George Reisman and his wife Edith Packer were once associates of the Ayn Rand Institute. Ms. Packer was a founding director and both were on ARI’s Board of Advisors. ARI promoted their work, including Mr. Reisman’s Thomas Jefferson School which organized conferences on Objectivism. Late 1993 Leonard Peikoff – apparently at the behest of Harry Binswanger and Peter Schwartz – suddenly expelled both Mr. Reisman and Ms. Packer from ARI, and required everyone associated with ARI to shun them. We shall provide links to HTML versions of memos and letters of that time by many of the people involved. [*]
Only the Reismans’ side can be presented because ARI never made a public statement about the expulsion. (The Reismans do quote material written by their opponents, material Mr. Peikoff wanted kept private.) ARI simply “disappeared” the Jefferson School, Ms. Packer, Mr. Reisman, and his book Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics – which ARI had been promoting in advance of publication – without any public explanation.
The December 1993 issue of ARI’s newsletter Impact announced that “due to irreconcilable (non-philosophical) disagreements with ARI’s Directors, Edith Packer and George Reisman have been asked to step down from the Institute’s Board of Advisors.” – nothing more. Despite the “no philosophical differences” ARI’s directors not only stopped promoting the Reismans’ work, they forbade anyone remotely associated with ARI from doing so.
Some critics hold Objectivism responsible for the strange behavior of Mr. Peikoff and the others running ARI. We do not agree. The behavior of these alleged adherents of Objectivism only emphasizes the “alleged.”
Whatever you think of George Reisman, this affair reveals the flaky personalities of some of ARI’s principle actors. Perhaps the dishonesty in their personal lives revealed in what follows reflects their dishonesty regarding political events.
Since money quantities will be mentioned keep in mind that inflation from 1993 to 2016 is about 68%, so $1,000 in 1993 would be about $1,680 today.
Here then are some of the memos and letters from that time. You get an award for perseverance in the face of injured feelings and who said what to whom when – important enough at the time to those involved – if you make it to the end. The Iron Cross or something. Or just read the last two items, by Genevieve and Richard Sanford. They tell the whole story and draw some useful general conclusions about ARI. This affair goes beyond whether or not Mr. Reisman and Ms. Packer were abrasive personalities, or even rotten to the core, it reaches into the mental processes of the leadership of ARI.
Memo from George Reisman to Mike Berliner, Harry Binswanger, Peter Schwartz, ARI Board of Advisors. 26 Oct 1993.George Reisman’s Capitalism book came out in 1996. His Jefferson School was destroyed as an organizer of conferences though it still publishes literature and audio recordings. The destruction may have been the purpose of the above – Mr. Reisman thought so in 1994 – if the above insanity had any purpose.
Letter from Jerry Kirkpatrick to George Reisman and Edith Packer. 26 Oct 1993.
Memo from Edith Packer to Mike Berliner, Harry Binswanger, Peter Schwartz, ARI Board of Advisors. 27 Oct 1993.
Letter from Linda Reardan to Harry Binswanger, Peter Schwartz, Michael Berliner. 13 Nov 1993.
Opening Statement by George Reisman and Edith Packer in a conference call with Peikoff, Schwartz, Binswanger, Berliner. 19 Sept 1994.
Memo from George Reisman and Edith Packer to Leonard Peikoff and ARI Board of Directors. 27 Sept 1994.
Open letter by George Reisman: “To Whom It May Concern.” 15 Nov 1994.
Letter from Genevieve Sanford to Leonard Peikoff. 30 July 1995.
Letter from Richard Sanford to Leonard Peikoff. 30 July 1995.
Letter from Genevieve Sanford to Michael Berliner. 12 Oct 1995.
Open letter by Jerry Kirkpatrick to “Contributors and Friends of the Ayn Rand Institute.” 10 Nov 1995.
Letter from Richard and Genevieve Sanford to Leonard Peikoff. 10 Nov 1995.
Letter from Richard Sanford to Michael Berliner. 2 March 1996.
Letter from Per-Olof Samuelsson to Leonard Peikoff. July 1996. (See The Night Watchman for further commentary by Mr. Samuelsson.)
Open letter by Genevieve Sanford to “Friends and Acquaintances.” 7 Sept 1996.
Open letter by Richard Sanford to “All Objectivists.” 7 Sept 1996.
These days Mr. Binswanger runs a discussion group called the Harry Binswanger Letter. According to Elliot Temple, once a member of the group, HBL moderation does not allow members to mention George Reisman’s book.
This article is not an endorsement of Mr. Reisman or his work. The struggle described above should be viewed not as between opposites but as an internecine struggle – as might be expected from Mr. Reisman’s long association with ARI before falling out of favor. Indeed on some non-economical subjects Mr. Reisman today is as bad as ARI.