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The Case Against Ayn Rand
Pajamas Media ^ | 04/01/2013 | Benjamin Kerstein

Posted on 04/01/2013 7:47:17 AM PDT by SeekAndFind

The cult of Ayn Rand has never been stronger on the American Right. Rand’s influence on groups such as the Tea Party and politicians like Rand Paul — who is, after all, named after her — is intense, and clearly growing in popularity. Indeed, the Tea Party began with a pundit who called himself “basically an Ayn Rander.” For many on the Right, Rand has become something approaching a messiah, or at least a patron saint. American conservatives, looking for a way up from the defeats of the Obama era, appear ready to embrace this trend. This is, needless to say, an extremely bad idea.

First, it is politically suicidal. The U.S. is mired in an economic crisis that has been brewing for some time, and shows few signs of disappearing. And this crisis was caused, to a great extent, by Randian economics. Eschewing traditional fiscal conservatism, the American Right embraced for the better part of three decades a messianic form of capitalism that demonized the state and society, while fostering an idolatry of the individual entrepreneur, the corporate CEO, and the unabashed pursuit of money as the highest moral good.

That this has had horrendous consequences cannot be denied. If money is the highest moral good, then making money — by whatever means — overrides all other concerns, even legality, prudence, and common sense. The result has been massive economic inequality, recklessness on the part of the private sector that brought it close to self-destruction, the gutting of public assets, and the negation of even the idea of a collective good.

This is much in contrast to traditional conservatism, which acknowledged the self-evident fact that society is a collective endeavor, and the interests of the individual must be balanced against those of the collective. It also acknowledged — indeed, insisted — that a society can reach a consensus on what constitutes the good, and pursue it on a collective level to the benefit of all. Indeed, Edmund Burke based his entire critique of the French Revolution on the idea that the good can only be achieved by particular communities with specific values, and not through universalist individualism. Rand, in contrast, regarded society as fundamentally evil and the mortal enemy of the individual; a point of view that can, in fact must, lead to a state of anarchy and social collapse that benefits no one and destroys precisely what traditional conservatism seeks to preserve.

The majority of the American people appear to have reached the same conclusion. They have twice voted for a president who rejects Rand’s ideas entirely, and polls indicate that an overwhelming number of them want policies like higher taxes on the rich that are anathema to Rand’s ideology.

Many Americans, moreover, are suffering under current economic conditions, and when people are suffering they will turn to anyone who promises to help alleviate that suffering. Rand demonized such people as “moochers” and parasites. It is very unlikely that Americans will vote for people who hate them. “Do not,” as the ancient proverb goes, “stand in the way of a hungry man.” To run on Randian principles may be popular with many on the Right, but on a national scale it can only lead to greater marginalization and defeat.

Second, Rand’s ideology is morally reprehensible. Rand proclaimed such things as compassion, generosity, charity, and empathy as evil and enemies of humanity. That this is monstrous should be readily apparent. Such sentiments are basic aspects of human nature and human relationships. To deny them makes us essentially inhuman. To vitiate them completely results in a condition in which power is the sole arbiter of justice and good. The ideologies of the 20th century that embraced such ideas have been among the ugliest. Indeed, they are the fundamental principles of totalitarianism. As conservative icon Whittaker Chambers pointed out, at the heart of Rand’s ideology is a voice screaming “to the gas chambers – go!” Ultimately, Rand’s ideas were based on a demonization of empathy; and in a post-modern world in which all gods are dead and people increasingly alienated from each other by social, economic, and technological forces, we are desperately in need of empathy. Without it, we will find ourselves in a world where, as French novelist Michel Houellebecq puts it, “it is simply impossible to live.”

Last, and contrary to her own claims, Rand was an enemy of intelligence and rational thought. She fancied herself a philosopher, but was at best a polemicist. Her understanding of philosophy and its history was amateurish at best. She demonized essential thinkers like Emmanuel Kant without addressing their ideas in any but the shallowest way. This disparaging attitude causes Rand’s acolytes to close themselves off in a tautological ideology that begins with Rand and ends with Rand.

To go down the Randian path, then, might be edifying for some on the Right, but would also be politically and intellectually disastrous. The American Right currently faces a situation fundamentally different from that which raised it to the commanding heights of American politics. If it cannot adapt to it, it will be either completely marginalized or eventually transformed into something unrecognizable.

This would bad not only for the Right but also for America. More than ever, the United States needs traditional conservatism — the conservatism of fiscal and social prudence that regards change and reform as not necessarily evil but not necessarily good, and views progress with reasoned skepticism. Its revival is the Right’s only path back to power. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely the Right will take this path, or it will take it only after a brutal civil war within the movement. One hopes that cooler and more conservative heads will eventually prevail.

