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The Atlas Society Asks Peter Copses Transcript

The Atlas Society Asks Peter Copses Transcript

March 21, 2024

Peter Copses has had a storied career in finance and investment. Though recently retired, Peter was a founding senior partner of Apollo Management, which is a leading global alternative asset manager with over $300 billion of assets under management. Over his 30-year career at Apollo, he's played a part in countless business turnarounds in a wide variety of sectors, serving on boards ranging from Ralph's to GNC and serving as Chairman of the Board of CKE Restaurants, which includes brands such as Carl's Jr. and Hardee's. As a trustee of The Atlas Society, he joined CEO Jennifer Grossman for one of our earliest episodes of The Atlas Society Asks to discuss the impact of an educational system that teaches students to hate America along with the government’s role in sacrificing our rights in the name of “safety” during the COVID-19 lockdowns. Watch the entire interview HERE or check the transcript below.

JAG: Jennifer Grossman

PC: Peter Copses

JAG: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the 11th episode of The Atlas Society Asks. Today we are joined by Peter Copses. Peter. Thanks for joining us.

PC: Thanks, Jennifer. Great to be here.

JAG: Okay, so, you and I have had many conversations over the past few months offline, and also in our Atlas Society Happy Hours with our trustees, in which you expressed dismay at the willingness of Americans to kind of unquestioningly follow the orders from the government, and also expressed disappointment that so many people have decided that it's the government's job to keep them safe rather than to protect their rights. So how can we reestablish the necessity of protecting rights in the minds of ordinary Americans?

PC: Well, that's a big question, and I guess I can assume that my venting offline must have been entertaining since you invited me here today.

So, let's start with first principles. First of all, the government's job is not to keep us safe. The government's job is to protect our rights.

And you mentioned that I came to the United States from Canada. And one of the things that you really need to admire about America and the unique thing about America is that our rights are our own. They're not granted by the government, and the government can't take them away.

The COVID crisis has actually been an illustration of how willing we are to elevate safety over our rights. It's illustrated how weak our commitment is to our founding principles.

And it's certainly true that one legitimate role of government is to keep us safe from foreign enemies. That's national events, definitely a legitimate role for government. But the idea of safety has, I think, been distorted beyond all recognition. So, some now think safety even includes being protected from ideas that may differ from our own. In fact, there's a hearing going on in Congress, probably over by the time of our little webinar, but a hearing going on in Congress; it was largely about protecting people from ideas that they may find harmful. And the COVID crisis has actually been an illustration of how willing we are to elevate safety over our rights. It's illustrated how weak our commitment is to our founding principles. I think most people, just out of self-interest, probably would have refrained from going to large gatherings, probably would have worn a mask if they thought it was actually helpful, and probably didn't need the government to tell them to do it. But instead, what happened? We had lockdowns. We confined people to their homes. We deprived businesses of their ability to operate. And the strange thing was everyone basically fell into line in L.A., which, as you mentioned, our family recently left. We actually had a curfew for law-abiding citizens so that looters could have free rein in the streets. How ridiculous is that? So, given the level of civil unrest, does anybody doubt that, at least partially, civil unrest is due to what is, in my view, a self-destructive decision to shut down the economy, put millions of people out of work, and keep everybody cooped up at home. So, let's get to your question. How do we reestablish the necessity of protecting rights? Well, I think it starts with how we educate young people, and that's a theme we'll probably come back to a couple of times in this webinar. I think it's vital that they understand the genius that's the basis for our constitution.

I don't believe they're taught that anymore, so how can we expect them to understand it? It would also help if the Supreme Court would do its job and protect those rights and the ones that are in the constitution instead of looking for ones that aren't there.

JAG: Well, that's definitely the case. And the school system has really done such a miserable job of educating people about their constitutional rights, even educating people about the true history of the United States. Unfortunately, it's done a very good job of educating people with, I think, very destructive and divisive narratives about so-called structural racism in America. So, as someone, Peter, who worked very, very hard to become an American citizen, along with your wife, what's your take on the most common complaint that's currently levied against the United States, which is the complaint that America is fundamentally and structurally a racist country?

A capitalist values people for their productivity. A capitalist seeks to maximize his own net present value. A capitalist will hire, work for, trade with, partner with anyone that will help him achieve that objective of maximizing his own net present value. He wants to accomplish that. And he doesn't really care about the person's race, the person's religion, the person's sexual orientation, or any other characteristic.

PC: Well, first of all, I think that I'm a free market capitalist, and that makes me the least racist type of person there is. Let me explain why. A capitalist values people for their productivity. A capitalist seeks to maximize his own net present value.

A capitalist will hire, work for, trade with, partner with anyone that will help him achieve that objective of maximizing his own net present value. He wants to accomplish that. And he doesn't really care about the person's race, the person's religion, the person's sexual orientation, or any other characteristic. As you mentioned, I'm an American by choice, not by birth. I grew up in Canada, and I admired America so much that I decided I'd do everything I could to emigrate here. And I find with that background, I actually find America's obsession with race a bit perplexing. First, let me just get on the table that I do not believe America is systemically racist. And I don't even know what that term means. Frankly, I'm not even sure the people who use that term understand what it means. Are there ignorant people in the United States? Absolutely. There probably always will be. Is America systemically racist?

JAG: No.

PC: An African American was elected president twice. The wealthiest entertainer in America is African American. Many, if not most, cultural icons are African American.

