Sunday, March 15, 2009

Is Rand relevant?

Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute asks and answers this question in an op-ed in the WSJ:

Ayn Rand died more than a quarter of a century ago, yet her name appears regularly in discussions of our current economic turmoil. Pundits including Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santelli urge listeners to read her books, and her magnum opus, "Atlas Shrugged," is selling at a faster rate today than at any time during its 51-year history.

There's a reason. In "Atlas," Rand tells the story of the U.S. economy crumbling under the weight of crushing government interventions and regulations. Meanwhile, blaming greed and the free market, Washington responds with more controls that only deepen the crisis. Sound familiar?

The novel's eerily prophetic nature is no coincidence. "If you understand the dominant philosophy of a society," Rand wrote elsewhere in "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal" "you can predict its course." Economic crises and runaway government power grabs don't just happen by themselves; they are the product of the philosophical ideas prevalent in a society -- particularly its dominant moral ideas.

While many people profess that Rand promotes unhealthy selfishness, that does not appear to be the case according to Brook:

The message is always the same: "Selfishness is evil; sacrifice for the needs of others is good." But Rand said this message is wrong -- selfishness, rather than being evil, is a virtue. By this she did not mean exploiting others à la Bernie Madoff. Selfishness -- that is, concern with one's genuine, long-range interest -- she wrote, required a man to think, to produce, and to prosper by trading with others voluntarily to mutual benefit.

While many people think that others will continue to produce for no other reason than helping others, even if they have to turn over most or all of their earnings to the government, I think we will learn otherwise. Human nature, without a lobotomy, does not change all that much. People will do what is in their interest, though, they will lie through their teeth and tell you otherwise (or do it subconsciously).

Hence, the easy way guys like Geithner talk a good game about how those who are successful must pay more for the greater good, but all the while, cheating on his own taxes. For in our society, claiming to be for the collective is now in vogue. But perhaps the pendulum will swing the other way and the rights of the individual and capitalism will prevail. Crazier things have happened.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Esse Quam Videri (to be rather than to seem). The words of Cicero.

My opinion of liberals is they are the exact opposite of that.

3:24 PM, March 15, 2009  
Blogger linsee said...

James Lileks has a screed up on an essay by Amitai Etzioni, explaining why we all must accept limits on what we want to have or do for the good of others. Etzioni sounds for all the world as if he lifted his essay from one of Rand's smarmy unctuous villains. At

3:29 PM, March 15, 2009  
Blogger Helen said...


Thanks for the link. I once sat in on a talk that Amitai Etzioni gave to a group of lawyers. I could hardly contain my disgust. I was not alone. He basically said that people should not be able to use the internet freely because social mores were such that harm could come from a number of people having bad thoughts being able to communicate with each other. At least, that's what I got out of it. Statists like this are certainly "in" right now with the new administration but the pushback has begun. Take a look at Instapundit at the crowd at the Cincinnati protests for an example!

3:42 PM, March 15, 2009  
Blogger Francis W. Porretto said...

"Is Rand relevant?" Is Rand relevant?? Does the Pope wear a tall hat?

Rand predicted virtually the whole skein of history that's led us to where we are. Though it might have farther to go, nevertheless we're on precisely the economic and political track she delineated.

The odds are getting to be very high that the light at the end of the tunnel is the headlamp of an oncoming train -- The SOCIAL-WELFARE FASCISM EXPRESS -- barreling down on us at full speed.

5:21 PM, March 15, 2009  
Blogger uncle ken said...

"[Amitai Etzioni] said that people should not be able to use the internet freely because social mores were such that harm could come from a number of people having bad thoughts being able to communicate with each other..."

The USSR was done in by similar sentiments. It took three people to copy anything. Workers had to take documents to a copy room. Two men sat behind a desk - one to operate the copier and the other a party functionary to vet documents for subversive material. Citizens could not be trusted with copy machines, or computers! The USSR eventually failed in part because it could no longer compete.

