Max Gladwell is a story.
It’s a story about the nexus of social media and green living. It’s a story being told in real time about real people—about the very people who are living the story. It’s a story that tells of the evolution and convergence of technology, sustainability, entrepreneurship, government, and humanity. If you’re reading this, then you are part of that story.
Max Gladwell is the main character of the story—the protagonist hero. But Max Gladwell is not a he or a she, nor is it an individual. Rather it’s a collection of qualities and virtues that form an individual ideal. It’s the heroic ideal of the networked social entrepreneur. This defines the Max Gladwell worldview and shapes the lens through which the story is told. In turn the people, organizations, and events that exist at the nexus of social media and green living shape the story of Max Gladwell.
John Galt is the central hero and protagonist in Rand’s magnus opus, in which the first line simply asks, “Who is John Galt?” This question carries a certain mystique throughout the story. We eventually learn of Galt’s identity, but more importantly we learn about the qualities and virtues he represents: liberty, self-reliance, innovation, integrity, knowledge, reason, personal responsibility, and rational self-interest. Galt is the personification of capitalist democracy, the same economic and political system upon which The United States is built, and he is the model for Max Gladwell.
The novel includes a number of characters who are cast as titans. It’s no coincidence that they represent the titans of industry: railroads, copper, steel, oil, and automotive. We come to respect them all, as they share the same core values; however, these same industries have also compromised the health and prosperity of humankind.
With Galt’s character we find someone who rises above these otherwise dirty and destructive industries (spoiler alert). He invents a motor than can run on static electricity. It amounts to a clean, renewable, and infinitely abundant source of energy that promises at once to solve the world’s energy problems and make Galt a very wealthy man. Whether Rand realized it or not, she had cast Galt as a social entrepreneur and a pioneer of clean energy technology. Galt clearly had his sights set on changing the world and by doing so turning a healthy profit.
As Galt said in his famous speech, “Life is the reward of virtue, and happiness is the goal and reward of life.” In other words, we can do well by doing good.
“My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” –Ayn Rand
Rand’s Objectivist philosophy is grounded in the principle of self-interest, which leaves no room for altruism. And while it is true that altruism is an illusion and that we must be guided by rational self-interest, this does not mean we cease to be responsible for the actions we take in pursing our self-interest. If and when we do harm to others, whether directly or indirectly, we must be held accountable regardless of our motivations. This is where many Objectivists go astray and why we feel it necessary to define our philosophy and approach as Objectivism 2.0.
Rand was a vocal opponent of environmentalism and environmentalist policy. She viewed it as unscrupulous government intervention and regulation. At the time, she was largely correct because the arguments environmentalists were making didn’t hold up. We cannot argue that the environment should be preserved or protected for its own sake. It’s not possible to do harm to the environment because the environment doesn’t have moral standing. However, we can make the case that harming the vital ecosystems that support human health and prosperity ought to be protected and, therefore, regulated.
This is a policy that Rand could support, for a key principle in Objectivist philosophy is personal responsibility, and this extends to corporations. If a company pollutes the air or water, it should be accountable and bear responsibility for those costs—the cost to clean it up and/or the cost to those affected. Otherwise, this company is no better than the freeloaders and moochers of Atlas Shrugged who lived off the work of others without giving anything in return. Enlightened Objectivism is about a free and open market, but just as importantly about an accountable one.
This new breed of entrepreneur is concerned about more than just profit. Their missions might include social and environmental objectives, which describes the nature of the social entrepreneur. Their strategies might also include triple-bottom-line thinking, where people and planet are valued alongside profit. These considerations are not simply driven by a desire to “do the right thing” but rather the necessities of managing risk, creating competitive advantage, and responding to the demands of the marketplace. This next version of entrepreneurship is also about building sustainable businesses in general, where short-term gain is not had at the expense of long-term prosperity. In general, these entrepreneurs are taking on big problems by offering innovative, market-based solutions. Because there is profit to be made in changing the world.
Max Gladwell’s political ideology is framed around the principles of libertarianism. We believe people should be as free as possible to pursue their own happiness and self interest with minimal interference from government, provided those pursuits do not harm others. We believe in free markets but not a Hobbesian free for all. Markets need to be as free as they are fair and accountable. Government’s role in markets should be one of an impartial judge and referee, setting the laws and enforcing violations. Government should not manipulate those markets through arbitrary policies, subsidies, or tax breaks. These actions tip the scales in favor of a select few while putting all others at a tremendous disadvantage.
By this same token, government should be chiefly responsible for protecting and managing our natural resources, specifically as they relate to the health and prosperity of its citizens. This is compatible with libertarianism in so far as the government is responsible for enforcing property rights. Our natural resources are collectively owned and shared. No one can claim exclusive ownership of the air we breathe or the climate in which we live. Therefore, it is a government’s duty to protect those rights. This is the Eco-Libertarian ideology.
Max Gladwell was founded and and is authored by Rob Reed. Rob is a career journalist, entrepreneur, and marketing executive. He provides the vision and tells the story of Max Gladwell. Rob lives in Santa Monica, CA, with his wife and daughter.
See also the original Who is Max Gladwell?