What do you think of Ayn Rand?

What do I think of Ayn Rand?

  1. She was a parasite, a third-rate hack novelist turned philosopher and “economist,” who somehow infected a paranoid alcoholic racist megalomaniac Richard Nixon with the shallow, neo-Darwinian rationale he needed to justify his personal (not patriotic) agenda.
  2. In college, I read everything she wrote – except for Atlas Shrugged. I even played a lead role in the one godawful play she ever wrote. Do you know what I remember? In every one of her works, a woman is raped by an alpha male, and she comes to love it. Rand was worse than political vermin. She was a true pervert, a misogynist sicko freak.
  3. By the way, she spent decades publicly denying any correlation between smoking and lung disease, as a paid spokesperson for the tobacco industries, writing soliloquies about the joys of smoking; and she continued to deny it after her doctors showed her x-rays of her own black and shriveled lungs.
  4. Do you know what Rand did, as she lay dying from lung disease?

    The darling of conservative economics – the person who single-highhandedly inspired the lie that a safety net equals “socialism” – she accepted both Medicare and Social Security.[1]

  5. That’s what happens to demagogues and other extremists when they finally confront death or unbearable circumstances. Instead of embracing her toxic philosophy, she betrayed it, exposing the cowardly hypocrite living under the slipping mask. She was an opportunist – pure and simple – not a martyr to her own convictions – that’s for sure.
  6. In a nutshell, she believes people in no way depend on each other.
    There is no social contract whatsoever, when this position flies in the face of everything we know about history, biology, anthropology, psychology, sociology, and yes –
    economics! Successful economies require trust and collaboration, embodied in what we as capitalists call “the law of comparative advantages.”
  7. The fascist capitalist state she advocates? Its weaker version has led the United States economy to crash every ten years and four times during my 50 years on this planet. Greed is never a virtue – it only leads to one catastrophe after another. Anyone with a lick of sense should get that.
  8. Alan Greenspan was a meditating hippie before he became Rand’s protegee. As Chairman of the Fed, the most conservative economic mind in the nation helped to drive the economy to collapse by keeping interest rates so low, it led to a borrowing frenzy.
  9. In the end, Greenspan confessed in congressional testimony there was something wrong about the way he thought the world works. Well, he learned it all from Rand. The congressional committee's Democratic chairman, Henry Waxman, pressed him:

    "You found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working?" Greenspan agreed: "That's precisely the reason I was shocked because I'd been going for 40 years or so with considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well."[2]

  10. He made other comments to this effect. But he and Nixon represent only two glorious examples of how her “philosophy” has derailed the conservative movement, plunged like a clown car off a political cliff.
  11. The most recent example? Paul “It’s the law of the jungle” Ryan.

    He’s a huge fan of Rand. Well, Paul – no one knows for sure – but about 10,000–20,000 years ago, we left the jungle and started this thing – it’s called a civilizationbecause we did not want to live by the laws of the jungle. We learned we accrued more wealth and technology more through differentiated collaboration than brutal competition.

  12. Her continued credibility boggles my mind, except she supplies a myopic and selfish mindset the moral blinders required to reject the obvious: We formed societies because we recognized our economic and social interdependence made us stronger individuals.
  13. There is no such thing as the public interest? Does anyone sane take that one seriously? We created democracies, based on the premise of the public trust. We decided our leaders should compromise, holding them accountable to the public interest. If she opposes democracy, she supports a fascist state, cloaked as dystopian meritocracy.
  14. We’re better off profiting from one another in mutually beneficial ways than pillaging each other. Her gross error in judgement? Self-interest and the public interest are not mutually exclusive.
  15. What would the world really look like without a regard for the public interest and altruism? No one survives – much less thrives – in developmental, creative and intellectual isolation.

    That’s pure bullshit.

