All posts by Joel Schlosberg

Buy Our Bootstraps

It’s always nice when a comrade remembers you on your birthday.

To be sure, when the socialists at Jacobin magazine published Akil Vicks on “the hardened individualism of Ayn Rand” the day the author of Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal would have turned 118 (“There’s No Such Thing as a ‘Self-Made Man,’” February 2), they probably didn’t have in mind NYU Marxist professor Bertell Ollman’s description of Rand as “a comrade of Marx, methodologically speaking.”

Despite the obvious differences between Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto and Rand’s capitalist manifestos, Ollman highlights the common attention to social context. The writer Vicks sees as epitomizing “isolating notions of individual ‘grit’” was not, as Vicks implies, unaware of the notion of “finding intellectual and emotional fulfillment as part of a community.”

Although the community of Galt’s Gulch in Atlas Shrugged would not appeal to many socialists, Rand’s The Fountainhead was among the inspirations for socialist psychologist Abraham Maslow. He cited that novel as a source for the insight that “the most stable and therefore most healthy self-esteem is based on deserved respect from others rather than on external fame or celebrity and unwarranted adulation.” The “self-actualization” atop Maslow’s pyramid of needs was not self-isolation.

Vicks doesn’t directly mention Rand’s fiction as examples of “bootstrap narratives.” (A term also presumably not a nod to Robert Heinlein’s “By His Boostraps,” whose protagonist is indeed a “self-made man” via encounters with his own time-traveling future self.) Instead, it refers to supposed Rand influences like what fellow Jacobin contributor David Sirota calls the “tale of [Michael] Jordan as Rand’s Atlas, who easily lifts the weight of the entire sport of basketball on his shoulders” — and that anyone sufficiently determined could step into Jordan’s Air Jordans. (Other Jacobin contributors have pointed out that millionaire athletes are paid a minuscule fraction of the billions their skills generate — much of which further enriches billionaires.)

Yet Rand’s nonfiction showed a clear understanding that real individuals weren’t omnipotent. In the 1972 essay “What Can One Do?,” Rand observed that it was just as much “an impossible goal” to “perform instantaneous miracles” in “the realm of ideas” as “to stop an epidemic overnight, or to build a skyscraper single-handed.” Even the most talented physician could only “treat as many people” as possible, and might do so in “an organized medical campaign.”

Emma Goldman, currently juxtaposed with the denunciation of Rand through the banner ads on Jacobin‘s website, found “the greatest social possibilities” in forerunners of Rand’s individualist philosophy like Friedrich Nietzsche and Max Stirner, concluding that “only when the [individual] becomes free to choose … associates for a common purpose, can we hope for order and harmony out of this world of chaos and inequality.”

New Yorker Joel Schlosberg is a senior news analyst at The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.


In 2023, Myths are True Lies and New Deals are Old

Help Him To Get Out editorial cartoon

A week into 2023, The New York Times has gotten perspective on the news from further back than one week.

In the newspaper’s January 7-8 weekend edition, Carlos Lozada took “A Peek Behind the Curtain of American History” via a deep dive into Myth America: Historians Take On the Biggest Legends and Lies About Our Past.  (Not to be confused with Richard Shenkman’s Legends, Lies, and Cherished Myths of American History from 1989.)

The longtime editor of The Washington Post‘s 5 Myths series acknowledges that “some myths serve a valid purpose” when they provide a narrative for facts rather than being mere falsehoods, or akin to what Nigel Andrews called political spin “somewhere between the simple truth and the possible souping-up” in the Arnold Schwarzenegger biography True Myths.

Lozada pushes for a more complex interpretation; even focusing on outright deceptions from the right-of-center aisle of American politics implies that “left-wing activists and politicians in the United States never construct and propagate their own self-affirming versions of the American story.” Ironically, Lozada buttresses conservative framings while determined to push back against them.

Lozada lists “notions that free enterprise is inseparable from broader American freedoms” among the “myths peddled or exaggerated, for nefarious purposes, by the right.” While Trump slapped tariffs on Canadian imports that literally provided the paper on which dissenting views were printed, his opponents extended their dismission of free trade to civil liberties in general (earlier American left leaders like Henry George supported both.)

Lozada and Myth America contributor Eric Rauchway consider the New Deal unfairly maligned by misguided reactionaries, reinforcing what Ronald Radosh dubbed “The Myth of the New Deal.” That two of the essays forming the basis for Radosh’s were Barton Bernstein’s “The New Deal: The Conservative Achievements of Liberal Reform” and Howard Zinn’s “The Limits of the New Deal” —  and that Radosh saw them as understating the failure of the New Deal to break with the status quo — indicates how far it was from a partisan potshot.