Many have deservedly accumulated tremendous wealth because that is what our system allows those with skills and those who work hard to do. It's amazing to me, and frankly, a little frustrating, that those who have reached these heights do not celebrate the system in which they achieved that success. Rather, they pander to the mob by attacking it. I spent 35 years in business, as you pointed out in your introduction, and I have to say, instances of racism were rare. In fact, most of the businesses that I was involved in at the least went out of their way to advance qualified people from groups they saw as under-represented because it made them feel good. It felt like they were doing something good. And you wanted to see people succeed. So, I frankly never observed it. And I actually believe it's been grossly exaggerated.

JAG: I agree. And I also think that what you focus on, you tend to move towards. And when you focus on and you exaggerate something as really important as racism. . .I mean, let's not forget, after all, Ayn Rand called racism the most crudely primitive form of collectivism. And she at the same time celebrated capitalism and individualism and a system of people that would be judged on the merit of their character and what they had to bring, not on their past or their genes or anything like that. But as you mentioned, sort of the anti-racism that we see being pushed, you’d think it should be sort of a benign message, like the one that Ayn Rand so eloquently captured in talking about a rejection of the kind of barnyard or stockyard version of collectivism based on an inherited genetic code.

But there seems to be something else at work, and the anti-racism crowd appears to be sending a message. If you talk about structures and systems, it's almost the message to young African Americans that no matter what they do, they can't succeed. Do you think that this belief that it doesn't matter, you don't have any agency, could be impacting the violence, the rioting and destruction occurring in cities across the country?

The most pernicious message you can ever give any young person of any race is that no matter what you do, no matter how hard you work, you'll never get ahead because the system is stacked against you. Not only is that incredibly demoralizing, it just isn't true.

PC: Well, that's a very complicated question, so let's unpack it because you asked a few things. First of all, I'm glad you asked me about what I refer to as a pernicious message. In fact, really, I think the most pernicious message you can ever give any young person of any race is that no matter what you do, no matter how hard you work, you'll never get ahead because the system is stacked against you. Not only is that incredibly demoralizing, it just isn't true.

Just as a sort of anecdote, I just finished binging The Last Dance series on Michael Jordan, which, by the way, I recommend highly to anyone, because anyone can learn from Michael Jordan's example. And it's a highly entertaining series. But I already knew Michael Jordan was a great basketball player, no great revelation there. But what I had no idea about was his unbelievable mental attitude. He worked at his craft probably harder than anyone in the game, so he got the most out of his innate ability. Another couple of interesting things that really struck me was he came from a two-parent family that made really good choices. In fact, at the recommendation of his father, he took an entrepreneurial risk on what was then an upstart Nike brand, and he profited tremendously from an entrepreneurial decision. And that's America. That is what makes America a great country. There are so many things in that story that make you proud to be American, and it's really well worth watching. Anyway, to get back to your question, the most insidious part of the anti-racism discussion is, as you mentioned, it really seeks to take away personal agency: that you are not responsible for your own decisions. That's actually really insulting. The message is it's not our decision or our effort that determines outcomes, it's the system. It absolves people of personal responsibility. I personally find that repugnant. So, the woke left, as it's now referred to, is actually all about, in my view, making themselves feel better. It's actually not about helping anybody.

Let's take some examples. I mean, a serious person would understand that public schools have utterly failed minority students. A serious person would not support teachers unions who feather their own nests and care little about student outcomes. A serious person would not oppose charter schools or school choice. A serious person would actually call out the breakdown of the African American family and either through persuasion or policy or some other method, encourage two-parent households and help young people make good choices before it's too late.

The woke left, on the other hand, believes the system is the problem, that it is evil. Everything has to be destroyed. History has to be flushed down an Orwellian memory hole. Any idea that conflicts with their worldview is hate speech.

So, here's the fundamental difference, in my view, between the way the woke left looks at the world and the way I believe we should look at it. I sincerely believe that the American system has been the most successful at creating wealth and improving the standard of living in human history. And we should constantly strive to make sure all of us, of any race, creed, whatever, can prosper within it. But to do so, the bargain you make is you have to make good choices and you have to work hard. The woke left, on the other hand, believes the system is the problem, that it is evil. Everything has to be destroyed. History has to be flushed down an Orwellian memory hole. Any idea that conflicts with their worldview is hate speech. By the way, one of the things that I find really abhorrent about the focus on hate speech and social media and what have you is that those who seek to shut down opposing views that don't agree with their own, they call it hate speech, but they're only really conceding that their own ideas will not really win in a battle of ideas.

Views that don't comport with your own are not hate speech, they're just different views. So anyway, to come back to your question, that's a pretty long preamble. To answer your question, I believe the reason for the current rioting and unrest is actually very complex. If you had any doubt that the cost of an unrealistic lockdown and shuttering of the economy was much higher than any health benefit, we're certainly now living it, you just can't put millions of people out of work and tell them they can't leave their homes and expect it will not result in unrest.

The tragic death of George Floyd was the catalyst. Ironically, even though this was the catalyst, there is virtually no disagreement, at least none that I've heard, that the actions of those policemen were horrifically wrong. Everyone understands that they were horrifically wrong. But we have a corrupt and biased media that's willfully characterizing protests as mostly peaceful, whatever that means, when they're clearly well organized groups taking advantage of the situation and causing destruction of property.