  16. Every so-called self-made millionaire out there succeeded because other people made sacrifices. Parents for starters. Without tax-payer funded medical research, the military (veterans), public facilities and academic institutions (school teachers)…your average entrepreneur would not exist. But you owe no debt to the public trust?
  17. It satisfies a reductionist “survival of the fittest” amorality, but it does not comport with human nature, fundamentally tribal and interdependent. Even Darwin lamented how this evolutionary mantra became a corrupt human moral mandate.
  18. Where would we be without taxation and regulation? Would you step on a plane not inspected by the FAA? Could we ever expect to maintain our global competitive edge without free and affordable public education?
  19. Bottom line, no one wants to live in the brutal, nasty and lonely world she envisioned. Where did her political and economic philosophy take her? Despite her fame and political influence, she ended up poor enough she needed government assistance.
  20. No one can breathe in a social vacuum. When the day comes you need help from others – in the form of a social contract – you will take it, regardless of your rigid political ideology.

    She did. See point four above.

Footnotes

[1] When Ayn Rand Collected Social Security & Medicare, After Years of Opposing Benefit Programs

[2] Greenspan – I was wrong about the economy. Sort of

19 Replies to “What do you think of Ayn Rand?”

  1. I have a perhaps not all together wise disposition towards trying to understand people on their own terms, by their own motivations and context. So that, if I squint, it’s somewhat possible to see what could have motivated Rand — intense, consuming reaction against the socialist consolidation of the Russian Revolution’s aftermath and the rise, eventually, of the Stalinist USSR.

    So she over-compensated, by not basing her personal beliefs about human society and political economy on a sort of middle ground, pragmatic position tailored to the context of particular societies and guided by incremental experimentation, but instead by going to the opposite pole of the ideological spectrum and declaring that the true ideal. What was thus created was, as the conlanger Mark Rosenfelder terms it, an ideology that could be “the Un-Communism”: the structure of the thought is much the same, just with the morality flipped. If revolutionary socialism holds that property is theft, Randism says property is sacred. If revolutionary socialism holds that the working class/the poor are noble, laboring, and above all oppressed, Randism holds that they are coddled, shiftless moochers without much to complain about.

    And she tried to apply this ideology borne of reaction to a different society, the New Deal and post-New Deal US — a society that had never experienced revolutionary socialism at all. For their own ideological and venal reasons, generations of American politicians in the conservative movement — politicians who otherwise culturally and politically would not want to grant much credit to a woman as a political thinker and independent voice — have nevertheless treated her writing (her fictional writing, mind you) as holy writ barely a step below the Bible.

    The paradox of her thought being fused with evangelical Christian reactionary traditional moralism is too alive and real in the contemporary US for me to see much humor in it, but I take some solace in noting that her atheism would appall those moralists if they were really told about it, and that in turn she disliked Reagan precisely because he combined her thought on economics with that theistic moralism. Serves them all right, in a way.

    She perverted good traditional American values and thought on political economy; she is hugely, if not solely responsible for making the platforms of the Progressive Era parties read to contemporary Americans as if they were the manifestos of foreign insurgents (or the Swedes).

    She should not be forgiven for the human suffering and societal degradation that ideological shift caused.

  2. I think I’m married to her reincarnation.

    See that smiling woman in the photo next to me? She was born in Russia but raised, as a young child, in Austria, back to Russia for a couple years, then China as a teenager. Eventually she moved to the US as an older teenager, the center of world capitalism. In Beijing, she watched her country fall apart while the Chinese miracle began to unfold. Soviet communism, western capitalism, Chinese transformation, then the US. There, she had a front-row seat to the financial crisis when I worked with countless government agencies and lawyers.

    She watches Ayn Rand on videos and they tend to think alike. Even their accents are similar, Americanized Russian.

    I wish she’d write more about her theories related to the rise and fall of economic systems, having witnessed empires coming and going firsthand.

    For those who think Ayn Rand is psycho I disagree with a lot of what she writes but it’s very … Russian. That’s what people don’t understand: Ayn Rand left Russia but, in many ways, Russia never left her. The long length of her novels, the over-the-top dramatization, the extremes are all culturally Russian. Russians don’t really do small, subtle, or half assed. Look at the size of the country on a world map if you don’t understand. Their most noteworthy historic leaders earn postmortem names like “The Great” or “The Terrible.” They burnt their own capital city rather than losing it in a battle. Putin is their President.

