About Junto

Junto is a monthly meeting which focuses on free markets, Objectivism and investing. It’s a group that shares information, discusses current issues and presents speakers. Admission is free; no reservation necessary. Our meetings are held at the following address:

General Society Library
20 West 44 Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues, New York City
near the Grand Central Terminal

  • Junto meets on the first Thursday of every month
  • Participation by all attendees is highly encouraged.
  • 70 to 150 people attend most Juntos.
  • We socialize from 7:00pm to 7:30pm
  • 7:30pm moderator, Gene Epstein calls first for announcements of things happening before the next Junto. Then he asks for other announcements and for people to introduce themselves.
  • The speaker begins promptly at 8:00pm.
  • Most speakers will present their thoughts in several sections. Each section will have audience questions, discussions and rebuttal of the speaker’s points.
  • Discussions are intense but polite.
  • The meeting will continue to 10:00pm or later.

The NYC Junto was founded in 1985 by investor Victor Niederhoffer, who hosts each meeting. Information about Victor and his activities is available at http://dailyspeculations.com/.

This Junto is inspired by the Junto hosted by Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia from 1727 to 1757. Like Franklin, we bring together intelligent people to discuss intellectual issues in a respectful manner.

Our meetings are usually held in Manhattan on the first Thursday of each month. We usually have a guest speaker who can bring new insights and ideas to us. Debate and questions are encouraged. Admission is free. No donation is requested. There is no connection with any political or religious organization or group.

Invitation from Victor Niederhoffer

I invite you to come to the Junto and join some select friends who believe strongly in the sanctity of life, liberty, and property. Those of us who share these views are all too rare in this society. I believe all of us can benefit by meeting to exchange ideas and insights.

For more than 30 years of his life, Benjamin Franklin held a series of weekly meetings of what he called the Junto, a group of 12 men who would gather to discuss truth, morality, and intellectual issues in an attempt to improve themselves and their society. My goal is to accomplish the same for ourselves.

Guided by science, logic and rationality, Franklin attempted to explore all aspects of his world and learned a tremendous amount. By his pursuit of knowledge, happiness and self-benefit he was able to create good for his society. The idea of a Junto is appealing to me — each month, I eagerly look forward to bringing together successful, intelligent men and women who share these ideals.

In Franklin’s original Junto, the members used a guide a series of 24 questions, such as:

  • Have you met with anything in the author you last read, remarkable or suitable to be communicated to the Junto, particularly in history, morality, poetry, physic, travels, mechanic arts, or other parts of knowledge?
  • What new story have you lately heard agreeable for telling in conversation?
  • Hath any citizen in your knowledge failed in his business lately, and what have you heard of the cause? Have you lately heard of any citizen’s thriving well, and by what means? Have you lately heard how any present rich man, here or elsewhere, got his estate?
  • What unhappy effects of intemperance have you lately heard; of imprudence, of passion, or of any other folly or vice? What happy effects of temperance, of prudence, of moderation, or of any other virtue?
  • Do you think of anything at present in which the Junto may be serviceable to mankind?
  • Have you any weighty affairs in hand in which you think the advice of the Junto may be of service? In what manner can the Junto, or any them, assist of in any of your honorable designs?

Franklin included additional questions reflecting his group’s position as an influencer of city and state politics. I see our group as more of an intellectual exercise — rather than influencing the government directly, I would prefer that we have a positive beneficial impact on each other. With this in mind, we have a more up-to-date version of some of these questions, as well as some additional ones suggested by today’s world:

  • What is the most interesting or unusual thing you have read, seen, or heard about in the last month? What is the most potentially dangerous or harmful? The most beneficial? The most significant for the people here today?
  • What can we learn from world events today? Has there been any notable failure or success, financial, political, or otherwise, from which we can gain insight and understanding?
  • Can a man or woman arrive at perfection in this life? What is the proper balance between idealism and pragmatism in our existence? (Franklin’s own question)
  • How can we judge the goodness of art, music, drama or literature?
  • Is science compatible with religion? What is the appropriate role of religion in our lives, if any?
  • What is the most important political issue facing this country in the next five years?
  • Whom do you respect most? Why?

I believe that by considering these important issues, as well as others which you will suggest, we can improve our minds, our lives, and the minds and lives of people around us.

Interview with Victor Niederhoffer

Victor Niederhoffer spoke about Junto in an interview in the September 1997 Full Context newsletter website:

Q: You hold monthly Junto meetings. Tell us what this group is about and what kind of people attend?

Niederhoffer: I read in Benjamin Franklin?s autobiography that the most valuable thing he ever did in his life was to have a series of meetings with a dozen of his friends where they would try to make contributions to natural philosophy as well as their individual welfare.

I always had tremendous respect for Doug Casey of the Eris group and I tried to model a group halfway between the Eris Society and the kind of group that Benjamin Franklin had. I invited people interested in free markets and the idea was to have one paper from the point of view of liberty to give us something hard to bite into and then discuss it and have a lot of feedback. And it has spontaneously grown.

We have it once a month, almost always on the first Thursday. It used to be at my office in New York until they chased me out of New York with their excessive taxation.

Q: How has the Junto evolved through the years?

Niederhoffer: We started out by trying a few different formats but we coalesced on a format that works. We have about an hour where members unload various things about liberty in the news that they have a particular insight into. Then we have an invited speaker who talks about his own work on the forefront of individualism or liberty, and then we have a very animated discussion and feedback.

In our group, we have experts on almost every subject. The speakers always tell us that it?s one of the most dynamic experiences for them. People write to me from all over the U.S. that they love my Junto, that it is one of the highlights of their life, and that they hate to move out of New York and never be able to find anything like it.

I finance it, pay for the speakers, and I?m very happy to help young libertarians and Objectivists out.

More on the Original Junto

In January 2006, in honor of Franklin’s 300th birthday, Junto webmaster Alexander R. Cohen presented some excerpts from Franklin’s autobiography concerning the original Junto.

PBS on Benjamin Franklin and Junto.