The left-leaning press and the radical-left politicians have a singular objective, and that's to get Trump, President Trump, out of office, and the ends justify any means.

So, it's really vitally important to recognize that our economic system is built on private property rights. And when the authorities excuse destruction of private property, as so many local officials are doing in Portland and Seattle and other places, the long term costs to wealth creation and capital formation are going to be substantial.

JAG: Agreed. And I think that's one of the reasons why it's so important to defend the capitalist system, not just with facts, not just with history, not just with economics, not just with white papers, not just with policy positions, but with imagination, with a vocal moral defense of individualism, which is what we strive to do creatively here at The Atlas Society. So, I want to remind everybody, because we still have about 40 minutes left to our webinar to please ask your questions on Zoom, keep them short, ask them on Facebook. And we're going to try to get to them if we can.

Peter, as you've observed before, we're just talking about race and a pernicious messaging to African American young people about that, that the system is stacked against them, and their own individual agency doesn't really amount to anything; but, as you've observed before, the anti-American, anti-capitalist message isn't only aimed at young African Americans. Our educational system is teaching students that America is evil. And it has been since our founding.

You talk about a serious person—this seems kind of serious. What do they seriously hope to achieve by this kind of educational indoctrination?

We all want equality of opportunity. That, to me, is what a level playing field means. Equality of opportunity, the equal opportunity to succeed and to fail. But we shouldn't expect nor should we seek equality of result.

PC: Well, I guess, in short, what they hope to achieve is a permanent majority that can remake America into a utopia where the elusive goal, their elusive goal of equity is achieved. It's a very loaded term, equity. And I think they, the left, have successfully conflated equality of opportunity with equality of result.

We all want equality of opportunity. That, to me, is what a level playing field means. Equality of opportunity, the equal opportunity to succeed and to fail. But we shouldn't expect nor should we seek equality of result.

And I find it oftentimes very frustrating because those on the left present what I believe is a false choice. So, in my view, America has, maybe not explicitly, but effectively, chosen to strive for high-median income and tolerate high levels of income inequality. Okay, that's a choice.

Another choice would be to strive for lower levels of income inequality, but unfortunately, you'd have a lower median level of income. The left presents a false choice where you can magically, in their utopia, produce high-median income with low levels of inequality. This has never been achieved and never will be because it's contrary to human nature.

We have the highest standard of living in the world precisely because we're willing to accept somewhat higher levels of inequality. But it produces the best result for the most people. That's the important thing to remember. The left believes, on the other hand, that the entire system is evil. So, it has to be destroyed and it has to be remade in order to be fixed. Some of their tactics are very cynical, but I have to say, you have to admire their effectiveness. I mean, just take as examples some of the things that they've been pushing more recently. One thing is to lower the voting age, since younger voters are more likely to buy into their utopian message. They routinely flout the immigration laws and want to extend rights to illegal immigrants on the assumption it expands their political power. This is despite the fact that low-skilled immigration unambiguously hurts those that they profess to try and help. And, by the way, I'm an immigrant, so I admire immigrants that want to come to this country, but I believe that this is a cynical exploitation of what is otherwise a good thing.

Another one that I find a little bit startling is the threat to pack the Supreme Court. This is a blatant attempt, just like it was in the 1930s, to intimidate the justices. I believe they've had an effect on the chief justice, who to me, looks like he's running scared.

They want to add new states to ensure permanent Senate majority. They want to attack the Electoral College, or have been attacking the Electoral College to attempt to create a tyranny of the majority, which is antithetical to the founder's vision in this country. They feared the tyranny of the majority. So, this is a triumph that's been decades in the making, unfortunately. And while the rest of us have been working for a living, the radical left has taken over academia, they've taken over the education system, they've taken over popular culture, and they've definitely taken over the media.

If you were a student in my son's US History class, you would think nothing good happened in America from the day the first Europeans set foot on North American shores. So, do you wonder that the statues of Christopher Columbus are being torn down? I don't.

So, the generation that's now coming of age has a very negative view of America because that's what they've been taught and that's what they hear. If you were a student in my son's US History class, you would think nothing good happened in America from the day the first Europeans set foot on North American shores. So, do you wonder that the statues of Christopher Columbus are being torn down? I don't wonder.

In a US History class they spend more time on the exploitation of Native Americans and relatively obscure figures in the civil rights struggle than they do on Abraham Lincoln or on the Lincoln-Douglas debates.

One of my personal pet peeves is that Reagan and Coolidge, the only two presidents since the Progressive Era to advocate free-market capitalism and they both did so with terrific results, are treated like comic figures. So, students are fed a distorted view and they're taught to equate freedom to equality of result rather than the opportunity to pursue their goals and to succeed or fail.

One of the things that I found truly startling recently, I'm not sure if you heard about it, and it's an illustration of the rank hypocrisy on the social-justice left is the LA Unified School District. The teachers recently conditioned their return to classrooms, among a bunch of other things, on eliminating all charter schools, higher capital gains taxes, Medicare-for-all, and defunding the police. Now, what on earth do any of those things have to do with safely returning to school? This is how cynical and how bold this movement has become. All of this, in my humble opinion, should enrage lower-income minority voters who have to know that better educational outcomes are the only true way that inequality is ever going to be reduced. They've been taken for granted by Democrats for decades, and until they demand measures like more charter schools, more school choice, things that result in better outcomes, they really have no right to expect any improvement.