    Ayn Rand was a Russian who, as a child, saw the collapse of a central government that could be described, even before the revolution, as dysfunctional. She did not have faith in central governments and believed that they exist to promote and protect cronyism. This another common Russian belief. She wrote that most efforts to help people are futile at best and self-serving at worst, though it’s not clear if she meant that literally or believed there to be a slippery slope into collectivism.

    Remember that she was trained at the “State Institution for the Cinematic Arts,” a Soviet propaganda school. She knew how to make people perk up and listen.

    Ayn Rand, in context, was a very different person than the caricature she drew on paper.

  3. Q. What do you think of Ayn Rand?

    (1) Short answer:

    • Rand presents you with a False dichotomy.
    • You can be an absolute Altruist, and act only for others,
    • or
    • an absolute Egoist, and act only for yourself.
  4. But, what’s stopping you from taking a middle ground? What’s to prevent you from acting for yourself sometimes, for others at other times?
  5. (2) Why does mainstream philosophy ignore Ayn Rand?

    (2a) Most of us consider altruistic acts to be good and praiseworthy, and consider self-interested acts to be morally neutral, at best.

    • We admire the talented doctor who puts his career on hold, to treat malaria victims in Africa.
    • We despise the brilliant surgeon who mints it peddling plastic surgery.

    (2b) Rand’s Youth

    Rand lived a tumultuous youth in the then-USSR. She was born to a Russian-Jewish family. Dad was a successful businessman.

    She was 12 during the 1917 Russian Revolution. The rule under Lenin disrupted the serene life the family had previously enjoyed. Her father’s business was confiscated, the family displaced. They fled to Crimea. While in high school, she determined that she was an atheist and that she valued reason above any other human virtue. At 16, Rand and her family faced desperate conditions, on occasion, starving.

    After the Revolution, universities were opened to women. Rand enrolled, only to be purged from the university shortly before graduating, because of her Bourgeoisie roots.

    In 1925, at age 20, Rand was granted a visa to visit her US relatives. She stayed on to become a movie screenwriter.

    A baptism of fire. It’s not difficult to see why Rand turned out the way she was. This torrid experience moved Rand to develop Objectivism. Central tenets.

    • Reality exists independently of consciousness.
    • Human beings have direct contact with reality through sense perception.
    • One can attain objective knowledge from perception through the process of concept formation and inductive logic.
    • The proper moral purpose of one's life is the pursuit of one's own happiness (rational self-interest).
    • The only social system consistent with this morality is one that displays full respect for individual rights embodied in laissez-faire capitalism.

    (2c) Rand was an egoist. Not in the usual colloquial sense of an exaggerated sense of her own importance, a pompous dick, though that may, perhaps, have been true, but in the sense of subscribing to the philosophical doctrine of Ethical egoism. Actions ought always be grounded on self-interest. That selfishness is morally right and good.

    (2d) How did Rand reach this conclusion?

    She began by stressing the intrinsic worth of each individual. Each person, by their intrinsic worth, has the right to pursue their own happiness and well-being. Egoism recognizes this.

    Altruism on the other hand, denies individual worth. Man has no right to exist for himself, but justify his existence through serving others.

    • Altruism upholds the self as the standard of evil,
    • the selfless as a standard of the good.
    • It demands self-sacrifice, self-denial and self-destruction.

    (2e) In Rand’s view, traditionally, we’ve been led to believe that selfishness is wrong. The image of the selfish man is the unfeeling brute trampling others, in hot pursuit of his own mindless whims.

    We’ve been compelled to choose between egoism and altruism. A stark choice between evil and good. We’ve no alternative but to choose altruism.

    Rand pointed out that ‘'selfishness’

    • simply means pursuing one’s own ends and interests.
    • It ought not to be understood with the usual negative connotations of brutishness, and disdain for others.

    Similarly, egoism consists merely in the pursuit of one’s own happiness and well-being. It does not, indeed not ought to, require the sacrifice of others to the self.

    The character, John Galt, in Rand’s philosophical novel and movie, Atlas Shrugged: “I swear by my life, and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man. Nor ask another man to live for mine.”

    (2f) Rand argued that altruism denies the intrinsic worth of the individual. Altruism has evil consequences. Altruism teaches man that morality is his enemy. He grudgingly sacrifices himself for others, and hopes that they occasionally do the same for him. But, this leads to bitterness and resentment all round. Rand warned: “Don’t confuse altruism with kindness, goodwill or respect for the rights of others”.