6:55 PM, March 15, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

"Citizens could not be trusted with copy machines, or computers!"

Much like Biden thinks citizens can't be trusted to make their own decisions about how to spend their money.

Much like Obama thinks we need to have a mandatory volunteer corps - oxymoron of the century - so the government can keep an eye on...uh...I mean so people will volunteer to do work for the mean so people will volunteer to help each other - yeah, that's what I mean.

Praise our Dear Leader, may he live forever.


8:06 PM, March 15, 2009  
Blogger Joe said...

First, Ayn Rand was prescient; she was writing about socialism people--that isn't too fucking difficult and, frankly, Orwell did it better in Animal Farm. The apologetics about Ayn Rand's philosophy is really annoying because she really was a complete bitch who did argue that any sort of altruism was evil.

I think socialism sucks and that Obama is doing more harm than good, but the Rand alternative would be hell.

(Incidentally, redefining the word "Selfishness" is an elementary chlid's trick and one that Ayn Rand exploited way too often. To say man acts in his own self-interest is a fact; but Rand wasn't happy with that--she wants to FORCE people to act a certain way. How that isn't fascist is totally beyond me.)

9:54 PM, March 15, 2009  
Blogger Peter Dane said...

Rans was a case of a blind squirrel finding a nut. Some good ideas, "Objectivism" largely a immature and incomplete philosophy, and her personally about three sandwiches short a picnic.

10:09 PM, March 15, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


11:40 PM, March 15, 2009  
Blogger Unknown said...

Pete --

All philosophies are incomplete because people are not homogeneous. Even individuals aren't.

Joe --

Hell how so? I also don't recall in my readings where she advocated forcing people into selfishness. Could you refer please?

12:20 AM, March 16, 2009  
Blogger mrobert said...

I'm finishing Atlas Shrugged right now, and I am astounded at just how relevant it is. It is almost prophetic. I swear there are passages in the book that sound exactly like what I have heard from some of the biggest proponents of meddlesome government in Congress. Everybody should read Atlas Shrugged. It is a brilliant book and will open many eyes to folly of bigger, ever more meddlesome government.

Also, I get really irritated when people imply that working to generate a profit for yourself is somehow evil. The work I do is to support my family, help support several ministries we care about, save for our retirement, and do some fun things every now and then. None of those things is evil. What IS evil is demonizing the desire to make one's life better, confiscating the proceeds of hard, honest work, then redistributing it to somebody else that did nothing to earn it.

2:37 AM, March 16, 2009  
Blogger Terry Cantwell said...

The USA is very blessed and can survive stupid government for the next 4 or 8 years.

I believe it is possible to go to a virtual Galt's Gulch. Perhaps we the producers of society can go on strike against the coming wave of socialism.

3:58 AM, March 16, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We are all aware that the bail out will be paid for by our children, grandchildren, etc., and forever more. Government simply does not give back. It seems that the government thinks the future generations will accept it just because that's the way it is. They won't know any better, won't know "how things were." Part of why history gets slowly and constantly modified.

From each his ability, to each his needs. That will never work. It never has. One with the ability and drive to produce gets robbed by the government, who, after keeping a great portion of the "proceeds" for themselves, gives it to a dependent group. The dependent group grows ever larger (and why not?) keeping the confiscatory leaders and bureaucrats in office, until the lid blows off.

The same thing the other side says makes me selfish, makes them thieves. Like our boy Bob said, "The pump don't work 'cause the vandals took the handles."

6:10 AM, March 16, 2009  
Blogger Johnny$ said...

Terry Cantwell said ....
The USA is very blessed and can survive stupid government for the next 4 or 8 years.

Actually, I don’t think we even have to wait 4 years! If we, the loyal opposition, get our act together and send the politician in congress a clear message that the will loose control in the mid-term elections, they will begin to act differently, out of their own “selfishness, just as Rand predicted.