The hijacking of higher education by the left is truly frightening. But it's not going to change until the donor class stops donating to universities that preach an anti-American message... The productive alumni need to wake up and stage an Atlas Shrugged-style donor strike.

Then on the higher education level, the hijacking of higher education by the left is truly frightening. But it's not going to change until the donor class stops donating to universities that preach an anti-American message. This will appeal to you:

The productive alumni need to wake up and stage an Atlas Shrugged-style donor strike.

JAG: I am all for that, and I am going to help to organize it at my alma mater, Harvard. Not too long ago I went to my 30th college reunion and before that, my 25th college reunion. I don't give much to Harvard at all, because all of my disposable income gets donated to The Atlas Society. So, all of you watching, and I know you're there, step up and consider taking a look at this as well. I mean, if there's one sort of strange silver lining to all of this destruction, Peter, as you and I have discussed, there is a source of infection, and there is indoctrination that goes on. Intimidation and indoctrination, not just of students, but of teachers. I know so many good teachers, including one on our staff, a couple on our staff who left academia, who left the teaching profession because they just couldn't take it anymore. So, they kind of shrugged. And what you see left behind is just an increasingly non diverse intellectual, a non diverse ideological teacher class that is just increasingly intolerant of even the slightest fragment of dissent.

But one of the results of this broken educational system is just a very fundamental statistical illiteracy, not just of the public, but also of our politicians. How can this country remain free when so many people do not understand science or scientific methods, and yet simultaneously demand sweeping policy changes?

PC: Well, I'm no scientist. I'll start by saying that. But the COVID pandemic has certainly put on full display the statistical illiteracy of both the press and certainly most politicians. So, if we're going to talk about COVID, I want to start out by saying I don't mean to minimize the tragedy of the pandemic or the 150,000 deaths to-date, because they are indeed tragic. But the inability to put the numbers in context is truly staggering. Absolute numbers of positive cases or deaths are literally meaningless, unless you put it in the context of the numbers-per-million population. So we should expect the number of cases to go up when we do more tests. We want to do more tests. It's good we're doing more tests.

The press, of course, loves Governor Andrew Cuomo, but New York state has not done a great job when its deaths-per-million citizens are multiples that of Florida and Texas. The deaths per million in New York are seven-times Florida and nine-times Texas. So, this is a case of triumph of PR over numerical analysis.

The decentralized approach that the governors of Florida and Texas have followed is actually quite sensible, as one-size in this country that's so varied and diverse just doesn't fit all in. One of the biggest ironies of the whole science debate. For all the talk of Trump being a tyrant, to his credit, he actually hasn't imposed any national orders, which by the way, going back to our discussion earlier about the lack of basic understanding of civics, is that we have a federalist system.

The states are supposed to implement these things, so we don't want national orders coming from on-high. So, whether or not you agree with the way Trump's handled the virus, the fact that he's let the federalist system work, in my view, is a positive.

So, another numerical confounding is that the United States’ response to the virus is actually middle-of-the-pack in the world. When you measure it by deaths per-million, we're not great, but we're not the worst either.

From the beginning, it's been crystal clear that the death rate is dramatically different by age group. Yet that's had virtually very little impact on any policy decisions. There's been a complete absence of cost-benefit analysis. I know it's callous to even talk about trading-off economic costs in human life, but the honest truth is that we do it every day. And the cost of the COVID response has been several trillion dollars. Has it saved the millions of lives that would justify such a cost? I don't know the answer to that question, and frankly, I'm not sure anybody does. But the fact that no one's asking the question is a real problem.

These questions are what we pay our policymakers to do, and they have all done a really poor job of it and they've been egged on by an absolutely clueless press. So, as to the science, it seems to me the science has been anything but clear cut. So originally, masks were not necessary. Now, they're the most important weapon in fighting the spread. So let me say, if I have to make the trade between wearing a mask to go into a private business, because the private business wants to protect its premises and the people in it, I would pay that price just to be able to actually go out of my house.

Protests against lockdowns increase the spread, but protests against racism do not. Riots in the streets are fine, but holding a wedding or even a funeral with more than a few people is not. So is it any wonder that nobody is paying attention to the experts?

First, we were told the virus could be spread on surfaces. Now, not so much. Protests against lockdowns increase the spread, but protests against racism do not. Riots in the streets are fine, but holding a wedding or even a funeral with more than a few people is not. So is it any wonder that nobody is paying attention to the experts? None of it makes any sense.

Policymakers need to take account of the science, but they also have to make trade-offs. Epidemiologists are paid to reduce risk to zero, but that's not realistic and it shouldn't be our goal.

JAG: Yes, Peter, and there are trade-offs within trade-offs, because when we talk about saving lives from COVID versus the economy—when you destroy the economy, that has real health consequences in terms of increased risk of a variety of different diseases. So, I am predicting that when you look at the death toll from last year, same time period, versus this year, or throughout the rest of the year, because so many people are not getting checked for many cancers which are detectable and curable if caught in time, there are so many more deaths from other preventable causes.

