Comment of the Day: A Rand Retort

COMMENT OF THE DAY: A RAND RETORT “I’m well aware of the resurgent appeal of Ayn Rand, after she had become mainly a stage passed through by the young, shallowly encountering her for the first time. Now her stock seems to be rising even as people have happily embraced statism. I don’t discount the lingering uncertainty about the direction we’ve gone, but I am sorry to see the fanatical Ayn Rand resuscitated as an alternative. Approaches may differ, but her hatred of tradition and, as Chambers noted, her materialism — her approving view of ‘naked self-interest’ — really mirrored that of Marx. The conservative movement was right to drum her out fifty years ago. For myself, I feel intuitively that anyone who wrote as badly as she does, can’t have a mind worth attending to. I’m afraid that is my prejudice, and I can’t defend it, but I’ll never depart from it. More signally, the doctrine of ‘aesthetic selfishness’ is dangerous more for its reach than its fancifully ‘logical’ foundations, whose weakness — nonexistence — others have convincingly demonstrated, although I grant you, that her ‘thought,’ once you get beyond the bright shiny part about individual freedom, is so ugly, eugenics and all, that it has not always brought out the best rigor in its opponents. Owing to my own particular concerns, the legacy of hers I dislike most is the idea that Industrial Man has such capacity to alter nature that he stands outside of nature; that we’ve come to the end of nature. Others have written much worse than she, perhaps, but even if one generously considers her only mediocre, it is disquieting that she has become the Bible for so many. . . . ” [luciaphile, commenting on Could Glenn Beck Bring Independence to Texas?]

33 Comment

  • Although I agree some of Ayn Rand concepts are a tad to the extreme, it is a necessary tool to combat the concepts on the opposite side which are even more extreme such as Carl Marx and the Occupy Movement. These days you cannot persuade people to your side by simply being centrist and laying out facts and figures, you HAVE to have a certain level of Theatrics and Overly Dramatized Dramatizations.

  • Oh Ayn Rand hate, always a step above Karl Marx hate. Does that once again make her superior, being more hated than a man who inspired generations of followers to wreck their countries and commit millions of atrocities? Yet somehow the personal odiousness of Rand brings out te greater vitriol. She’d consider it a badge of honor.

  • Every thoughtful critic of Rand that I’ve read in the last few years always mentions than it’s something young people glom onto and usually (read “should”) grow out of. That might be true and I generally agree w/ the sentiment, but literally every assessment mentions that it’s for young people. It’s like a “talking point”, or something. For example, Paul Krugman took some digs at Rand a few months ago and he had the same line in there. Anyway…

  • For all the criticism of Karl Marx, there’s one important fact to consider: at least people have actually tried to create a system based on his ideas, and Marxism continues to have some influence on actual policy around the world. Nobody on Earth–not the United States, nobody–has ever attempted, nor would ever attempt a Rand-style libertarian society. Won’t work. Would never work. In fact it simply could not work in tandem with republican democracy.

  • I read half of that rant and my short attention span won’t allow me to fini

  • Had to read Atlas Shrugged in college. Worst waste of time ever, and this coming from a guy who reads this site every day. That woman got stuck in the terrible two stage.

  • Anse,

    You talk like every civilization that modeled Marxism hasn’t completely collapsed and caused complete devestation to its populous and the remnants of Marxism aren’t pernicious dead enders. So for all the practical failures of Marxism, you’re proud people are too stubborn to let it go?? LMFAO!! I’m no fan of Rand but Marxists are way more idiotic than objectivists, who atleast admit people have selfish motivations.

  • Here’s John Rogers classic quote about Ayn Rand (via Paul Krugman):

    “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”

  • Lost_In_Translation,

    Apparently you have never traveled outside the United States. I’d beg to differ with you. For one thing, there are many different schools of socialist thought, all variants influenced to some degree by Marx. Currently, the most successful of these is “market socialism,” a model in which the state does not try to control all aspects of the market, but rather attempts to even out the inequalities the market inevitably produces and bring some degree of fairness and transparency into the market via regulation. That, sir, is incredibly successful, and it is the standard by which most of the civilized world operates–including in the United States. And you should be thankful for it. None of us are old enough to remember what life was like before the New Deal. These programs do not come out of thin air, hatched by revolutionaries bent on your destruction. Even our titans of industry find pathways out of their beloved free market. As is often said, there are no atheists in foxholes, and there are no libertarians in an economic crisis. Which is precisely why libertarianism fails as a political philosophy: the market produces many winners, but it produces many, many losers, and the losers vote.