9:53 AM, March 16, 2009  
Blogger Randroideka said...

It's amazing to me how airy criticisms of Rand are. If it isn't a scathing personal attack on her or her admirers, it's vapid charges of being boring or lengthy or immature or relevant only to teenagers. Those rare cases in which the criticism reports what she said, nine times out of ten it's some absurd recycled perversion of her ideas. She was neither hedonist nor Nietzschean nor libertarian. She's a fascist? Come on, at that point you aren't even trying to appear truthful.

Certainly people should be free to criticize whoever they like. Is it too much to ask to accurately report on the object of your criticism? For far too many, it apparently is too much to ask.

10:36 AM, March 16, 2009  
Blogger Dave Cornutt said...

I was thinking about this last night. Consider El Paso, TX, and Juarez, Mexico. They are basically one urban area with an international border running through the middle of it. But conditions on the two sides of the line couldn't be more different. El Paso: Boom town, expanding economy, lots of good jobs, nice place to live. Juarez: basket case, massive poverty, huge slums, rampant lawlessness. What's the difference? Five decades of Mexican socialist government.

11:50 AM, March 16, 2009  
Blogger uncle ken said...

Dave it gets better - while all the Texas cars must meet ever-stricter emissions regs the million or so charcoal braziers in Juarez fill up the valley with thick blue haze you can cut with a knife.

But your comments are well-founded; same dirt, same weather, same everything except one thing - the Mexican government. Try to open a small business down there. You can sell tacos on the street or run drugs. But you can't open a legitimate business - the regs are impossible.

12:10 PM, March 16, 2009  
Blogger Terry Cantwell said...

John said

"Actually, I don’t think we even have to wait 4 years!"

John you are right. The dems are overreaching. By the time government money reaches a problem. The problem has been solved by the private sector.

My idea about a virtual Galt Gulch is this.


If you make this much money stop working. Pres Obama will be unable to fund his left wing agenda. This would be hard to coordinate and would clear the field for your competitors.

Do you have any ideas for a virtual Galt's Gulch? The goal is to deny the socilaists tax revenue and the benefits of our work.

1:02 PM, March 16, 2009  
Blogger Peter Dane said...

Yep - criticize The Blessed St. Ay Rand, and the objectivists come out in force with the same tired and predictable defenses.

Almost as bad as the Scientologists. Or the Paul-bots.

1:46 PM, March 16, 2009  
Blogger Dave Cornutt said...

Pete, if you had a reasoned argument, it would be different. But your post was exactly the sort of thing Rand was talking about.

5:37 PM, March 16, 2009  
Blogger Joe said...

Oligonicella, for Rand's philosophy to actually work in the real world, force would have to be involved. It simply would never happen.

The cold reality is that were Ayn Rand's philosophy to even be partly implemented it would result in an oligarchy and that oligarchy would have to maintain some sort centralized control to maintain power.

The biggest problem with criticizing Rand is that her philosophy is so childish and absurd. It's like criticizing the idealism of 16-year-olds. At some point they just shout really loudly.

In the real world, for example, altruism gives most of us a sense of joy. In the real world, we've all benefited from taxation. In the real world, it is completely irrational to say that because your marginal tax rate goes up at $250,000 you will stop earning at $250,000. Even if the marginal rate jumped to 50%, do people really believe they would forfeit $25,000 if they had a chance to make $300,000? Point is that most people claiming they will "go Galt" don't make anywhere near $250,000 and are completely full of shit--moreover, as I've said before, odds are they aren't making anywhere what they deserve from a purely advancement of society perspective.

(Child bearing isn't a rational, act from a purely objectivist standpoint--your child will never return to you the money you invest in them. Ever. Point being that what Rand advocated cuts against the grain of the actual human experience. It really is a philosophy for the truly selfish.)

6:05 PM, March 16, 2009  
Blogger Peter Dane said...