Every 1% increase in the unemployment rate has been demonstrated to have a statistical impact in terms of increased loss of life. But I don't want to get too down that route, which is pretty, as you say, depressing. I'm going to fetch some questions, but a prerogative of being the hostess of The Atlas Society Asks is to ask you one last one, which is one of the reasons, Peter, that you and I originally got connected at The Atlas Society and that you eventually came on board as one of our trustees and have been a spectacular, extremely generous supporter of our work, and that is about your introduction to Ayn Rand and the transformative effect that it had on you and your family. I think you'd mentioned before, you'd even named your sons after two of the heroes in the book. So, if you wouldn't mind, if you would share with our audience your Ayn Rand origin story.

PC: Well, as long as you don't mind hearing it again, Jennifer, I'm happy to share it. Never get too tired of it. My first exposure to the inherent beauty of the capitalist system was actually when my father recommended to me that I read Milton Friedman's book Free to Choose.

And actually, I think he recommended that I watch a PBS series where they interviewed Milton Friedman, and he was basically talking about Free to Choose. And it had a profound effect on me. It kind of just resonated. I got it. And as you mentioned in your intro, I studied economics in college, and I was introduced to and exposed to Adam Smith and The Wealth of Nations, which obviously is a seminal work, and to capitalist thought.

I was fortunate enough that my career started during the go-go times of the Reagan era, and when the Reagan era was coming to a close and Clinton was elected in 1992, initially, Clinton was actually quite left-wing, and he was ushering in some rather harsh tax increases. I was lamenting these incentive-killing tax increases with some of my business colleagues, and one of them said, you sound like Ayn Rand, and you sound like Atlas Shrugged. And I said, really? I've never read the book. And he recommended I read it.

So, I started reading it that very night, and I literally could not put it down. It just spoke to me. I don't know, it just resonated and spoke to me.

Atlas Shrugged eloquently captured the way I saw the world. Entrepreneurs are heroes that make our lives better, and government bureaucrats are generally envious parasites that get in the way.

It eloquently captured the way I saw the world, to kind of put it succinctly. Entrepreneurs are heroes that make our lives better, and government bureaucrats are generally envious parasites that get in the way.

Ironically, my wife, who grew up in a much more left-leaning environment than I did, was even more mesmerized. She started reading it the day after I did. And she also couldn't put it down. And as you mentioned, when we had twin boys shortly thereafter, we named them after the two protagonists of Atlas Shrugged, and we had a third son, but, unfortunately, we didn't like the other male names in Atlas Shrugged enough.

JAG: Ragnar? No Ragnar?

PC: That didn't work for us.

JAG: Francisco?

PC: No, we named him after Adam Smith.

It was a great discovery, and it's the closest thing to a kind of life philosophy that I've ever discovered. And I've been advocating to people to read it ever since.

JAG: Well, your sons have been spectacular. They are participating in our book club that Ana hosts, and it has been a lot of fun to have them on board.

And the friend that introduced you to Atlas Shrugged, was that Andy?

PC: No, it was actually Ken Mollis who mentioned it to me. And I know you know Ken.

JAG: He's a future supporter of The Atlas Society.

 I can also resonate with Judy's. . .

PC: I'm sorry to interrupt you, but you were referring to Andy Puzder, right?

JAG: Who was, by the way, our first-year speaker. This is going to be our fourth annual gala. Andy was good enough because he and I knew each other from the food industry days to (I was like, hey) help a sister out; we're just starting this thing. And after that I had discovered that Andy Puzder, and I don't want to steal your thunder because maybe you're going to tell the story about him being a Catholic and then also a huge Ayn Rand fan. But he was our first speaker at our gala.

PC: Well, I actually wasn't going to steal that thunder. But when our firm was approaching Andy to invest in CKE, I had discovered Atlas Shrugged before that, but we discovered that we both had an intense interest in Rand and Atlas Shrugged. And we also had the same birthday, not year, but same birthday, and it seemed cosmic. I showed him my signed version of Atlas Shrugged and we bonded over that.

That's my background and how I became exposed to the ideas about Ayn Rand.

JAG: Andy Puzder, as I recounted, this was the moment that I discovered this after so many years of knowing him, that once I was recruited to lead The Atlas Society, I'd driven up, now that he was before you, he also left California. He was living in Santa Barbara and he's now in Nashville. And I was kind of shocked to find out that he was such an intense Ayn Rand fan to the extent that I think he had each of his five or six children—they had to read The Fountainhead before they could even get their driving license. And I was like, Andy, but wait a second, you're a devout Roman Catholic. Is there a disconnect here?

You know that Ayn Rand was an atheist, at least that's her philosophy. And he's, you know, that's not my takeaway from the books, my takeaway was kind of being willing to stand up for what you believe is right, being willing to stand against the crowd, celebrating capitalism, celebrating America, and pushing back against the looters and the moochers. So anyway, and I also resonate with Judy's even deeper connection, having been brought up myself in a more liberal background, I was never really exposed; well, to an extent. My parents are actually, despite being liberal democrats, kind of personally conservative, but I had never been exposed to anything like that. So, it was a big connect. Okay, Neal Laugman.

Hey Neal, it's great to see you. He has an interesting question here and a short one. Thank you very much. He says, Peter, how do you view the financial outcome, to the US and the world economies caused by giving the trillion-dollar giveaways, all of the spending that we're doing right now, what's going to be the impact? What's the reckoning? Is it like, okay, well, whatever, just pay for it; thank you, kids, for picking up the tab later?

PC: Yes, that's a really interesting question. I have kind of two angles on that.

