Logan Darrow Clements is the former publisher of American Venture magazine, and is presently a gubernatorial candidate in California's unprecedentedly wacky recall election. A long-time admirer of Rand's political work, Clements is also currently developing an innovative new television show called Free Nation TV, designed to spotlight civil disobedience and government abuses of power. Clements resides in Los Angeles. For more information about his campaign, visit his campaign web site.
The Atlasphere's Andrew Schwartz spoke with Clements about his experiences publishing a magazine, his goals with Free Nation TV, his present engagement in politics, and his brief, comical encounter with Boris Yeltsin.
The Atlasphere: How were you first exposed to Rand?
Logan Darrow Clements: In college, I was one of these people who stayed up late in the hall, talking about political issues and so forth. And during my sophomore year, there was a guy in my hall who kept showing me Atlas Shrugged, and saying, "Oh, you have to read this, you have to read this!"
But I didn't read it at that time — I was resistant. And I guess that should be a lesson to me when I'm trying to encourage people to read Atlas Shrugged, not to push too emphatically. Because it wasn't until two years later that I finally couldn't stand it any more, and my curiosity led me straight to an all-night newsstand-bookstore in Rochester, New York, where I bought a copy of Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.
So that was the first book by Rand that I read, and it just hit the nail right on the head. I was astounded by her clarity, her uncompromising stand, and also by her very innovative approach, her unique approach. It was so different from the conservatives, who were always compromising and so mealy-mouthed.
TA: Were the ideas a revelation to you?
Clements: Not completely, and I think that's one reason why I latched onto Rand's philosophy so much. I had always been, on one hand, a political conservative, but on the other hand, an atheist. And in addition to that, I had come to some of Rand's conclusions on my own, before I had heard about Objectivism, in high school.
I had the idea that our life is determined by the actions we take, and our actions are determined by our mind, and our mind follows the ideas we have. So I came to the realization that ideas are very important. And for a while, I actually started sketching out a theory I called "Objective Orientation." (Chuckling.) The idea being that you should always know what your objective is, and what you're trying to accomplish in any moment and throughout your life. You should always be oriented around objectives.
TA: So, "objectives" in the sense of "purposes."
Clements: Right. But it also had a dual meaning, which is, an objective take on the world. And this second part, actually, is very close to the meaning of "Objectivism." I came to the realization that it doesn't do you any good to pretend to see the world in a way that it's not. You are much better off seeing things as accurately as you can, that is, being as objective as possible.
So those two ideas: always aiming toward goals, or objectives, and always being objective — I was thinking about those ideas in high school, four or five years before I discovered Rand's work.
At the same time, I was a big fan of capitalism and business.
TA: What appeals to you so much about business?
Clements: Well, the greatest thrill in my experience — when I think about the hierarchy of happiness — is being able to turn your ideas into reality. And this could take many forms. It could be someone who wants to build a building, and that person envisions it in his or her mind, and sees it on paper. And then, within a certain number of years, it's actually a real thing. Or it could be someone making a film, and at one point it's just an idea in that person's mind, and then eventually it's a reality.
The feeling that comes from turning these ideas into reality is so satisfying, and it's so empowering — and you can get that with business. It's a kind of feeling and a kind of satisfaction that lasts for a lifetime.
It's funny, I still take satisfaction from the time I first saw American Venture on newsstands in Miami. The magazine was being published out of Portland, and I was down on vacation, scuba diving in the Caribbean. When I passed through Miami, I walked into a little newsstand, and American Venture just happened to be there. And I thought: Wow, I have really arrived! My magazine's coast to coast!
TA: That must have been a great feeling. How did the magazine initially come about?
I created what I called the American Venture Capital Exchange, and I listed one-page summaries of business plans, sent to me by businesspeople seeking investment capital from angel investors or venture capitalists.
Then, I realized that the people with money tend to be older, and they tend not to be so eagerly intent on using a computer to look for places to invest their money. So I decided that I needed some sort of printed supplement, in addition to the B.B.S., to help the entrepreneurs who were my clients. This printed publication would then go to the people with the money, instead of hoping that they would dial into the B.B.S.
So I started a printed newsletter. Then, a big break came after I did a national news release through a news release wire service, which led to me being written up in the Boston Globe. It was great free publicity. After that I was written up in Inc. Magazine, and then the Wall Street Journal on the front page of the Marketplace section.