“The Myth of the New Deal” was part of A New History of Leviathan, in which coeditors Radosh and Murray Rothbard attempted to “transcend the ideological myths that enable the large corporations to mask their hegemony over American society.” Rothbard balanced Radosh’s uncovering of the corporatist nature of the New Deal with a retrospective on how its policies amplified those set in motion by Franklin Roosevelt’s supposed antithesis, Herbert Hoover.

Marvin Gettleman and David Mermelstein observed that “although Rothbard’s critique is based upon a belief in the kind of free-market, laissez-faire principles that are usually associated with the political ‘right,’ many of the points he makes could easily be assented to by the ‘new left'” to which those editors of The Great Society Reader: The Failure of American Liberalism belonged.

If, as Chris Matthew Sciabarra noted in 2005, “mainstream politics offers no genuine opposition to FDR’s Old ‘New Deal’ or Bush’s New ‘Old Deal'” equally committed to “massive government intervention,” that may be because it has forgotten the old lessons of the New Left.

New Yorker Joel Schlosberg is a senior news analyst at The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.


  1. “In 2023, myths are true lies and new deals are old” by Joel Schlosberg, Newton, Iowa Daily News, January 12, 2023
  2. “In 2023, myths are true lies and new deals are old” by Joel Schlosberg, Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman [Wasilla, Alaska], January 12, 2023
  3. “In 2023, myths are true lies” by Thomas L. Knapp [sic], The Madill, Oklahoma Record, January 12, 2023

Freedom Isn’t Just Another Word For a Job Left to Lose


The editors of the Queens Chronicle admit that it “shouldn’t be surprising when” those who “seem determined to drive businesses out of” New York City “bill themselves as Democratic Socialists, but it still is” (“Another anti-biz bill to nix,” December 1).

Their shock evidently isn’t at socialists being anti-business.  The editorial posits that employers being “allowed to hire and fire whom they choose” makes “the free market better respected,” unrestricted not only by legislation — such as a proposal from the New York City Council’s Tiffany Cabán to require “just cause or a legitimate economic reason” for terminations — but organized labor negotiation.  “Unions aren’t always appropriate,” since they can keep “rubber-room teachers or excessive-force cops” on the payroll.

What should be startling is that the assumptions that workers have it better than they would in a freer market, and that their bargaining power is bad for business, have lasted so long.

The Wall Street Journal has lauded the socialist mayors of Milwaukee who “implemented a range of new programs, but paid for them largely through gains in efficiency rather than tax increases.” Other socialists went beyond such “an entrepreneurial approach to government, improving systems, cutting waste” to entrepreneurialism in the private sector. Some even did so in New York, before its markets became synonymous with the hard-charging capitalism of Wall Street and The Apprentice.

The town that elected Mike Bloomberg leader of its business nearly made free-trade populist Henry George mayor in 1886 on the United Labor Party ticket.  Brentwood, Long Island hometown of hip-hop duo EPMD of Strictly Business fame, was where Josiah Warren’s ideals of Equitable Commerce were put into practice by voluntary trading of “labor for labor.” The dominance of bookstore chains over independents once seemed so inevitable that You’ve Got Mail needed Tom Hanks’s likability to make it palatable. A decade before the first Barnes & Noble, New Yorkers had laissez-faire socialist Benjamin Tucker’s Unique Book-Shop, which boasted the “Largest Stock in the World Of Advanced Literature in English, French, German, and Italian” … all at the “Lowest Prices in the United States.”

Tucker’s little shop shouldn’t have remained an anomaly. He proposed that a free market in credit would “secure the greatest possible production of wealth and its most equitable distribution.” And dismantling the interlocking monopolies he identified would spur producers by the promise of getting well paid for serving consumers rather than the sheer dread of hearing “you’re fired!”

New Yorker Joel Schlosberg is a senior news analyst at The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.


  1. “Freedom isn’t Just Another Word For a Job Left to Lose” by Joel Schlosberg, CounterPunch, December 6, 2022
  2. “‘Freedom’ not just another word for job left to lose” by Joel Schlosberg, The Daily Star [Hammond, Louisiana], December 8, 2022
  3. “Freedom isn’t just another word” by Thomas L. Knapp [sic], The Madill, Oklahoma Record, December 8, 2022
  4. “Freedom Isn’t Just Another Word For a Job Left to Lose” by Joel Schlosberg, OpEdNews, December 10, 2022