One is sort of the monetary angle, and the other is just the spending itself. So let's start with the spending.

I tend to look at things from the supply-side as opposed to the Keynesian demand-side in terms of economics. So, I find all this talk that we're going to stimulate demand by giving people money is just so much nonsense. The supply-side is what drives the economy. And there's very little in any of these bills that is driving the supply-side of the economy. Maybe the PPP, where they were kind of making sure people stayed in business and had the wherewithal to pay their employees, maybe has a little bit of that. But I think, unfortunately, they teach Keynesian economics in most classes and most people still seem to buy into it, even though it really doesn't make a lot of sense. And I think we could do well to focus more on the supply-side than the demand-side. So that kind of addresses how we're spending the money as opposed to how much we're spending. As to how much we're spending, I'm not sure if it's the first class in economics you learn, but it's one of the early ones that when you print all kinds of money, bad things happen. So let's not kid ourselves. These trillions of dollars, which, if you add it all up, is going on $5–6 trillion.

It's being monetized. I mean, the Fed is essentially monetizing it, or most of it. And so, the money supply is growing and it creates all kinds of distortions that I'm not smart enough to totally understand. But the stock market being as elevated as it is, that's not an accident.

The price of gold—going to almost 2000—that's not an accident. And we shouldn't think of the price of gold as going up. We should think of the value of the dollar going down.

So, I'm not sure where this all ends, but we've seen since 1970 the price of gold go from 30 something, 35, I think it was. I'm probably getting that wrong, but it doesn't matter—35 to 2000. And that's just been the decline in the value of our currency. And it's not an accident that the growth of government has been exponential since we got off the gold standard because there's just nothing to stop it.

I think the woke left, as I referred to them in the earlier comments, spouts this Modern Monetary Theory, I think that is what they call it. Well, we're kind of living it. I mean, we're basically just spending whatever we feel like and we're monetizing it all. And that's really what Modern Monetary Theory is. So we're living the experiment. I don't really expect it to end well, but I guess we're going to have to see.

JAG: I hope it doesn't end as it ended for Venezuela. As you know, Peter, that's our next Draw My life. Actually, after this webinar, I'm hopping on a line with our artist down in Venezuela and then my Venezuelan Spanish teacher. So, they couldn't find a way to finance their ever increasing public spending and started printing more money. And now if you run out of toilet paper, you can use bolivars.

But anyway, we still have about 15 minutes left, and we can get to a couple of more questions, especially the short questions, including a spectacular short question from my buddy, Arno. Hey, Arno. I hope you and Sonia are watching, and thank you for supporting The Atlas Society. Hope to see you in a couple of months.

Arno asks, how do we have a free market for information?

The blocking of videos are another path, similar to which you spoke in the fight against collectivism. Do they (I guess he means people who want to get on the left), do they need 100% control of the media to survive, or do we? Look, we're right here. We're on Zoom, we're on Facebook, we're on all of these different social media platforms. Yes, we do hit barriers. We do get shadow-banned, yes, but we're doing it. We're growing day-by-day. So, how do we have a free market for information? Do you feel more optimistic or pessimistic about where we are in terms of threats to free speech from free-market companies that are controlling vast amounts of how we communicate?

PC: Well, you're going a little bit beyond my area of expertise, which really never stops me from expressing an opinion. But I just thought I'd point that out before I express the opinion.

God forbid I should hear something that offends my sensibilities. We've now started to call that hate speech. Well, that's not hate speech. That's just called disagreement.

So, I mentioned the hearing that's going on today. That's probably over now, but that was going on today where they paraded the heads of all the large technology companies in front of Congress to talk about how powerful they are. And obviously, one of the subjects of discussion was hate speech and how to, essentially, censor. One of the great things about our constitution is you really should be able to say what you want, no matter how heinous it is. In fact, the more heinous, the more it should be protected, because that's the purpose of the amendment. And where we—I don't need to tell this audience, but where we—get better and better ideas is when the ideas clash in the marketplace and the ones that are the best ultimately win. And I think there's been a tendency because of this, going back to one of your earlier questions, this focus on safety, and God forbid I should hear something that offends my sensibilities.

We've now started to call that hate speech. Well, that's not hate speech. That's just called disagreement.

And I think, unfortunately, there's been a trend where people have gotten away with labeling things that are just differences of opinion as hate speech. And I didn't watch the hearing today, but I hope one of the members on the Republican side asked whether it's hate speech or whether it's just things you disagree with, because that's really the question.

Now, Twitter is a dumpster fire and they are not above censorship. They're not above censorship.

I haven't followed everything Mark Zuckerberg's done, but to his credit, he's holding his ground a little bit. I'm not sure how long that'll last, but I think the biggest protection is the fact that technology evolves.

Congress is always ten years behind what's really happening. So, for example, I'm old enough to remember when Microsoft was going to take over the world and had to be broken up and was way too big. I'm old enough to remember when AT&T was way too big.

And so it's hard for us to see right now, but Facebook and others know there'll be people that are upstarts, that challenge them.

And we should feel fortunate that we're not back in the time when I was my son's age and we had three networks, we didn't even have Fox, we had three television networks. And basically they controlled everything. I mean, they controlled what you heard.

And now, even as flawed as the current system is, it's much better than it was. And I think technology is liberating. And as much as we may think that a lot of these companies are dominant, they will meet their match at some point. So, I'm actually not that pessimistic, but I do hope that somebody has the courage to call out this hate-speech thing for what it is, which is just censorship.