  • Anse,

    And when the losers vote against capitalism, we all become losers. It’s a wonderful self destructive process. No one has been lifted out of poverty for long from pure redistributive processes. When the creative are squashed, why be creative. You like to think we’re happier because government is handing out food stamps, but they’re also wasting money on war and bailouts and socialist of both parties were the ones that handed them that power. Socialism is doomed to failure, fast or slow because it always thinks some people are mdgically better and can be trusted to guide the rest of us. And it always ends in tears. I’ve traveled extensively and seen the effects of rampant socialism and its failures. As a philosophy is idealistic and bankrupt. And always popular.

  • Anse: “and the losers vote.”
    Totally. Just look at the last election
    (sorry, that was just way too easy ;)

  • I dunno. I don’t claim to be an expert on this but…. If you read the basic tenets of Marx, Socialism and even communism, it’s very difficult to find even one country in which any of those were ever actually implemented (at least on a large scale), even if there was intent to do so. Were the USSR or Mao’s China ever proletariat dictatorships? Hardly.

  • Read von Mises on Socialism, Anse. Marx is absurdity.

    Any voluntary, informed market transaction produces only winners – the grocery store would rather have my $50, and I’d rather have the groceries. We both won.

    My job would rather have my labor, and I’d rather have my salary.

    You can’t measure success against “what I wish the world looked like”. You have to measure it against the real world.

  • Leave it to Cody to call people who don’t vote as he does, losers. Thanks for putting me in my place, Cody. Maybe some of us are just born to be takers/lowers and not creators/winners like yourself. I’m just a lowly engineer slaving away in my cubicle and doing nothing creative or useful, really. In fact, you could call me superfluous flesh. I know that would make Ayn Rand happy.

  • Good one, Cody.
    But in all seriousness, we as a country have reached a dangerous tipping point, where the “takers” have finally outnumbered “the makers” and will always vote for more for them at the expense of someone else. Ultimately that system will fail and the pendulum will once again swing the other way. It happens every few generations as far as history can remember.

  • Failure to deal with reality is a common trait among those who hold utopian fantasies, and libertarians are no different. Welfare is an easier solution than civil war, but it’s a lot less sexy to the NRA Tea Party types.

  • “But in all seriousness, we as a country have reached a dangerous tipping point, where the “takers” have finally outnumbered “the makers””

    You couldn’t back that up to save your life.

  • This “takers outnumber makers” baloney is ridiculous. I know plenty of farmers back home who would emphatically put themselves on the “makers” side, who depend utterly on ag subsidies to pay for their new Ford F-350s. The self-delusion of these folks is profound. You aren’t going to be a true independent in an economy like ours.

    As for the success of welfare states…Norway. Nearly nonexistent public debt. Almost total employment. Nice retirement and health care bennies. What is their advantage? Well, their oil and gas wealth isn’t soaked up by private enterprise, for one thing. Don’t tell me this stuff doesn’t work. It can work very, very well.

  • My interest in Ayn Rand is too slight to amount to hatred, I hope. I don’t care about her kooky personal life. Her early life in Russia could hardly fail to be interesting, though.
    I guess I don’t see what she added to the literature of “self-interest” that was not already limned by Adam Smith, or even Marx, when he was wearing his economist hat.
    As to the reason Ayn Rand is always invoked as a youthful phase: I think it’s shorthand for a lot of what you need to know about her. For awhile she was part of the curriculum, a bit of anti-Communist propaganda (no longer strictly necessary by the time it was placed in my hands). “Objectivism” was perfectly suited to the teenaged mind. I remember thinking it was genius for a week or two. And, speaking only for myself, most things that appealed to me at that age were pushing buttons labeled “Selfish,” “Anarchic,” or “Angry.” Oh yeah, and “Stupid.”
    I wasn’t bright enough to notice that they had displaced one Big Idea with another Big Idea. It was presented as a stark choice. There was not even a hint of a suggestion that there might be a third thing: that one might want to distrust Big Ideas, that ideology itself might be the problem.

    Neither Ayn Rand nor Paul Krugman would credit that, but I now see it as a pretty major omission. Alas, you could build no theme park around it.

  • Norway, and the Nordic Model is quite an interesting social experiment (it’s relatively new). If you dig deeper and look behind the utopian idea it can be summarized in “They have oil reserves and got lucky by dodging several market crashes over few decades”. They also have a much smaller population and more homogeneous society which lends itself better to “cooperation”. It would never work in the US. But, by far the biggest downfall in the Nordic Model is “incentive”. Among European nation, the youth of Nordic Model countries have the lowest level of motivation. As it turns out as a whole the youth only strive to get a job to make enough money to be able to eat good food and hang out with friends, the government will take care of the rest. This will be a very short lived system.

