


  1. ^"The Ayn Rand Institute The Center for the Advancement of Objectivism"(PDF). Foundation Center. Retrieved February 27, 2017. 
  2. ^ abc"Overview". Ayn Rand Institute. August 17, 2009. 
  3. ^ abHolleran, Scott. "Jim Brown, new Ayn Rand Institute CEO: 'Culture and society out there can look pretty irrational. Just look at the last election'". LATimes.com. Retrieved July 14, 2017. 
  4. ^Rand, Ayn (June 1968). "A Statement of Policy (Part I)". The Objectivist. 7 (6). 
  5. ^Merrill, Ronald E. (2013). Ayn Rand Explained: From Tyranny to Tea Party. Chicago: Open Court. p. 32. ISBN 978-0-8126-9798-8. 
  6. ^ ab"Announcements". The Objectivist Forum. 5 (6): 13–15. December 1984. 
  7. ^ abcdehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbWgESQV9Eo
  8. ^"Announcements". The Objectivist Forum. 6 (1): 13. February 1985. 
  9. ^ abBerliner, Michael S. (October 1985). "Report from the Ayn Rand Institute". The Objectivist Forum. 6 (5): 14–15. 
  10. ^ ab"Essay Contests". Ayn Rand Institute. Archived from the original on July 26, 2011. Retrieved August 22, 2011. 
  11. ^"Announcements". The Objectivist Forum. 8 (6): 14. December 1987. 
  12. ^Kelley, David (2000). The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand: Truth and Toleration in Objectivism (paperback ed.). New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers. p. 15. ISBN 0-7658-0863-3. OCLC 44727861. 
  13. ^Walsh, George (November 17, 1989). "A Statement". The Intellectual Activist. 5 (3): 5. 
  14. ^Thomas, William R. "TAS vs. ARI: A Question of Objectivity and Independence". The Atlas Society. Retrieved May 25, 2012. 
  15. ^Letran, Vivian (June 7, 2002). "Ayn Rand Institute to Move to Orange County". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 18, 2009. 
  16. ^"Charity Navigator Rating – The Ayn Rand Institute". Charity Navigator. Retrieved November 29, 2017. 
  17. ^"Professor — PhD, Johns Hopkins". Retrieved October 13, 2012. 
  18. ^McDuffee, Allen (June 26, 2012). "Koch brothers, Cato Institute announce terms of settlement". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 28, 2012. 
  19. ^Brook, Yaron. "The Ayn Rand Institute: A Statement from ARI about the Resignation of John McCaskey from Our Board of Directors". Retrieved October 7, 2011. 
  20. ^Leonard Peikoff (2004). Leonard Peikoff: In His Own Words (DVD). Northern River Productions. ISBN 0-9734653-2-8. 
  21. ^Peikoff, Leonard (November 5, 2010). "Peikoff vs. an ARI Board Member". Archived from the original on December 18, 2010. 
  22. ^"Objectivist Conferences". 
  23. ^McCaskey, John P. (September 3, 2010). "My resignation from the Board of Directors of the Ayn Rand Institute and of the Anthem Foundation for Objectivist Scholarship". Retrieved May 24, 2013. 
  24. ^"Student Clubs". Ayn Rand Institute. August 17, 2009. 
  25. ^"Objectivist Academic Center". AynRand.org. Retrieved November 13, 2017. 
  26. ^Elis, Niv. "Ayn Rand-inspired start-up award debuts in Israel, but carries controversy". JPost.com. Retrieved July 12, 2017. 
  27. ^ abShapira, Ariel. "Tech Talk: Israel's Fortune 500 companies". JPost.com. Retrieved November 9, 2017. 
  28. ^"In spirit of Ayn Rand, Israeli entrepreneurship to get a boost". TimesofIsrael.com. Retrieved November 15, 2017. 
  29. ^ ab"The Ayn Rand Institute Europe". AdamSmith.org. Retrieved July 12, 2017. 
  30. ^http://aynrandjapan.org/english.html
  31. ^https://www.aynrand.org/students/campus-clubs
  32. ^"About Us". Objetivismo.org. Retrieved October 7, 2017. 
  33. ^"Ayn Rand Center: Op-Eds". Retrieved August 9, 2012. 
  34. ^Binswanger, Harry (October 25, 2004). "The Ten Commandments vs. America". Ayn Rand Institute. Archived from the original on October 1, 2009. Retrieved August 17, 2009. 
  35. ^Epstein, Alex (February 4, 2003). "Faith-Based Initiatives Are an Assault on Secular Government". Ayn Rand Institute. Retrieved August 17, 2009. 
  36. ^Peikoff, Leonard (November 11, 2002). "Religion vs. America". Ayn Rand Institute. Retrieved August 18, 2009.  Reprint of a speech delivered by Peikoff at the Ford Hall Forum in 1986.
  37. ^Lockitch, Keith (December 11, 2005). ""Intelligent Design" Is about Religion versus Reason". Ayn Rand Institute. Retrieved August 17, 2009. 
  38. ^Driver, Eve. "Free Speech Can't Become a "Conservative" Value". HarvardPolitics.com. Retrieved November 29, 2017. 
  39. ^Simpson, Steve. "Charlie Hebdo two years later: Will America continue to protect free speech?". TheHill.com. Retrieved November 29, 2017. 
  40. ^"Highlights from the first 25 years"(PDF). Impact. The Ayn Rand Institute. 16 (2). February 2010. Archived from the original(PDF) on November 12, 2013. 
  41. ^Simpson, Steve. "Overturning Citizens United would be a disaster for free speech". TheHill.com. Retrieved November 29, 2017. 
  42. ^Simpson, Steve and Sherman, Paul. "Stephen Colbert's Free Speech Problem". WSJ.com. Retrieved November 29, 2017. 
  43. ^Epstein, Alex (July 26, 2005). "The Terrorists' Motivation: Islam". Ayn Rand Institute. Retrieved August 17, 2009. 
  44. ^ abPeikoff, Leonard (October 2, 2001). "End States Who Sponsor Terrorism". Ayn Rand Institute. Retrieved August 17, 2009. 
  45. ^Epstein, Alex (May 28, 2006). "What We Owe Our Soldiers". Ayn Rand Institute. Retrieved August 17, 2009. 
  46. ^Tracinski, Robert (April 1, 2002). "We Are Either With Israel, Or We Are With the Terrorists". Ayn Rand Institute. Archived from the original on October 1, 2009. Retrieved August 18, 2009. 
  47. ^Arfa, Orit (July 12, 2007). "You don't fight a tactic". Jerusalem Post Online Edition. Retrieved August 18, 2009. 
  48. ^Schwartz, Peter (April 23, 1999). "Man vs. Nature". Ayn Rand Institute. Retrieved August 18, 2009. 
  49. ^Locke, Edwin. "Animal 'Rights' and the New Man Haters". Ayn Rand Institute. Retrieved August 18, 2009. 
  50. ^"Multiculturalism: The New Racism". Ayn Rand Institute. Retrieved August 18, 2009. 
  51. ^"Racism and Diversity". Ayn Rand Institute. Retrieved August 18, 2009. 
  52. ^Woiceshyn, Glenn (April 24, 2000). "Supreme Court Should Protect Right to Abortion in Current Partial-Birth Case". Capitalism Magazine. Retrieved August 17, 2009. 
  53. ^Epstein, Alex (April 1, 2005). "A Culture of Living Death". Ayn Rand Institute. Retrieved August 17, 2009. 
  54. ^Thompson, C. Bradley (Fall 2006). "The Decline and Fall of American Conservatism". The Objective Standard. 1 (3). Retrieved February 22, 2011. 
  55. ^Laughlin, Burgess (Fall 2010). "Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea by C. Bradley Thompson with Yaron Brook". The Objective Standard. 5 (3). Retrieved February 22, 2011. 