JAG: Well, maybe that will be Jim Caruso, who has also been a supporter of The Atlas Society. And his issue that he cares most about is First Amendment free speech issues. And I have learned a ton from him actually, on how political correctness and censorship, just even within the private sector, not government censorship actually is sort of a side door to limiting free speech. So that's why we're going to be doing a couple of new Draw My Life videos, including one on free speech. And I'm looking forward to that. But I would also say that in terms of free speech, in terms of free expression, in terms of having the courage to speak out and speak differently and make mistakes, I think it's all good and well for us as Objectivists and Libertarians to criticize the social media and talk about the importance of hearing different ideas and the importance of tolerance. I think that the Objectivist movement can also do a better job of that. We, as Objectivists, can do a better job of that by tolerating a diversity of different views, whether it’s knowing and welcoming people who are religionists, who happen to find value in Ayn Rand’s ideas, or even within the strict Objectivist movement itself, tolerating different schools of interpreting Objectivism, and certainly tolerating and encouraging more creative risk taking when it comes to advancing the ideas of Ayn Rand. So there was my little rant. Okay?

Peggy says “Amen” to that. Peggy, did you say “Amen”? Banned. Get her out of this group. We're not allowed to say that word. You’re crazy. You're not an Objectivist. [laughs]

Okay, Donald Dubois. I like that name. You know, I come from a long line of Durands and Bienvenues in Louisiana. He wants to know, does Peter Copses have a blog or some other means to access his thoughts and writings? After this webinar ends, is there a URL or other means? Of course. Stay connected with The Atlas Society. We'll always let you know what Peter is doing. And also, I welcome you to step forward.

PC: It's all up here, Jennifer.

JAG: Okay, well, I already know it all, Peter. I know it. I can read your thoughts and listen to you on Twitter.

PC: I've been known to tweet occasionally.

JAG: Yes. Okay. Very, very occasionally. So, you're a careful tweeter.

PC: If you follow me on Twitter, not only will you get these brilliant observations, you will get insights on NHL hockey, you'll get insights on the Beatles, and many other things that have nothing to do with this.

JAG: Peter the tweeter.

Hey, guys, if you would like to hear another one of these webinars with Peter, then just send us some love. Tell us that you want to hear more of Peter, and, I don't know, we may be able to convince him.

Okay, so we are kind of winding down. We've got another ten minutes or so. Vlad David Duik. That's an interesting name. Please forgive me if I just botched it. He asks, how do we assess and avoid repeating or exacerbating the unintended consequences and collateral damage inflicted as a result of ill-informed overreaction to Covid?

So, yes, how do we do that when the current political climate has shown that there are partisans out there that clearly “never let a crisis go to waste,” using it to advance a political point of view? As we discussed before, some of our other commenters had mentioned before, “okay, in order to reopen the schools, you need to raise capital gains taxes,” and do things that have absolutely nothing to do with improving education except destroying schools by destroying the tax base for the schools.

PC: You know what I think is really interesting, Jennifer, is we've had two—crises, maybe is an overused word now—but we've had two crises in the last decade.

JAG: We've talked about this before.

PC: We had the Great Recession [aka, Financial Crisis] of 2008, and then we had, obviously, Covid now and even the politicians and our leaders, nobody in elected office really thinks too much like we do. Maybe Rand Paul, maybe there's a couple, but they're very rare. But the ones that would lean towards the right, even they become socialists in the midst of a crisis.

And maybe socialist is a bit strong, but even they tend towards government solutions. And a lot of times, in the case of the great Financial Crisis, the problem was government-made. And so the government-made problem gets solved by a government solution. Part of that's electoral politics.

Unfortunately, both of those crises, 2008 and 2020, happen during an election year, which makes politicians even more irrational than they normally are.

I think if the COVID crisis had happened in 2018 or 2019, when there wasn't an imminent presidential election, I think the response might have been more rational, and maybe the politicians would have worked together more to come up with rational responses.

I'm not sure this is complete and utter speculation, but I think if the COVID crisis had happened in 2018 or 2019, when there wasn't an imminent presidential election, I think the response might have been more rational, and maybe the politicians would have worked together more to come up with rational responses. And in most crises, at least before we became partisan to the extreme, the country sort of got together and tried to figure things out, and they kind of maybe left their partisanship at the door. That just doesn't happen anymore, even in the midst of a crisis like the one we're experiencing now. So, electoral politics kind of get in the way. But getting back to my original point, I think even those that lean to the right are very disappointing in their automatic reflex gravitation towards a government solution to the problem. And everyone expects the government to do something. Doing nothing is just never considered an option. Oftentimes, doing nothing actually is the best option.

So, how do we avoid the unintended consequences? Which I think was the original question. I think it's hard because the electoral politics create really bad incentives. And I guess one thing we could hope for is that a crisis doesn't happen during a presidential election year. That would be nice, but the last two have.

In our system, it’s really hard to avoid [unintended consequences] because politicians want to get elected and because we have no monetary discipline. They can spend other people's money without really any immediate penalty. Maybe the penalty will be 20 – 30 years from now but they don't care about that. So, it's a conundrum. I'm not sure there's a great answer.