  • “Well, their oil and gas wealth isn’t soaked up by private enterprise, for one thing”

    “Soaked up” by private enterprise? Where do you think wealth comes from?

  • The Republican takers/makers rhetoric is pretty stupid, also. They’re not exactly suggesting means-testing Social Security and Medicare, which would cut that number quite a bit.

  • Jerry, it was a joke. I’m in the minority among my friends and family when it comes to how I vote and many of my political viewpoints. Doesn’t change the way I think of them.
    The joke was just right there and too easy for me to pass up. Sorry if I hurt your feelings.

  • i’m baffled by all this takers vs. makers talk. for the last 10 years the “makers” in the united states have had it better than they’ve had it for most of the last 100 years but for some reason they’re complaining more loudly like they’re being oppressed or like their money’s being unfairly redistributed. even with these recent tax increases they’re still only back up to levels that people seemed perfectly comfortable with during the nineties. a lot of the hardliner “i got mine, so fuck everyone else” types seem to think that everything would be great if people would stop redistributing wealth, but this completely ignores the fact that we are an interdependent society. there are benefits to all classes (including the wealthy even though they may be subtle or difficult to quantify) to having low economic disparity and to maintaining decent quality of life for the lower classes even if its just a matter of throwing a few bones to keep people from rebelling or, at the very least, from stealing your shit.

  • My fear isn’t too that too much from the ‘makers’ being taken. What is taken via taxes is a number is is for the public and politicians to decide. I think it’s too high but whatever.
    What scares me is the NUMBER of people who are ‘takers’ (and I realize that’s a loaded word) vs the number of people paying into the system. If we get to the point where the result of not working is far too similar to the result of slaving away, the incentive to work goes away.
    That’s what scares me.

  • “luciaphile: My interest in Ayn Rand is too slight to amount to hatred, I hope
    Ironically that reminds me of a quote from The Fountainhead. Roark is asked “Why don’t you tell me what you think of me?”. Roark replies “But I don’t think of you”.
    If you dislike Rand (or anyone) the best way is to not even bother thinking about them at all. Even hating someone suggest an interest.
    Maybe some of the concepts of hers you read about stayed with you :)

  • Spiteful, et al,

    The mistake people make is thinking there is a noticeable libertarian presence in government. There isn’t. There are corporatists and unionists, hawks and doves, but they all like te statist power they enjoy and shudder at the thought of giving any of it up to the common man.

    So yell all you want about republicans proving Ayn rand wrong. Rand’s characters would have been as against them as any. Rand herself suffered from alot of political blindness because of her hatred of te USSR, but the USSR failed for many of the reasons that are evident in her writings. But socialism is te ideal that some people just can’t let go of, thinking that everything can be fixed if only the “right” people will be put in charge. There are no right people, there are only a continuation of flawed and venal individuals bound to make the same mistakes repeatedly. Society should protect themselves diligently against anyone who thinks they know how to fix things if only they were given enough money and power.

  • If it can work in one country, it can work in other countries; and it does. The list is not limited to Norway.

  • Feel free to list all the amazing countries which socialism has had wonderful success.

  • > What scares me is the NUMBER of people
    > who are ‘takers’

    What scares me is that the biggest takers of all — Wall Street Investment Bankers — are going to get away with their latest shenanigans scot-free.

    It’s not the number of takers, it’s the size of the take, isn’t it?

    It seems to me that creeping oligarchy is the greatest existential threat in the USA.

    Overblown and/or mendacious warnings about non-existant welfare queens and nefarious terrorists is a classic case of misdirection.

  • “once the monkeys learn they can vote themselves bananas, they will never climb another tree.”

    –Robert Heinlein

  • Googling around the internet — and of course, if I found it on the internet, it MUST be true — yields the following:

    Average salary of A-List actors: $15,000,000

    Average salary of NFL players: $770,000 to $1.2 million, depending on the article you read and when it was written

    Average salary of Wall Street bankers: $363,000 to $380,000

    Average SAG member salary: $52,000

    Why isn’t there an Occupy Hollywood movement?

  • Cody, if I ever claim to have read “The Fountainhead,” feel free to call me out as a dirty liar.
    Apropos of nothing, really, except that it reminded me of the line from “Dr.Zhivago” — “The private life in Russia is dead” — I feel like sharing something that I did read, just today, about a woman living alone in the Siberian taiga, who might be said to be the last victim of the purges of the 1930s: