Skip to comments.Ayn Rand in Retrospect
Posted on 08/08/2002 4:20:37 PM PDT by RJCogburn
On March 6, 1982 writer and philosopher Ayn Rand died. Her novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and non-fiction works like Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal were major influences on the development of the libertarian movement, and in the two decades since her death the accuracy of her insights has been demonstrated time and again.
Rand was born in 1905 in czarist Russia. Before she left in 1926 she witnessed the rise of that most evil empire, a communist regime that would take the lives, liberty and property of millions of people. She understood first-hand the horrid consequences of evil philosophies and the importance of defending the right ideas for the right reasons.
Many great supporters of liberty such as economists F.A. Hayek and Milton Friedman justified the capitalist system because it produces more material goods and services than planned or socialist systems and, to the extent that governments try to control economies, those economies will stagnate or collapse.
But Rand maintained that capitalism must be defended first and foremost on moral grounds. Unlike plants or lower animals, human beings have a unique rational capacity that each of us must choose to exercise if were to survive and prosper. We need to discover how to produce food, how to cure diseases, how to construct shelters and how to build skyscrapers. This means that we each must be free to act on the judgments of our own minds.
So what do these facts tell us about society? Rand observed that individuals can deal with each other in one of two ways: though mutual consent or by initiating force. Capitalism is the social system based on mutual consent and respect for the rights and dignity of each individual. By contrast, when governments try to run economies, by definition they use force to take the property of individuals and restrict their freedom, at the point of a gun.
Critics argue that free markets mean a world of individuals pursuing their own selfish interests rather than looking out for the good for society. Many market defenders deny this fact or apologize for it. Worse, many entrepreneurs feel guilty not for their vices but for their virtues, that is, their ability to create wealth rather than steal it from others. Rand called this the sanction of the victim. If you accept your enemies evaluation of you, you accept undeserved blame, and thus give them the power to destroy you.
To the producers in society, Rand said Stop apologizing. She understood that everyone benefits from a society of trade, and that the most productive people create the most benefits for all of us-not only in art and science but also in business. Creators of wealth deserve the same honor, and the same freedom, as creators of beauty or knowledge.
So why, with the fall of Soviet bloc communism and the manifest failures of welfare states, do leftists who claim to want to help the poor still oppose the free market? Rand understood that many of these critics are motivated first and foremost by envy and resentment of the productive people who flourish in the market. Their failings are not intellectual; theyre moral.
Rand understood that when leftists could no longer justify their anti-capitalist bigotry based on facts and reason, they would simply abandon facts and reason. And sure enough, many offer empty emotional outbursts: Were victims! Its the duty of you selfish exploiters to care for us! Academic nihilists and post-modernists assault the minds of their students by maintaining that facts and reason are simply prejudices perpetuated by the evil ruling class.
Rand offers a much-needed antidote to todays attacks on liberty. She understood that reality is objective, that we discover the truth by using our minds, not our adrenal glands, and that only when we defend liberty based on the right of each individual to his or her own life can we ensure a truly human society.
Copyright, The Objectivist Center. For more information, please visit www.ObjectivistCenter.org.
Including trains running off the tracks and lights going out in California.
Like a parallel between Tyco CEO Kozlowski's $6000 shower curtain and the boss's bathroom at 20th Century Motors? (I seem to recall that his was cut glass, though) :-)
The book was so prophetic. She had the Clinton "whining of America" pegged.
Rather than justifying capitalism, what Hayek primarily did was to show that the goals of socialism are epistemologically impossible.
Unfortunately for objectvists, Hayek's epistemology, which is mostly Kantian, no more supports objectivism than it does socialism.
I disagree with that part of your assessment, but she was indeed as guilty of The Fatal Conceit as socialists.
My first response is "If you are God, my dear,that's no excuse not to take out the trash. There's 250 bags out on the porch. Now, since you're so freaking brilliant, invent garbage men."
This is at the root of White Guilt, the subconscious authority that Jesse Jackson uses to shake down America. Through a media-assisted propaganda campaign, he has convinced the middle class that its comfortable position in society is the result of the exploitation of blacks. Believing this nonsense, he can then extort a penance from them in the form of affirmative action, cringing political correctness, or plain old money. Eventually, that guilt will open the door to ascendancy, and black bigots (like John Conyers, Kwesi Mfume, and Julian Bond) will assume positions of authority from which they can undermine white success. All in the name of "equality," mind you.
Rand understood that many of these critics are motivated first and foremost by envy and resentment of the productive people who flourish in the market. Their failings are not intellectual; theyre moral.
Marx's criticism of capital was not based on its failures, but on his own petty alienation from economic success. His disciples have elevated his pathology into holy writ, and legitimized the sickness as a modern-day religion.
I thought Atlas Shrugged characters were too black and white myself, but The Fountainhead proved to have more diverse characters. Dominique and Gail Wynand were much less perfect that Dagny and Francisco. Howard Roark even slipped once in his ideology, and he was the "hero."
Rand said her writing was intended to show "man as he might be and ought to be". She was not interested in showing how the fellow next door lived...lots of writers do that.
As for talentless, I suppose that is in the eye of the beholder as there are few ways to measure talent 'objectively'. She sold a lot of books and still sells hundreds of thousands a year 20 years after her death.
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