****


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: aynrand
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To: itsahoot

Corporations are now global entities, they have no loyalty to any nation.


51 posted on 04/01/2013 11:35:51 AM PDT by dfwgator
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To: dfwgator
It's the same with Karl Marx, he could explain all of the problems with Capitalism,

Stand by for the Randian attack. :)

52 posted on 04/01/2013 11:39:53 AM PDT by itsahoot (It is not so much that history repeats, but that human nature does not change.)
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To: SeekAndFind

53 posted on 04/01/2013 11:44:49 AM PDT by JoeProBono (A closed mouth gathers no feet - Mater tua caligas exercitus gerit ;-{)
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To: ZX12R
There is nothing about Ayn Rand's ideas, that aren't immediately superior to any liberal ideas.

It is good that we can have our own interpretation of Rand's ideas.

She allows people to practice unbridled capitalism, just like all the Isms allow unbridled government.

Man unrestrained by morality does not improve the condition of man in the world.

</Humanism>

54 posted on 04/01/2013 11:48:15 AM PDT by itsahoot (It is not so much that history repeats, but that human nature does not change.)
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To: itsahoot

there was a scienties to published a paper about altruism is really self interest. He died trying to disprove his paper. Today one of the few papers ever published with no footnotes and an entirely original piece.

Rand has a viable and logical message in this day and age. Conceeding reason and sole reliance on mere faith alone guarantees defeat in a political debate.

The fact of the matter is the left has no morality. The left is left to practice whatever hedonism, fetish or tactile indulgence is needed to cultivate their low information followers. In the 1960’s hippies were seduced by mind numbing drugs. in the 1950’s thespians were seduced by egotism and illusery significance via communism. Today it is just “Obamma gonna’ pay mah mortgage!”

The medium is the message. Not logic, no reason.

Forgive the rambling.


55 posted on 04/01/2013 12:37:40 PM PDT by longtermmemmory (VOTE! http://www.senate.gov and http://www.house.gov)
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To: SeekAndFind
"The U.S. is mired in an economic crisis that has been brewing for some time, and shows few signs of disappearing. And this crisis was caused, to a great extent, by Randian economics."

Go ahead, make your case against Ayn Rand, there's a lot to criticize. But you jumped the shark with that statement. It's simply delusional and I couldn't read further.

56 posted on 04/01/2013 3:21:20 PM PDT by Jabba the Nutt (.Are they stupid, malicious or evil?)
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To: ADemocratNoMore; Aggie Mama; alarm rider; alexander_busek; AlligatorEyes; AmericanGirlRising; ...

Ping.


57 posted on 04/01/2013 3:24:25 PM PDT by Publius
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To: SeekAndFind
If money is the highest moral good, then making money — by whatever means — overrides all other concerns, even legality, prudence, and common sense.

Stopped reading right there as the author has no knowledge of Rand, nor the "philosophy" around money and how it is clearly stated it is NOT the tools of the very premise he put forth.

Money is made – before it can be looted or mooched – made by the effort of every honest man, each to the extent of his ability. An honest man is one who knows that he can't consume more than he has produced. ~~Atlas Shrugged, The Money Speech

58 posted on 04/01/2013 3:30:50 PM PDT by EBH ( American citizens do not negotiate with political terrorists.)
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To: SeekAndFind

Ayn Rand had a clear idea who the baddies were, her good guys” were horrible though


59 posted on 04/01/2013 3:32:18 PM PDT by GeronL (http://asspos.blogspot.com)
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To: Lx

Her short story “Anthem” is short enough for anyone to get and it spells out her ideas well.


60 posted on 04/01/2013 3:34:28 PM PDT by GeronL (http://asspos.blogspot.com)
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To: SeekAndFind
First, it is politically suicidal. The U.S. is mired in an economic crisis that has been brewing for some time, and shows few signs of disappearing. And this crisis was caused, to a great extent, by Randian economics.

Yeah....not so much. When you start with a moronic premise like this one, you're conclusion is pretty much doomed. The US hasn't been remotely Randian in decades if ever, though the farther we get from it, the worser we do. I stand with The Won when he says that if a particular group or ideology mucked something up, they don't get to direct the fix. Course his application of the principle is 180 degrees out of phase with reality, but what the heck, at least he got SOMETHING right, eh?

