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How to engage in effective intellectual activism - a short interview with activist Lin Zinser

(this is raw unedited text, computer transcribed directly from the audio, without voice inflection, pauses etc. Sometimes this results in the text implying the opposite of the intended meaning.)

(Micro ad) . . .
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Movie excerpt . . .
Say, what do you let those boys push you around like that for?

Well, they're bigger than me.

Stand tall boy! Have some respect for yourself. Don't you know, if you let people walk over you now they'll be walking over you for the rest of your life?

Dr. Kenner:
And that is from Back to the Future Part One. And you could have had you guessed that. Back to the Future. Part one, if you let people walk over you now they'll be walking over you for the rest of your life. And that's true in our personal lives. And that is also true. On the political level. This is from an article written by Ayn Rand, 'what can one do' in the book 'philosophy who needs it'. Quote- If a dictatorship ever comes to this country, it will be by the default of those who keep silent. We are still free enough to speak. Do we have time? No one can tell. But time is on our side, because we have an indestructible weapon, and an invincible ally, if we learn how to use them; reason and reality. unquote.

And with me to discuss how to speak up for yourself how to fight for your freedom, which means your happiness is Lynn Zinser. She is the vice president at the Ayn Rand center for individual rights, which is the division of the Ayn Rand Institute. And she knows how to fight for values. And she went from a person who didn't know how to fight for her values to a person who was an expert at that now. Welcome, Lynne.

Thanks. I'm glad to be here.

You've spoken out what is some key strategies that you could give me to speak out, I want to speak out more, I don't want to remain silent and see whether it's within my own family or at work, or in the culture at large in the political scene. I don't want to be a silent person, but it's not easy

Well, a couple of things. One is that a lot of people feel intimidated because they don't know a subject really well. And I think it's important that you do know what it is you're talking about that gives you that that gives you a confidence to be able to speak up. But you don't necessarily have to know all of the economic arguments or all of the political arguments. What is much more effective is to be able to articulate the moral argument is to be able to say, This is wrong. And here's why this is wrong. Or this is the way we should go. We should advocate for freedom. And here's why freedom is important. That is far more effective. A lot of people will we hear people say all of the time. Well, my understand that capitalism may be the best economic system, but it's not moral.

Right. So if I were to play devil's advocate here, I don't believe this point of view. But if I've been playing the part here, if I say, Listen, capitalism is not a friendly system, you need to be your brother's keeper, you need to take care of the people who can't take care of themselves and you want to be a benevolent person. How would you get to the moral argument there?

I would say capitalism is the only moral system. Capitalism is the system that allows people to act in pursuit of their happiness. It is the system that . . .

But it's not benevolent. It's everybody take advantage of everyone else.

That is not what capitalism is. Capitalism is the system that allows people to act for their rational values.

So it basically with capitalism, its people see it as an AI when you lose, you know, I'm Ellen, I win, you lose Lin. And that's exactly wrong. It's that type of misinformation that's perpetrated through even my university, Brown University, the one I went to that, that is that is killing freedom. And instead, capitalism is really a win win situation. I give you a nice massage. When you give me a nice massage, we trade it's an equal trade, we both walk away happy, and the people who want a massage and don't want to pay for it. Yeah, they suffer under capitalism. And the people who can't do for themselves can't get the massages. Well, capitalists tend to be very benevolent people, and they might be generous at a time. They don't have to be but if I give a backrub, right, so go ahead.

Exactly. And if I don't know how to give you a massage, I can pay you, pay for the massage, right? So it's a win win system. And if you don't get to the moral issue, then you're bound to be able to say, well, I know capitalism has its drawbacks. The drawbacks are basically misinformation that people have been given and if people want more information on this, they can read Ayn Rand's book capitalism, the unknown ideal, and Atlas shrugged.

Oh, yeah, man. How could I forget that one? My all time favorite book, the book that took me from being a very shy person, very shy, sending home knitting socks and circular needles to going back and getting my PhD and talking to you now Lynn? So that is an amazing book for anybody who wants It's a happier life. So can you give us a few pointers on how to engage in effective intellectual activism? For anyone that wants to do that?

Yes, I think one of the things is to learn, to attend meetings, to go to public meetings, and speak up, sometimes, most most public forum, have an opportunity for people to speak up and in just one or two minutes, and agree or disagree, that is an effective way of speaking up and saying, I disagree, or this is the program that we should be following. I think you can also attend Toastmasters are writing workshops, if you want to learn how to write letters to the editor. There are lots of things you can do to learn how to be an effective intellectual activist.

And the feeling that you get if you write just a letter to the editor in a local paper, maybe a small little paper and it gets published. Man, that's fuel that's psychological fuel of I can do it. It has that type of a feel in it. Absolutely. And if you have setbacks, what if you get cold feet at the last minute and you don't speak up, you go to raise your hand and you pull it back down again? . . .

Hey, I gotta interrupt this because we've got to pay some bills. 30 seconds. That's it. A very quick break and then Ellen will be back. . .

Romance. Oh, I wish guys knew more about what we want from a relationship. Boy, I wish I knew more about what I want. Where's that ad I saw? Here it is The Selfish Path to Romance - a serious romance guidebook. Download chapter one for free at and buy it at Hmm, The Selfish Path to Romance. That IS interesting.

And if you have setbacks, what if you get cold feet at the last minute and you don't speak up, you go to raise your hand and you pull it back down?

Again, you learn from your mistakes. You think about why you got called fate? What is it that you could have said, and the next time that you are in that's put yourself back into a situation where where you can't speak up again. And this time you speak up?

So the worst thing that can happen in that moment is if you conclude, oh, what's the use? Why bother? I knew I shouldn't have said anything, I did more harm than good. And I better just keep my mouth shut. Right? Bad, bad, bad attitude. Right?

Seldom, I can't even imagine a situation where you only have one chance to ever speak up. Yeah, at least in our society, where you only have one chance to speak up. And if you blow it, you've blown it for all of your life. I mean, that's just not going to happen, right? There are multiple opportunities. And all that happens is that you don't do it as well as you could have. And the next time you do it better if you learn from your mistakes.

And even if you bungle it, even if (I don't know if that's a word,) but even if you're totally not effective, it didn't go as well as you had hoped. And you still spoke up and you can go back and rework it without beating up on yourself. You know, give yourself a pat on the shoulder for having spoken up. A woman told me that what speaking out gives her is an enormous positive view of life and the people around her. She said to me, you're not afraid anymore. People, you see the world differently. It's empowering. you value your life and the culture around you. When you're acting for change, which in our context is rational principles. I'm assuming you would underscore that.

Absolutely. In fact, that's one of the things that is amazing to me is that you do have this much more benevolent attitude towards other people and you're less even people that you oppose,

Yeah. And you're less afraid. This is Lin Zinser. She is the vice president of the Ayn center for individual rights, which is a division of the Ayn Rand Institute. And you can get information on Ayn Rand in her books at Ayn or ayn I'm Dr. Ellen Kenner. Thanks for joining us, Lynn.

Thank you.

For more Dr. Kenner podcasts go to And please listen to this ad . . .

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Speaker 2 9:13
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Speaker 5 9:57
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