I got a lot of calls and business from that. Also, Microsoft called me and said that they were starting this new network called Microsoft Network, and they wondered if I would like to be a part of it. And of course, that didn't take much thinking at all — I immediately said yes. (Chuckling.) I was thinking, I would love to be the little mouse riding on the back of the elephant.
So, I had a B.B.S. presence, an area on the Microsoft Network, a web site, and a printed newsletter. And after a little while, I had service providers that wanted to advertise in my newsletter. These were, for example, people who write business plans, or people who sell software to entrepreneurs. So I started to put in ads, and then I put in some articles, and gradually, it morphed from being a newsletter that listed venture-seeking capital, to being a magazine that also happened to list venture-seeking capital.
I slowly upgraded it. I added photos. I improved the outside cover to make it full color. Then I made the inside full-color. I did it one step at a time. Each time I was putting out a better-looking magazine, until I got it to the point where it was newsstand quality.
TA: Where did you get your articles?
Clements: Well, I actually used a kind of Tom Sawyer approach to get articles. In Twain's book, Sawyer gets his friends to pay him to whitewash his fence. (Chuckling.) I didn't quite go that far, but I got people to submit articles to the magazine for free. I think I paid only one writer. You see, if the writer was an entrepreneur telling his or her story, a published article would mean a lot of free publicity for their company.
Likewise, if there was a P.R. agent for a company, I'd let the P.R. agent write the article. I also warned them that it had to have the good and the bad and the ugly — it couldn't just be a whitewash or I wouldn't run the article. (Chuckling.) So I got a lot of great articles for free. And photos for free too.
TA: Why'd you get out of the business?
Clements: Well, putting out a magazine is very stressful, and it's very difficult to make a profit. Also, I'm someone who is always coming up with new ideas. I get excitement out of implementing an idea, starting a business, seeing if I can make something work. Once it's up and running, I'm not really interested in running it for the long-term. I'm ready to move on to something new and let someone else run it. So that's what I did. I came up with the idea for a television show, and I sold off the magazine, which is still being published in Silicon Valley.
TA: Tell us about this television show. Where did the concept come from?
Clements: For a long time, I've felt that one way people who favor minimum government can make the justness of their case clear to the public, is actually to commit civil disobedience — to show people that in America you can be put in jail for doing hundreds, perhaps thousands of various things that do not involve the initiation of force or fraud against others.
My thinking was that if the public saw people being put in jail for, let's say, cutting someone's hair as a barber without a barber's license, or offering taxi rides without a license, or doing something on their own property that doesn't hurt anyone else — if Americans saw this, they would react to it and rise up against these types of laws in the long term.
But then I thought, there's a problem: The media wouldn't cover this type of civil disobedience, because the media favors regulation, and it favors big government. And then a light bulb went off, and I said: Well, why don't I be the media? Why don't I have a show that focuses on covering civil disobedience, and in a larger sense, focuses on exposing abusive government?
Other shows have caught onto this too. Just this last Sunday, 60 Minutes did a segment on eminent domain abuse, which is exactly the type of story I would do.
Eminent domain abuse is when a government wants your house or your land or your business, and they force you to sell it to them — almost always at a price below market rates. They usually then give it to another private party. The constitution is supposed to allow them to do it only if they're building a road or a courthouse or some sort of public thoroughfare; but usually they'll take homes and they'll give the land to shopping mall developers. Of course, the reason they do that is the city makes more money through taxes with a shopping mall than it does with you living there in your house.
TA: Okay. Well, your idea raises an interesting question: Is there enough civil disobedience actually going on out there to fill up a regular television show?
Clements: That's a question I get very frequently, and I have three answers to it.
Number one, there is a fair amount of civil disobedience going on. You don't hear about, though, because, as I said earlier, the media just doesn't tend to cover it.
Second, if my show is on the air, and if it's known that the show specializes in covering people who are challenging unjust laws, I think people will react to that. Right now, if you commit civil disobedience against some unjust law, it doesn't do any good. But if it were covered, it would do good — and I think at that point we'd have plenty of stories to cover.
I have to be very clear here that we are absolutely, positively, not encouraging anyone to break a law. We're simply going to cover the instances when people do.