61 posted on 04/01/2013 3:37:41 PM PDT by Still Thinking (Freedom is NOT a loophole!)
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I am not a huge fan of Rand’s ideology but she clearly points out that many many companies will join the looters. Nowhere does she say that all businesses are the good guys


62 posted on 04/01/2013 3:38:24 PM PDT by GeronL (http://asspos.blogspot.com)
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To: Jabba the Nutt
And this crisis was caused, to a great extent, by Randian economics

This statement shows the author has gone FULL RETARD

63 posted on 04/01/2013 3:40:22 PM PDT by GeronL (http://asspos.blogspot.com)
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To: GeronL

Anthem reminds me of the Who song, 905.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2ZOhWAaGVs

I bought that album “Who Are You” when it came out (still have it) and seeing Keith Moon sitting in a chair that has ‘not to be taken away’ written on it disturbing.


64 posted on 04/01/2013 3:43:26 PM PDT by Lx (Do you like it, do you like it. Scott? I call it Mr. and Mrs. Tennerman chili.)
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To: SeekAndFind

Rand’s philosophy is incoherent, sophomoric materialism, but her depiction of a future American fascist state was prophetic.


65 posted on 04/01/2013 3:49:04 PM PDT by St_Thomas_Aquinas
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To: SeekAndFind
“A book must be an ice-axe to break the seas frozen inside our soul.” Franz Kafka

_______________

There are writers who help readers to escape preconceived notions and prejudices and assumptions. One might not find their whole developed system appealing, but they do help young people who are trying to break free and form their own opinions and beliefs about the world. You wouldn't want to take them as your guide in all things, but you're glad that they were around when you needed them.

I wish Ayn had realized that and hadn't tried to lay down the last word on everything once and for all for everyone. But if she had known that, she wouldn't have been Ayn Rand. It may have been the whole Russian woman thing.

66 posted on 04/01/2013 3:49:30 PM PDT by x
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To: dfwgator

“And this crisis was caused, to a great extent, by Randian economics.”

We’ve been in a Central Planned economy since FDR. Any glimpse of entrepreneurship has been pure dumb luck.
Rand knew human nature and behaviors. Past is prologue.


67 posted on 04/01/2013 5:16:37 PM PDT by griswold3
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To: mjp

I went through a Rand phase when I was in my twenties. I must have read about ten of her books. She claimed many times to have been a disciple of Aristotle, but I can’t recall any evidence of it.

Rather than the Law of Non-Contradiction, her First Principle was the tautological formulation of A=A, and it was downhill from there. She never mentions Substance/accidents, the Four Causes, the virtues. etc.

http://www.aquinasonline.com/Topics/ is a great resource for anyone who is interested in common sense philosophy of Aristotle and St. Thomas.


68 posted on 04/01/2013 6:06:46 PM PDT by St_Thomas_Aquinas
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To: ZX12R

There is a cult. It is known as Objectivism.


69 posted on 04/01/2013 6:56:31 PM PDT by reformedliberal
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To: SoCal Pubbie
Most people have never heard of Ayn Rand and have no clue who she was.

Most Freepers have never read Ayn Rand and have no clue what her philosophy is. Like oil and water, Ayn Rand and Free Republic don't mix.

70 posted on 04/01/2013 7:03:54 PM PDT by Misterioso ("The difference between a welfare state and a totalitarian state is a matter of time." - Ayn Rand)
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To: MuttTheHoople

exactly - why can’t we admire the stuff she got right.
And she was VERY right about socialists and communists.

And other stuff she got wrong.
Such is life


71 posted on 04/01/2013 7:42:11 PM PDT by Scotswife
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To: dfwgator

WE NEED SEPARATION OF GOVERNMENT FROM POWER!...............


72 posted on 04/02/2013 6:09:01 AM PDT by Red Badger (Want to be surprised? Google your own name......Want to have fun? Google your friend's names........)
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To: Lx
1) She needed an editor. She takes a great idea and beats you over the head with it for at least five pages. not unlike Hemingway........
73 posted on 04/02/2013 6:11:40 AM PDT by Red Badger (Want to be surprised? Google your own name......Want to have fun? Google your friend's names........)
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To: SeekAndFind

“And this crisis was caused, to a great extent, by Randian economics. Eschewing traditional fiscal conservatism, the American Right embraced for the better part of three decades a messianic form of capitalism that demonized the state and society, while fostering an idolatry of the individual entrepreneur, the corporate CEO, and the unabashed pursuit of money as the highest moral good.”

No need to read further, this is complete and utter bull excrement.


74 posted on 04/02/2013 7:06:46 AM PDT by CSM (Keeper of the Dave Ramsey Ping list. FReepmail me if you want your beeber stuned.)
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To: Lx

“There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted and you create a nation of law-breakers — and then you cash in on guilt. Now that’s the system.”