External links[edit]


  • No application is required. Contest is open to students worldwide, except where void or prohibited by law. Essays must be written in English only.
  • Entrant must be in the 11th or 12th grade at the time of the current contest deadline. Verification of school enrollment will be required for all winning entrants.
  • To avoid disqualification, mailed-in essays must include a stapled cover sheet with the following information:
    1. 1. your name and address;
    2. 2. your email address (if available);
    3. 3. the name and address of your school;
    4. 4. topic selected (#1, 2 or 3 from the “Topics” tab);
    5. 5. your current grade level; and
    6. 6. (optional) the name of the teacher who assigned the essay if you are completing it for classroom credit.
  • Essay must be no fewer than 800 and no more than 1,600 words in length, double-spaced. Spelling errors and/or written corrections (by anyone) found on the essay will count against the final grade and should be omitted before submission.
  • One entry per student per contest.
  • Essay must be submitted online or postmarked by April 26, 2017, no later than 11:59 PM, Pacific standard time.
  • The Ayn Rand Institute has the right to provide contest deadline extensions when deemed appropriate.

More Details

  • Winners, finalists, semifinalists and all other participants will be notified via email and/or by mail by August 3, 2017.
  • Winners are responsible for providing their mailing addresses and other necessary information under the law in order to receive any prizes. Contest winners agree to allow the Ayn Rand Institute to post their names on any of ARI’s affiliated websites. The first-place essay may be posted in its entirety on any of these websites with full credit given to the author.
  • Winners will be solely responsible for any federal, state or local taxes.

Deadline: 04/26/2017

Amount: $50-10,000

Online Application Available

Contact information:

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