TA: What are the jail times on the types of disobedience you're envisioning? I can imagine someone spending ten days, a month, maybe even three months in jail for the good it might do, and perhaps even to get on TV. But when you start talking about a year or a few years, I can't imagine there'd be many people who'd be willing to pay that price.
Clements: Yes, I agree. There will be more people willing to challenge laws for which the punishment is only a few months or weeks. But there are other people out there, like Jack Kevorkian, for example, who believe in something that's a bit more serious than needing a building permit, and who might be willing to spend a few years in jail for what they believe in.
We have to remember that in many, many instances in America's history, people have been willing to lay down their lives, and to die for freedom. My show is going to cover people who simply are willing to lose a few weeks, months, or years, which is a lot less than asking for someone's life. Of course, we're not asking for anything, we're simply going to be covering these brave, inspiring people.
By the way, the third part is that the show is not going to be just about people breaking laws. We're also going to be functioning in a 60 Minutes, under-cover, investigative mode, exposing unbelievable things that governments have done, and exposing incredibly unjust new laws that are passed all over the world.
Also, we will not be limiting our coverage of people challenging government abuse to those in the U.S. committing civil disobedience. We're going to cover people taking stands against dictatorships, as in Cuba, Burma, Venezuela, and all around the world.
TA: Where are you at with the project currently?
Clements: I've made a demo episode. I am almost finished with the business plan. The next step is to try and raise money to support the launch of the show.
We're going to design the first eight shows to be very controversial, in order to generate news coverage. And the goal is, from all of this, to get an offer to buy the show from either a syndicator or a cable network . Or to syndicate the show ourselves.
TA: So you've been busy developing this TV show. How did you get from that to running for governor?
Clements: I realized that running for governor would give me an opportunity to convey Rand's political ideas to the national mass media. Running would also help further my interest in a career in television, by giving me more practice on camera (since I'm going to be the host of the show) and also experience working with reporters. So, it seemed very logical to me.
TA: So I take it your goal wasn't necessarily to win and become governor?
Clements: Well, there was a scenario, if certain ideal circumstances happened, where that could have been possible. If Arnold Schwarzenegger and Cruz Bustamante (the Democratic contender) had not entered the governor's race, my theory was that if I could get people more excited about me, because my ideas were more profound and favored much less government and taxes than anyone else in the field, I could actually win.
And secondly, if I could get fans of Ayn Rand, libertarians, and advocates of minimum government from all across the United States to donate money, and also to volunteer for my campaign, I thought with that money and that effort, I could mount a serious campaign for governor. The problem was, I found that those types of people usually don't volunteer very much.
At some point, I'd like to write an article about how activism is selfish, and about how volunteering can be very rewarding.
TA: It's clear from your web site you've done numerous interviews. How else are you promoting yourself?
Clements: Well, because I don't have a lot of money to buy airtime, Duncan Scott, an Emmy-winning producer who worked closely with Rand on the re-release of the We the Living movie, is helping me produce a sixty-second TV commercial that's designed to be so humorous and powerful that it will be picked up as news and aired for free.
[Editor's note: Clements's and Scott's commercial was indeed picked up by the FOX News Channel, and aired on the FOX Report with Shepard Smith, on October 2nd, the day this interview was published.]
In this commercial, you see a Godzilla-like creature attacking a city. And the point we're making is that government has become so big, and so powerful, it has become like Godzilla — and just like Godzilla, it destroys everything it touches. We have scenes of the monster wrecking the power system, just as California's government interfered in the power industry and caused blackouts and high prices. We have Godzilla knocking over factories, just as California's government has scared factories out of the state.
TA: Sounds funny. Question for you: I live in California, and when it comes to actually voting, many people would suggest that a vote for Logan is, in effect, a throw-away vote — and that one should vote for the best candidate among those who actually have a chance of winning. How do you respond to that?
TA: I see.
Clements: And secondly, voting for me could have an important effect. When you have someone out there like me, communicating ideas that are so different and controversial, and advocating cutting government to the extent that I do, if I then get a lot of votes, politicians and the media are going to notice that. And that will empower these ideas, both in the media and in the political realm.
So, your vote will have a lot more impact voting for me, in terms of advancing the ideas that I espouse, than it will if you vote for Arnold. Arnold is sort of a middle-of-the-road kind of guy, who isn't advocating anything too drastically different than what we are currently doing. He'll try not to raise taxes too much and he'll work to get spending under control. But what he's advocating is nowhere near what I'm advocating.