    • Altruism makes such virtues impossible.
    • Egoism makes all the principal virtues possible.

    (2g) Although Rand advocated the pursuit of self-interest, she repudiated what she called whim worship, or Hedonism. Man is fundamentally a rational creature. Reason is a basic tool of survival. To be fully human, he must pursue his own rational self-interest.

    The rational egoist lives life by 3 principles.

    1. Reason
    2. Purpose
    3. Self-esteem.

    These support virtues such as honesty, justice, integrity, independence, etc. They don’t require the sacrifice of anyone to anyone else.

    Should you give to a beggar?

    Rand:

    • Don’t hide behind the superficialities as to whether you should, or should not, give a dime to a beggar.
    • That is not the issue.
    • The issue is whether you do, or do not, have the right to exist without giving the beggar the dime”.

    (2h) Rand believed that when men pursue their own rational self-interest, those interests will not clash. Conflicts arise only when men desire the unearned, when they desire the sacrifice of others to themselves. Reason dictates that men deal with one another through persuasion and cooperation, rather than through threats, force or fraud.

    (3) Is Rand right?

    (3a) Selfishness is right. This is heady stuff right out of our moral ballpark.

    A common objection is that Rand presents us with a False dichotomy.

    • You can be an absolute altruist, and act only for others,
    • or
    • an absolute egoist, and act only for yourself.

    What’s stopping you from taking a middle ground? What’s to prevent you from acting for yourself sometimes, for others at other times?

    You may even decide that since you’re generally best placed to attend to yourself, while other people are generally best placed to attend to theirs, you ought, in the main, to act for yourself. But, recognizing the intrinsic worth of individuals other than yourself, you may still sometimes feel an obligation to help others, especially those who’re powerless to act for themselves.

    So, who is really polarizing the choices?

    • Moral thinkers compelling us to choose altruism versus egoism?
    • Or Rand?

    Rand is a controversial figure in the mainstream philosophy sanctum. She is mostly ignored by academia.

    But, Rand is the darling, the icon, the archetype of Libertarianism, out in the right field. Strident liberty, defiant soaring individualism, thriving in breakneck viral capitalism, as epitomized in her movies: The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged.

    Above: The Fountainhead. The dare-to-be-different, me-against-the-world, fcuk-you architect who takes on the establishment.

    (4) Why’re Rand’s books so popular with young people?

    (4a) Rand’s works resonate with young people. Rites of passage reading. Why is that? Rand shoves into your youthful glowing face, seemingly simple, stark, unambiguous, black-and-white answers to life’s complexities. This glare of clarity, slick grace of simplicity, appeals to the angsty instincts of young people.

    (4b) To validate Rand, and more importantly, yourself,

    • read Rand in your 20’s, and
    • again in your 40’s.
    • The difference if any, is your journey made good.

    (5) References:

    • Ayn Rand – Wikipedia
    • You Kant Make It Up! by Gary Hayden
  6. I discovered Ayn Rand as a youth, not as a teenager. I read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged in the last years of the Cold War.

    And, unlike most others, I debated her in my mind as I was reading. Is selfishness a virtue? Is the love of money the root of all good?

    And so I re-read her until I understood what she was saying.

    That explains why my reaction is different from most. Some people have read her uncritically, particularly when her books were first published and the Cold War was a threatening reality. Others fail to understand her because they hate her in advance.

    What do I think?

    • That the virtues of her fiction outweigh the flaws.
    • That she was ahead of her time in emphasising the virtue of thinking for yourself.
    • That she understood, from first-hand experience, what life was really like in Soviet Russia. This experience fuelled her anger against communism. Those who do not know this about her will not understand.
    • Her literary style was a mixture of the dramatic with the didactic. The first should be enjoyed as part of a story. For the second, her many speeches alternate between brilliant and atrocious.
    • Rand’s literary style is an acquired taste. There’s a YMMV factor. I have the patience to read the speeches. Not everyone does. And those who prefer realistic characters to ideal types will not like her writing much.

    There’s more I can say. Let that be enough for this answer.