I don't waste my reasoned arguments on people who never reasoned themselves into their position to begin with. I grew bone weary of objectivist sophistry before I even got my bachelor's degree. Most of us who once embraced it as chic and trendy just outgrew it.

7:54 PM, March 16, 2009  
Blogger Randroideka said...

Joe and Pete, I'd like to thank you for demonstrating the level of argumentation typically arrayed against Rand. My kids aren't yet old enough to follow debates - when they are, exchanges like these should help them decide for themselves which ideas are worthy of their allegiance.

8:05 PM, March 16, 2009  
Blogger Terry Cantwell said...

The concept of earning no more then $250,000-$1/yr is an option for less than 3% of Americans. With that in mind 3% is paying the bulk of the taxes.

For example in NYC 40,000 people pay 65% of the taxes. Imagine their power if they organized.

All the best


3:31 AM, March 17, 2009  
Blogger JH Bassist said...

Rand was a naive dreamer. I'd like to agree with her, but I can't. And I probably dislike the 'collective' even more than she does.

The individual is the only thing that matters. Everything else is slag.

8:43 AM, March 17, 2009  
Blogger Peter Dane said...

Yeah, I know, I have blasphemed against the sainted Ayn. Forfend that anyone ever identifies her as being nuttier than a squirrel turd.

So you on duty as the rapid response force this week?

I'm not going to get into it with objectivist shitheads precisely because I have experience with it, having been drawn into the Rand cult when I was young and stupid. I am familiar with the shifting goalposts, familiar with the smarmy debating tactics, and damned familiar with the fact that the number of indicators of a "cult" that objectivism fulfills would be alarming if but for the fact that not so much as a dozen of you fuckers can't seem to spend two weeks with each other without there being a schism and lifelong feuds declared.

12:14 PM, March 17, 2009  
Blogger Terry Cantwell said...


You sound so full of anger. If objectivism upsets you so much perhaps you should watch CNBC.

If you want to bring people to your point of view it is best not to get in their face with 4 letter words.

You may have a bachelors degree but with your approach it would be hard to sell water to a millionaire dieing of thirst.

May I suggest if you want to bring people up to your level stop talking down to them.

Massive success to you!


4:27 AM, March 18, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Five decades of Mexican socialist government.

How about five decades of corrupt Mexican government?

9:55 AM, March 18, 2009  
Blogger Peter Dane said...

In fact, Terry, I have two BAs, a BS, two AAs, an MS, and an MA.

And who says I want to persuade you? You've obviously made up your mind, so not only would it be a massive waste of my time, it would violate my principle that you have the God-given right to be BOTH wrong and stupid.

I just try to keep other people from getting dragged into your cute little cult.

8:34 AM, March 19, 2009  
Blogger Terry Cantwell said...


All that education is a wonderful thing. I hope you are reaping all the success you deserve.

Back to the original subject. Is Rand relevant?

I say yes more than ever.

It appears you say no.

The parallels of "Atlas Shrugged" and today are more accurate than I could have ever predicted. Giving government programs nice names that are near the opposite of the results. The Housing Equalization Act and The Fairness Doctrine are 2 good examples

Whether I'm right or wrong time and history will prove.

Pete you don't know me well enough to say I'm stupid.

I'm always open to new ideas and technology as any one who views my website will see.

Surely a man as smart as you could put a little crack in my statue of Atlas.

All the best


4:17 PM, March 19, 2009  
Blogger conservative74 said...

There are both good and bad things about her philosophy. Capitalism works because it is based off the correct assumption of human nature and that is man is fundamentally corrupt. The reason socialism and communism fail because it assumes man is basically good.

Here is the caveat... in order for Capitalism to succeed you need a government that is bound to protecting laws that have been created to both allow a free market but also punish people who go too far in their selfishness. Ideally this government is to be kept small. That is why our Constitution is such a great document and that is also why liberal hate it so much. It keeps any one group from having too much power.

10:47 AM, March 23, 2009  

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