JAG: Okay, well, we're just about at time to wrap it up. We got an interesting question, which I can probably handle a little bit of, which is from PatrioticMoms on Facebook.

She said, do you have a recommended list of authors as best resources for college kids, especially those interested in finance, entrepreneurship and politics? Well, PatrioticMoms, thank Peter. Thank Peter Copses for supporting The Atlas Society and helping us create our graphic novel, the Anthem graphic novel, which has now been distributed to, I've lost count, 100,000-plus students in schools, and that's gone to public libraries, and then just directly to kids. So, that is a great resource. If you have any means of distribution, hit us up at The Atlas  Society. We will send you as many graphic novels as you can take. We are also coming out with our second graphic novel called Red Pawn. Both of these, by the way, are also produced as animated videos with voiceovers. So that is, again, part of what we're doing here at The Atlas Society. You have to be cognizant of, okay, we crash landed into 2020. We crash landed in 2016. How are you going to reach young people? That's my target audience. Think about it like a business person. I want them to have this. Well, they don't want that. They want videos. They want avatars, they want memes. And maybe some of them will get to this. So, that's why also, we have our Pocket Guide to Objectivism. We just came out with our Pocket Guide to Postmodernism, our Pocket Guide to Terms, our Pocket Guide to Atlas Shrugged. We've got a lot of those.

Anyway, that's my very non-short answer, but I'm answering it because that is specifically what I do 24/7: think about and then execute resources for that age group. And, Peter, what do you say in addition to that, what are the must reads?

PC: Well, in terms of, I think your focus on things that are consumable as video and through social media and the ways that young people tend to learn things these days is right on target. And one of the reasons why I really like what you're doing, because I think it's much more likely to have an impact because that's the way the generation that my sons belong to, that's the way they get information and that's the way they like to consume it. I absolutely applaud that.

But if you want to go back to a traditional book, perish the thought. But if you want to go back to a traditional book, the thing that I mentioned, that Free to Choose influenced me. That's actually quite accessible if you want to learn about how capitalism works, and another one you don't hear about anymore, but I read, and I really was struck by, was a book by a fellow named Jude Wanniski called The Way the World Works, which was an outstanding book and well worth reading.

And those are two that come to mind. George Gilder, I read a book by him, one of his early books, but the title is failing me now.

So, those are three that are not Ayn Rand, but they're more economics focused.

But Atlas Shrugged was the one that struck me because it really reinforced the idea that the creators of the world, that's where our wealth comes from. Our wealth comes from the creators of the world. Everyone else is spending or redistributing the wealth. But [the creators] that's where the wealth comes from. And we need to—it's vital—that we understand that.

And America is the most creative country on the planet, and that's why we're the wealthiest country on the planet. And if we ever lose sight of that fact, and I fear we might be, we will pay a heavy price. But that's the source, and that's really what the message to me from Atlas Shrugged was.

JAG: Peter, I felt like I knew you pretty well, but I'm learning a lot of new things, even in this interview, and I didn't know that you were also influenced by The Way the World Works. So Jude was, if I have to count my three or four top mentors that I've had throughout my life, Jude Wanniski was one of them and, of course, he's passed away. So, it would be interesting for us to try to figure out how to refresh or excerpt or make more accessible some of his work. The other thing is, PatrioticMoms, and those of you who are listening, who have children and young people that you would like to be a part of this, Ana has our book club, and Peter's sons are a part of it.

And we've now had two books, which you should also add to your reading list, and we'll come up with a good reading list on our site. But one of them was Peter Diamandis's The Future is Faster Than You Think. It was one of his books about accelerating technology, which dovetails into sort of the optimistic point that Peter was striking before. In terms of the accelerating innovation in social media and how that is going to be hard for the regulators and even the haters, whatever, to catch up to. So, that was the first book club that we did with Peter Diamandis, again, our honoree this year. And then, the other one that we just finished up was with Chip Wilson's Little Black Stretchy Pants, also titled The Story of Lululemon. And that was Peter. Chip was last year's honoree. So right now, the kids are in the book club reading The Case Against Socialism by Senator Rand Paul, which we endlessly meme excerpts of. So, any of those are good options, but we can also send you our Pocket Guides. So. Whoa, Jay, I'm also reading your mind. Jay tells me: Jag, you've let this guy get out of hand. Time to shut it down.” So it's time to shut it down. We are at an hour, but boy, we could have gone on for more.

But, Peter, I really appreciate the time, the wisdom, the support.

PC: It was fun.

JAG: And every future person who's going to be a guest on The Atlas Society Asks or Ask The Atlas Society, which is sort of the flip that we do with students, look at the preparation here. This guy, he did not mail it in. We didn't have to scramble the mic check. He really did it. And if you would like to meet Peter in person, consider coming to our Atlas Society gala. It's coming up Wednesday, October 14. You can find it on our website, Tickets are really pretty darn reasonable. We also have a lot of students who would like to go. So, if you're not in the LA area or it's just not right for you, just consider getting a ticket so that we can bring a lot of spectacular young people and we can just hand it over to Peter's sons and the next generation of people there. So thanks, everybody. Thanks for making this possible. Thank you, Peter. Thank you, everybody who showed up on Facebook, everybody who showed up at Zoom. Thank you for all you do, Peter, and looking forward to seeing you at the Happy Hour. Okay, great.

PC: Thanks, Jennifer. Good to talk to you.

JAG: Thank you. Bye.

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