If we look a little closer and, instead of comparing him to other pundits spouting less unreasonable ideologies, we compare him with other orthodox Objectivists, Brook cuts a more compelling figure. While he remains steadfastly orthodox and thoroughly Peikoffian in his official outlook, he has quietly, behind scenes, been hard at work trying to give orthodox Objectivism a public make-over. Without challenging any of the core principles of Objectivism or questioning Peikoff's ultimate authority as an interpreter of Ayn Rand's philosophy, Brook seems intent on focusing the core of ARI's intellectual activism on the issue of morality and politics. Rand's epistemology and philosophy of history will remain untouched and unchallenged; they may even be cited ocassionally; but they will no longer be front and center, or even close to front and center. ARI's principle mission will be to preach the morality of capitalism and war on radical Islam.
On the ARI website, Brook has a series of videos called "Yaron Brook's Call to Action." Everyone of them involves politics and political activism. No videos on epistemology or Immanual Kant or metaphysics or aesthetics. Brook, along with fellow Objectivist Don Watkins, have a website entitled "Laissez Faire: The Uncompromised Case for Capitalism." Brook has co-authored (again with Don Watkins) the book Free Market Revolution: How Ayn Rand's Ideas Can End Big Government, as well as numerous articles (nearly all dealing with the morality and politics as seen through a Peikoffian lens). It is obvious where Brook's passion chiefly dwells: he wishes to make the "moral" argument for both capitalism and an aggressively anti-Islamist foreign policy.
In the early days of ARI, the emphasis was on producing Objectivist academics, who would then, through their positions at Universities, spread the Randian message among aspiring intellectuals. Brook seems intent on taking a more comprehensive approach. He wishes to spread Objecitivism, particularly the pro-capitalist portion of it, by every means available: universities, cable television, youtube, social media, debates, radio, etc.
While Brook has been focusing ARI's evangelism on morality and politics, he's also been busy trying to clean up its public image. The Objectivist old guard, particularly Peikoff, never cared much for what other people might think. The recent McCaskey spat demonstrates Peikoff's blithe indifference to the public image of ARI. Such things matter to Yaron Brook. He did his best to give as good a spin on Peikoff's bad behavior as circumstances allowed. He even arranged a "debate" between himself and Peikoff on the issue of immigration, just to try to show that disagreement with Peikoff was not necessarily always verboten.
In other (admittedly) small ways Brook has worked hard to change the tone of ARI, to make it less insular, less cultish, less irrelevant to the outside world. For instance, in his co-authored book, Free Market Revolution, Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, George Reisman and even Nathaniel Branden are cited favorably. That may not seem like that a big a deal. But for years orthodox Objectivists, because of Rand's hostility toward Friedman and Hayek, evinced a reflexive horror for these thinkers. And we all know the Objectivist attitude toward Branden. It's hard to imagine Peikoff, Binswanger, or Schwartz ever citing any of Branden's Objectivist writings. Brook (along with co-author Watkins) cites Branden by name as follows:
Lurking beneath these attacks is a view that Ayn Rand's then-colleague Nathaniel Branden, writing in Rand's collection The Virtue of Selfishness, called "the Divine Right of Stagnation."
A paragraph later Brook and Watkins insert an entire passage from Branden. Since none of the quotes from Branden are particularly insightful or original, it's difficult not to suspect that the real reason for quoting him is to send a message to the Objectivist community. The years of ignoring Branden and pretending he wasn't an important contributor to in the early days of Objectivism are over. This is a subtle but definite move towards attempting to mitigate some of the most blatant aspects of cultism in orthodox Objectivism.
The one aspect of cultism that Brook has been unable to abate involves Leonard Peikoff. Free Market Revolution contains, in the acknowledgements, some embarrassing effusions of gratitude toward Peikoff and "his enormous and unparalleled contribution to our understanding of Ayn Rand's philosophy." One wonders, particularly following the McCaskey scandal, what Brook's true feelings are toward Peikoff. Is it possible that Brook's gratitude toward his "mentor" is not entirely unmixed with frustration at Peikoff's determination to drive away a major ARI doner over some excessively mild criticism?
As a thinker Brook, despite a facile intelligence, is dismally conventional, unoriginal, destitute of insight. Immersion in Randian ideology has castrated his mind. He can do little more than repeat the well worn Objectivist formulas. Free Market Revolution is a tiresome book. You have to be woefully ignorant of human nature and political science to take its nostrums seriously. Brook and Watkins argue, in typical Objectivist fashion, that the growth of government and statism are the inevitable consequence of the failure on the part of "conservatives" to provide a moral defense of capitalism. In a review of Arthur Brooks' book The Battle, Brook and Watkins write:
The real battle for capitalism is the battle over the question: Is it moral to pursue our own happiness? If so, then why should we ever be forced to sacrifice for the needs of others? Is the moral call to sacrifice, which we’ve had drummed in our heads since childhood, right?
Only one thinker has ever challenged the morality of need and defended the moral right to pursue your own happiness: Ayn Rand.
Brook obviously regards Rand's moral defense of capitalism as some sort of panacea which, like a talisman with special powers, will dissolve America's unwillingness to embrace laissez-faire. It's easy for Brook to believe this because, as a person outside the mainstream, removed from the levers of power and responsibility, he can adopt any position he likes without worrying about it ever being tested (and proven wrong). But if he were, say, Paul Ryan's campaign manager for the 2016 presidential election, would he really advise his candidate to make the "moral case" for capitalism (i.e., "greed is good"). Or would the practical reality of the situation awake him from his dogmatic slumber and, shaking loose the Randian shackles, advise him: "That way madness lies."