    Those who want to discover Ayn Rand for themselves are advised to do so.

  7. I think my opinion is best summed up in a video game.

    Bioshock.

    In it, an eccentric business man builds an underwater utopia based on the principles of objectivism. In it, he reasons, people are free to be free of the shackles of government, religion, and the welfare state.

    You arrive.

    The place is a complete shithole, where addicts run around murdering each other for a fix of ‘ADAM’, where business owners treated their employees as slaves with impunity, and where a criminal overlord used the lack of rules and law and order to control everyone, create a civil war, and establish himself as the ‘freedom fighter’ Atlas.

    An objectivist world is one where the rich oppress the poor, where the 1% oppress the 99%.

    Where no one has any rights or protections.

    An objectivist world is not a utopia.

    It is a fascist dystopia.

    In the name of advancing the human spirit, the human spirit is never permitted to soar, because it is held down by the very tools they claim to liberate you from.

    The promise of objectivism is Utopia. The reality is Somalia.

    That is what I think about Ayn Rand.

  8. She’s almost unknown outside the US, which in itself should tell you she’s not very good. Genuinely good American writers like Jack London or Robert Frost or Whitman or Poe are famous worldwide, but Rand is a purely local phenomenon.

    A few years ago she featured in a documentary here, and The Daily Telegraph – a right wing paper by British standards – felt obliged to explain to its readers who she was, since most of them would never have heard of her before. It summed her up as “An unpleasant Russian-American fruitcake”.

    What I think is that she was a strange woman with some kind of personality disorder, who lacked the courage to say “I’m peculiar and that’s OK”, so instead spent her life trying to convince herself, and everyone else, that she was the only normal right-thinking person and it was everyone else who was weird.

  9. Original question: “What do you think of Ayn Rand?”

    I think Ayn Rand was a broken woman.

    She was scarred in her youth. She saw her father, a Jewish pharmacist, lose his business twice to Russian authorities. This burned into her mind that governments are all the same and they are all equally bad. A clear falsehood on the face of it, but she ran with it.

    Upon learning English and coming to America she wrote books which described her so-called “philosophy”: all government is evil, greed is good, only the individual matters and he should do anything he cares to. Although her writing style is best described as mediocre she developed a following due to the appeal of “me first!” attitude. She told people that they are geniuses and everyone is filth for trying to tear them down. Emotionally stunted people love being told stuff like that.

    Ayn Rand was broken and angry. She used her writing skills to lash out at the target of her anger: governments and anyone who supports them. She didn’t care who she hurt in the process.

    To this day her anarchic greedy-Oligarchy governmental ideas has a large following among the libertarian elite. Her greatest disciple, Alan Greenspan, was a virtual god of Washington and Wall Street for decades. He led the nation to an economic crash in 2007–08 causing the poverty of millions of Americans and the loss of untold jobs. The middle and lower classes have seen stagnant wages since the 70s while the income of the 1% soars to new highs. That’s the outcome Rand always wanted, poverty for the masses, incredible wealth for the elite.

    Millions suffer for the post-mortem glory of one broken woman.

    The world is a worse place for Ayn Rand having been in it.

    That’s what I think of her.

  10. I studied economics. Not claiming to be an expert, but for Rand you don't really have to be.

    Economics is research-based; which means that you might get something wrong (more likely since you're dealing with an absurdly complex system), but then you dust yourself off, put together a new study, and get back into the fray.

    Ayn Rand? Ayn Rand is the whiny kid in the back of the class who refuses to do the homework because she thinks she doesn't need to, y'know, learn things. And then she wrote bad fanfiction about the subject that she not only didn't know anything about but didn't have the spine to learn about – which makes her work the 50 Shades of Grey of its time, except dealing with economic issues instead of kinky sex.

    Doesn't stop her from (very) occasionally having an interesting idea. But that's not special. Your dog has the occasional interesting idea, considered in isolation.

    If you're going to have an ideology, at least try to base it off someone who doesn't violate the Homework Principle*.

    *(“If you have to copy the answers, get them from someone who did the goddamn homework”)

    I am sure there are more philosophical criticisms that can be made, but I got a 2.4 in Intro to Philosophy & most of my reading on the subject since then has been Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, & Camus (yes: I am a filthy little existentialist) so I am pretty sure I’m unqualified to come from that angle.