Quote by: Ayn Rand
(1905-1982) Author
Source: “Atlas Shrugged”, Part II, Chapter 3


75 posted on 04/02/2013 7:08:37 AM PDT by CSM (Keeper of the Dave Ramsey Ping list. FReepmail me if you want your beeber stuned.)
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To: CSM

I thought that was Toohey talking to Keating after he broke him in the Fountainhead.

But it sure sounds like what I was talking about. What character is saying this?


76 posted on 04/02/2013 7:11:28 AM PDT by Lx (Do you like it, do you like it. Scott? I call it Mr. and Mrs. Tennerman chili.)
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To: Red Badger

Yeah, I guess you could distill The Old Man and the Sea down to ten pages but at least Hemingway took the man’s way out.

Actually, I shouldn’t joke about suicide because the thought of people doing it depresses me. To think people thought jumping from the top of the WTC was the best choice is disturbing even though I might have joined them. Sorry for the buzzkill.

Hemingway also liked cats, a virtue indeed although he might have been a hoarder but his poly-dactyl kittehs are still around his place.


77 posted on 04/02/2013 7:17:33 AM PDT by Lx (Do you like it, do you like it. Scott? I call it Mr. and Mrs. Tennerman chili.)
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To: x
There are writers who help readers to escape preconceived notions and prejudices and assumptions. One might not find their whole developed system appealing, but they do help young people who are trying to break free and form their own opinions and beliefs about the world. You wouldn't want to take them as your guide in all things, but you're glad that they were around when you needed them.

Then I invite you to read The Sound and The Fury if you haven't already and get back to me if you haven't gone insane. My teacher thought it was the best book written and I still see it on my shelf. I've read Rand books more than once but TSATF once was enough. Heck, I've read the Bell Jar more than once and it's barely comprehensive which might have been the point though.

I dislike deconstructing anything (except for cars to get parts that is).

78 posted on 04/02/2013 7:23:27 AM PDT by Lx (Do you like it, do you like it. Scott? I call it Mr. and Mrs. Tennerman chili.)
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To: Lx
Yeah, I guess you could distill The Old Man and the Sea down to ten pages....

I caught a big fish. He fought like hell. Here's his carcass..........

79 posted on 04/02/2013 9:03:18 AM PDT by Red Badger (Want to be surprised? Google your own name......Want to have fun? Google your friend's names........)
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To: Red Badger

You left out that he was too big to fit in the boat as the reason only his carcass made it back.


80 posted on 04/02/2013 9:05:06 AM PDT by Lx (Do you like it, do you like it. Scott? I call it Mr. and Mrs. Tennerman chili.)
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To: Lx

GONNA NEED A BIGGER BOAT.......


81 posted on 04/02/2013 10:20:48 AM PDT by Red Badger (Want to be surprised? Google your own name......Want to have fun? Google your friend's names........)
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To: Lx

Hmm, I beleive that Dr. Ferris is the speaker, however I can’t recall to whom he was speaking....I tried to find it again, but have not been successful. I’d also bet that you saw something similar in “Fountainhead.” There was a lot of similarity between the two novels.


82 posted on 04/02/2013 10:44:53 AM PDT by CSM (Keeper of the Dave Ramsey Ping list. FReepmail me if you want your beeber stuned.)
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To: Red Badger

Succinct, I like it.


83 posted on 04/02/2013 11:10:42 AM PDT by Lx (Do you like it, do you like it. Scott? I call it Mr. and Mrs. Tennerman chili.)
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To: CSM

It might be when Galt is hooked up to the Ferris persuader.


84 posted on 04/02/2013 11:11:29 AM PDT by Lx (Do you like it, do you like it. Scott? I call it Mr. and Mrs. Tennerman chili.)
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To: Lx

The boat didn’t cinct, it floated.......


85 posted on 04/02/2013 12:25:53 PM PDT by Red Badger (Want to be surprised? Google your own name......Want to have fun? Google your friend's names........)
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To: dfwgator
Corporations are now global entities, they have no loyalty to any nation.

It has been so since Nixon.

86 posted on 04/02/2013 4:43:23 PM PDT by itsahoot (It is not so much that history repeats, but that human nature does not change.)
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To: Lx

Smoker yes, drinker, no.


87 posted on 04/03/2013 3:58:35 PM PDT by TradicalRC (Conservatism is primarily a Christian movement.)
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To: don-o

Perhaps not. She is very good at taking liberal premises and drawing conclusions very different from the liberal left’s conclusions. She originally had a Thomistic priest as a character in Atlas Shrugged but abandoned the idea along the way. Like all idealists she became more and more secularist.
I believe that idealism is the purest form of evil.


88 posted on 04/03/2013 4:06:52 PM PDT by TradicalRC (Conservatism is primarily a Christian movement.)
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