TA: If it becomes a close race between Schwarzenegger and Bustamante, would you then advocate voting for Schwarzenneger?
Clements: (Pause.) Oh boy, that's a tough question.
TA: I'm putting you on the spot.
Clements: That's fine. Well, yes. In one way, I want people to vote for me no matter what — but I don't want Bustamante to get elected. So I guess if it were that close, then yes, I would want to make sure we didn't put Bustamante in office.
But right now, like I said, Schwarzenegger has at least a fifteen percent gap, and that's a huge gap. And in fact, I think the gap will be even greater, because I think the people who want to get rid of Davis are more likely to show up and actually vote, then the people who want to keep him. That's because the pro-Davis folks are not as red-hot excited about keeping him in as the other side is red-hot excited about getting rid of him.
TA: What have been your most interesting experiences running for governor?
Clements: The most satisfying was my local interview for the FOX affiliate in Los Angeles. I went into the studio and they threw questions at me, and I felt like I did a very good job handling them. I actually attribute that to studying Rand. When you know her political work really well, people can throw anything at you, and you just run it through the Objectivist grinder, if you will, and the answer comes out the other side without a lot of additional thinking needed. The thinking has already been done. You've already anticipated all sorts of different scenarios. So, on that FOX interview, I was able to answer their questions quickly and decisively, and that was very satisfying.
The other interview that was very worthwhile was for the local ABC affiliate. That interview contained fewer questions — it mostly featured me talking. And they paired me up with one of the goofy candidates.
TA: Gary Coleman?
Clements: No, not that goofy candidate (laughing). It was the guy who's got a website called Bum-Hunter, or something like that, and he also has a thick Australian accent. Not to be confused with a thick Austrian accent.
TA: Right. (Chuckling.) Logan, moving on to something else, you have a hilarious photo of Boris Yeltsin with a copy of Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal in his hand. How did you manage that?
Well, this was in the early nineties, right after I started reading Ayn Rand. So I decided that I wanted to give him a copy of Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal —
TA: Give it to him in person?
Clements: Right. I was actually going to hand it to him. That's the way I am. I tend to shoot high. Incidentally, I find that most people, in general, achieve a lot less than they could if they just shot higher! Sometimes, it's not any harder to achieve a high goal than it is a lesser goal. So if you're going to shoot, you might as well shoot for the top.
Anyhow, I decided to drive up to Ottawa with a copy of Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, and I figured that Yeltsin or his people might take it from me, thinking that I was some sort of a spy, handing off secret information! And of course I was handing off information, but it was information about how to transform Russia from communism to capitalism.
TA: Logan, you are a character.
Clements: So what happened is, I went to the Parliament, and Boris came out and waved to everybody, and then quickly got in a limo that drove away. And I thought, Ah, shoot! All this for nothing.
But then I asked a reporter who was standing around, "Where's he going next?" And the reporter said, "He's going over to the museum. He's going to have lunch there, see the museum, and then come out."
So I went over to the museum, and I bought a little instant camera. Then I just waited around. Well, close by, there happened to be two ladies who had protest signs. One lady's husband was Lithuanian, and the other lady's brother was Latvian, and both of those men had been imprisoned by the Russians. These women planned on protesting and shouting at Yeltsin when he came out, and I was talking to them as we were waiting.
There were security guards checking me out, so I said to one of them, "I'm going to hand Yeltsin this book. Is that okay?" And the guard said, "It's okay with me," and he took the book and looked at it to make sure there was nothing inside of it. Then he handed it back to me and said, "Yeltsin's people probably aren't going to allow you to hand it to him though."
So, I just waited there, and finally Boris walked out of the front door. And then, thanks to those two ladies shouting anti-Russian remarks at him right next to me, he walked toward them, to confront them and to answer their calls. And before he got into it with them, I handed him the book, and he took it!
Then, I wanted to take a picture of Boris Yeltsin, but he was too close to me to take a picture — he was standing right in my face! So I literally had to lean back to take the picture. And I took a few.
So I have several pictures of Boris Yeltsin holding Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal in his hand, and this was in 1992. And then Russia transformed. But . . . ah, I won't take credit for all that.