  11. Asking this question is like asking what someone thinks of finding a burning bag of s*** on their front doorstep.

    Ayn Rand was a Russian-American “author” (quotations intended because her writing is terrible) who is credited as more or less inventing the philosophy of Objectivism. Her most famous novel, Atlas Shrugged, is the pinnacle of her efforts to describe this particular worldview. She was a far-right libertarian and so, naturally, modern American conservatives and libertarians alike LOVE her ideas because they align perfectly with their own – a world where everyone has to work for and compete for everything they have and nothing is given; only the strong survive. It makes sense, really, when you think about it, because they don’t even attempt to hide anymore their seething hatred of minorities and the poor.

    Her writing is NOT recommended if you are depressive or suicidal, because the world she creates in her writing is a dystopic hellscape absolutely no one would want to live in.

    As it so happens, she was a raging hypocrite (also something that eerily mirrors those who like her writing). She was a welfare queen and, in fact, died alone in her apartment that was subsidized by her Social Security check. For as much as conservatives and libertarians love her, not even SHE could bear living the kind of life she herself envisioned.

    So what do I think of Ayn Rand, pretty much the same feeling I get when I walk into a public bathroom and find a turd in the urinal. Disgust.

  12. We can look at Ayn Rand on 3 levels:

    A) As a human being

    B) As a novelist

    C) As a philosopher

    As a human being: I respect her self-assertion, bravery, creativity,and determination. I feel estranged from her egotism, callousness, domination and disrespect of others. So I see her as a complicated, flawed, but interesting person.

    As a novelist: I dont particularly enjoy the style of her fiction. Im glad others do. So, I’m neutral on that.

    As a philosopher: I feel she has a very valuable viewpoint on economics, politics, sociology. Im grateful that she shared her ideas with the world. I may disagree with her most of the time, but Im glad she has enlightened the debate with her unique point of view. She’s one of my favorite recent pholosophers.

  13. If you treat her just as a fiction writer and her ideology as fiction based, she isn’t bad.

    But when you embark on a mission to model a society based on her impractical and almost laughable from a pragmatic perspective ideology, she is on the lunatic fringe and so are people who take her fiction books as the gospel.

    Ayn Rand also did not come up with her ideology and philosophy based on free thought and the thing she emphasized the most…objectivity. Most of her capitalistic fantasy ideas come from her traumatic childhood where her family lost their business due to being confiscated by the Communists after the October revolution and they fled to Crimea and eventually to the US. I think those childhood events and experience played a great part in coming up with and shaping her ideology and her vision for the society as she saw fit wearing pink glasses.

    Her ideology will almost never work in any modern and practical society and if you are one of those die hard, libertarian types who think her ideology is the dogs’…..you need to see a psychiatrist and you are delusional and far detached from any reality.

  14. Ayn Rand as a person was amazingly driven and independent-minded. Like many successful and independent-thinking people, she was obsessed with her own narrative and her own ideas, sometimes to the exclusion of friends, potential allies, and useful ideas. Biographies and memoirs describe her as both the most engaging person many people met and sometimes one of the most intimidating.

    Rand fused her Russian-Jewish background with Enlightenment ideas tied to the American founding, coming up with a surprisingly original world view. I’ve often thought of her as an Aristotelian/Lockean/Kantian/Nietzschean, and the only one, really. She has inspired a revived classical liberal movement in the US and elsewhere, as well as a school of neo-Aristotelian classical liberal thinkers.

    Even at the time she was writing, Rand was old-school, writing sweeping, Romantic-style moral narratives and engaging in a broad critique of culture and philosophy. This was a style common in the 19th century, but rare in the 20th. This put her out of step with the turn toward naturalism and psychological narratives in her own time and even today. This affects readers in two ways: some see Rand’s work as simple or trashy, while her many fans find in her a level of seriousness, moral engagement, and drama that most contemporary fiction lacks.

    She was skilled at writing gripping, moving, dramatic pieces, That’s why she had several big hits on stage and in novels, and how she could sell several screenplays. It’s why her novels remain bestsellers sixty years after her last one came out. She did this, while always speaking in a distinctive voice and arguing for views that were rarely mainstream.

