5.01.2008

Biddle Discusses The Objective Standard

A recent interview of Craig Biddle, editor and publisher of The Objective Standard, is posted over at Capitalism Magazine. In it, he discusses a number of topics, but what caught my interest was what he had to say about TOS itself.

For those not familiar with the TOS, here is Biddle's quick description:
The Objective Standard is a journal of culture and politics written from an Objectivist perspective. Article topics range from education to health care to terrorism to environmentalism to business to science to the arts. And all the articles are based on the idea that there are demonstrably objective standards by reference to which we can assess what is true or false, good or bad, right or wrong. [bold added]
My emphasis there was to highlight perhaps the main reason why I read and love TOS. Over its 2+ years of issues, it has consistently attacked and picked apart thorny problems and hidden agendas in today's world, and presented a clear, objective response. I learn something good from every article. Some, I re-read multiple times.

Biddle elaborates on the niche it has carved out, contrasting TOS with publications from across the political spectrum:
The need for such a journal springs from the fact that neither the journals of the right nor those of the left nor those of what I call the mushy middle recognize the existence of rationally demonstrable, objective standards. [whereas] ... our authors demonstrate that objective standards are rationally graspable facts based on observation, logic, and the requirements of human life."
I was also glad to learn that the journal is doing well, as Biddle mentioned that renewal subscription rates are high, and that "A substantial percentage of our readers are new to the ideas, having discovered the journal through advertisements in magazines such as Commentary and The New Republic." This is a pleasant surprise to me, though I would be very interested to know the real numbers (Objectivist readers vs. non, growth and projection of subscriber base, etc.). He also states that articles are translated into other languages, and some are used in class by non-Objectivist college professors. Again, this is very good news, but difficult to properly interpret without more context or hard numbers.

Of course, Biddle and TOS have no responsibility to me to tell me those numbers. I'm just curious because I'd like to validate my optimism about both the stability of the journal -- because I value it greatly -- as well as my hope that it is succeeding in disseminating Objectivist ideas.

Back to the interview, Biddle then describes some future plans for TOS, giving some teasers for future articles that sound quite interesting:
Subjects range from Rockefeller and the vindication of capitalism, to the art of motivation in education, to the ethics of the “new atheists,” to the evil of the FDA. [bold added -- sounds like Stella's article is coming soon!]
One future plan made me raise an eyebrow, however. Biddle said, "...articles in future issues will be substantially shorter than those in the past, which means more articles per issue." I'm a little wary of this development.

On the one hand, I can see how more articles in an issue would make it more likely to appeal to a wider audience. If, for instance, none of the three or four articles in a current issue caught a potential reader's attention, that new reader might be lost. If there were six or eight articles, I would think it would increase the likelihood of having at least one be appealing, and the potential reader would be hooked.

On the other hand, I greatly enjoy the long, well researched articles that have plenty of space to develop complex arguments. I am concerned that moving to a bunch of shorter articles would reduce the overall value and impact of the journal, both to me personally, and in general. Hopefully it will be a mix of long and short, giving the more complex topics room to develop, while allowing for space for shorter pieces.

These concerns are minor, however, because there's no evidence to suggest that the quality of the work will diminish, and I'll be interested to see how TOS evolves to keep growing in scope and reach. Meanwhile, I'll keep reading and learning. Thanks to Craig Biddle and all the contributors to the effort for making The Objective Standard such a great resource. Keep up the good work!

4 comments:

Stella said...

Back in December, I attended one of Craig's lectures in NYC. During the Q&A session, someone asked him how TOS was doing. I am paraphrasing, of course, but this is what I remember.

The answer at the time was that TOS had about 3,000 subscribers, which was less than they had initially expected (because Craig had expected that more people who were already Objectivists would subscribe at the outset), but that the reaction from those people is positive. Based on the CapMag interview, I'm hoping that more non-Objectivists have embraced the journal in the last few months.

Craig also let me know recently that the fall issue of TOS will have a doubled print run, because the new East Coast office of ARI will be opening up at that time and there will be free copies of TOS available in the new location. So here's hoping that this will gain TOS many more readers.

The fall issue will also contain one of my articles -- I'm the one who will be writing on the "evil of the FDA," as he mentioned in the interview. Yay!

C. August said...

Wow, thanks for the info! 3,000 does seem a little low. I think current Objectivists are really missing out if they don't subscribe.

I didn't subscribe initially. It actually took me a year to do it. But when I did, I also ordered all the back issues so I'd have the complete set.

That's interesting that they'll have a double print run. I'm not sure if giving away copies will generate a big boost, but what I thought was really intriguing in the interview was the mention that TOS will be on newsstands. Not THAT is cool. Hopefully tripe like the Utne Reader will just wilt into oblivion if placed near TOS!

And congrats on the official announcement of your article! Having worked as a scientist at a medical device manufacturer that was in the middle of clinical trials and FDA submissions (waaay back in the mid-90's), and since I saw first hand the unbelievable numbers of hoops we had to go through, I'll be very interested to read your article.

LB said...

Thanks for reminding me - we've been saying we're going to give a gift subscription to our local library. Like the free copies, it may not have as big an impact as we'd hope for, but on the other hand, $59 (for a 1 year subscription) seems a reasonable price to pay for the possibility of any impact.

I'm very excited about the opening of the ARI East, too. Can a VanDamme Academy be far behind? Okay...there I go being all optimistic again.

Kim said...

In a way, I like the idea of the shorter articles. I would like to see more covered and perhaps shorter articles will lead to more writers for them. Perhaps they'll continue to feature one particularly long article.