    Rand attracted a circle of supporters who mostly couldn’t challenge her thinking, becoming kind of like a cult leader to some. That was a sad irony for a writer and speaker who had inspired millions to live more independently.

    In general, she was remarkably consistent in living as she advocated. She was independent and supported herself. She made her way in a freeish, capitalist marketplace and struggled. She submitted The Fountainhead, later a huge hit, to more than 10 publishers before being accepted, for instance. Late in life, if she accepted Social Security, it was just because she felt, having paid in so much, and having fought so far for economic freedom, it wasn’t wrong to get back some the funds she had had taken from her. She lived on her royalties and the continual profits from her books and movies throughout her life.

    Compare Rand to other philosophical novelists and systematic thinkers. She was remarkably sane and normal in that company.

    Rand lived a heroic life. We should all hope to achieve as much and live as well by our own lights.

  15. I remember reading “Anthem”

    (this next part is read with a dramatic theme music in the back ground)

    in which the individual goes off out of the society of conformity, away from the poisonous community, to find his own destiny. The individual strives and conquers with his female companion by his side! There he achieves, all on his own, the great journey to the TOP of the mountain

    (Theme music growing to a crescendo!)

    up, up he climbs. Knowing that he does not need others! Knowing that he is ultimately HIS OWN DESTINY! THAT HE IS THE ONE!! IT IS HIM AND ONLY HIM and that HE NEEDS NO OTHER!!!!

    (music suddenly stops!)

    At which point he falls off the mountain, breaks his leg and is found by the poisonous community of conformity in the guise of Emergency Services who have been called out by his female companion to rescue him!

    He realizes that maybe having other people around is important and is forever in their debt.

    I wouldn’t be totally dismissive of her. There is something to be said for self reliance and she does discuss this. At least exerting some control and direction over your life can be a good skill to have. However like all ideas it is best to temper it with logic.

    I think she is the best one to try and explain herself.

    I had to throw this one in. The Fountainhead in 5 seconds.

    It kills me every time. 😀

  16. Ayn Rand wears Prada
     
     From a literary point of view her novels have little character development and are cast in black and white terms. The important things in this world are just not that easy to discern, so she is painting a child's simple view of the world, perhaps even a child's view, who doesn't have the capability of caring for others. Ayn Rand found early inspiration for her protagonists in a 1920's serial killer, William Hickman and used that sociopath as the model for the heros of her novels. See: Ayn Rand, Hugely Popular Author and Inspiration to Right-Wing Leaders, Was a Big Admirer of Serial Killer
     
     The "good" guys in her novels are basically paranoid sociopaths but her book's view the world through their eyes and, of course, they don't notice anything wrong with their distorted worldview. Humans are social animals and having interdependencies is the norm. Ayn Rand takes the normal and using the views of a sociopath portrays those inter-dependencies as being corrupt, evil, and self defeating. This is consistent in all of her writings. I've read everything Any Rand wrote and some of what has been written by her direction.
     
     She is good at writing a thriller novel and carries a hypnotic theme that keeps the reader absorbed and lends to a subtle brainwashing/indoctrination toward her worldview. That doesn't make it right, just believable, and, unfortunately, too many people think that believable means it is true. Believable just means that you can be fooled.
     
     From a political point of view, her novels motivate the more literate members of Libertarian groups, including the anarchist Tea Party movement. They use her positions as givens and are not critical of them. This ensures that they reach some far reaching and invalid conclusions regarding social policy.
     
     From a philosophical viewpoint, Ayn Rand's objectivism is an inconsistent pile of faulty axioms and absurd conclusions. Her tautological A = A and her invalid claim that all thought is verbal have been shown, long ago, to be either useless information or demonstrably false. Wittgenstein dismissed tautologies as telling us anything new about the world before Rand came to the USA and phenomenology had dismissed a verbal mentalese grammar of the brain. Noam Chomsky's innate grammar is only true for words, but thoughts are far more than just words since all thought appears to be motor based. What you might need is a grammar of the body instead. Thoughts seem to be closer to the movements of an athlete than to the words in a sentence. For some reason most people ignore that all speech is base on wagging the tongue, and the vibrations in middle ear and cochlea, a motor based capability that we have learned to use to communicate with. Is there an isomorphism between the movement of the tongue and those of sign language that would show a fundamental grammar shared by both?
     
     I remember in 1959, my creative writing teacher, in high school was infatuated with Ayn Rand. Sitting at a local restaurant in Orlando, Ronnie's Restaurant – which no longer exists, with a group of friends and her, we had a discussion about Ayn Rand. My teacher claimed that every thought could be expressed as words, a key point in Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy. I then made a gesture with my hand in the air that clearly expressed a thought, not obscene, and asked her what the words were for that. She suddenly realized the flaw in Ayn's argument and was speechless.
     
    In terms of economics, if you ran a country on the economics that Rand demanded, you would have the population in arms with a revolution at your door in less than a year. Her system would parallel that of the management of the West Virginia Coal Mine a few years ago that just had the worst mining accident and deaths since the 1970s. Rand's system was what some people call an oligarchy, to which I would add a very paranoid sociopathic oligarchy.

  17. I do not think about her much or less. I read one of her books while a privileged young boy living in an upper class neighborhood. I can remember my feelings at the time that made me think a bit differently about my situation in life. It created a dichotomy where one would be concerned about one behavior to help others versus being entitled to try to strive to gain all one can out of life without much concern about others situations unless that helps you or picks you up. I was concerned about any heady feelings of mine or others, after reading this, and the further degradation of our environment … socially and or physically. In Atlas Shrugged she eschewed socialism and other non-capitalistic behaviors that would be a detriment to those who moved the world along. The dichotomy of philosophies however persistent in my mind does little to change which way the world is moving and that seems be attested by liberal or conservative powers running the government… leading to additional confusion over the human condition. Good luck on your search for meaning with Ayn Rand or other philosophical texts. On the other hand in a view from studied of politics, management and organizational behavior I could see that the change of those who are in power from liberal to conservative allow the mulling of different ideas that my allow for some social change for a more positive future. Anyway that you look at it though… the dichotomy exists. Good luck again.

  18. Yes, I have read almost all of her books.

    I accidentally came across The Fountainhead first as a teenager, who was looking for new authors to read. It struck me as a remarkable book, with ideas I had not come across before. The purity of Capitalism impacted me then.

    Atlas Shrugged is book I read approximately every 18 months or so. There’s something I find new in the book at every reading – probably over 15 times so far. In fact, to be honest, I find a similar scenario to Atlas Shrugged in the rule of Trump in today’s America. Sad to see not many Ayn Rand fans around, or is it just that I haven’t come across them, I wonder.

    We the Living made me cry so much, to see the atrocities Communism committed on innocent people. And I realized what Ayn Rand and others would have gone through during the worst days of Communism.

  19. The thing that struck me as the best indication of how contradictory she was was not the dom-sub overtones of her sexual scenes (1) but the way she reacted to people who protested the draft during Vietnam or left the country to avoid it.

    You would think that a person whose entire political thesis declares that it holds the individual conscience and will above all societal obligations would regard conscription as a horror: slave soldiers! (Heinlein said that and he wasn’t one who hated the military, at all, at all.)

    No, she called them ‘bums’ presumably because they declined to go and fight against communism.

    There’s a lot of hypocrisy in her life and opinions.

    (1) They would have been improved, as would so much of her writing, if she showed any sense of humour about it at all.

  20. If I was teaching Philosophy at West Point, I would require Atlas Shrugged as a prerequisite to the course work. Anyone who found themselves enchanted by the novel in the manner of, say, Paul Ryan or Rand Paul, I would suggest to them that they are hard-wired Fascists,

    Rand’s philosophy, such as it is, is a study in systematic Fascism and it has had, and is having, incredible influence in American politics on the policy level, For example, the proposed budget by Mike Mulvaney reflects an embrace of the Virtue of Selfishness, which is the core value of Rand’s moral universe. Her entire canon originates from this perversion of humanism.

    Dagny Taggart is the most vivid female character in my tiny library: as a literary device, she has been created to lead young people with her sex appeal through a tiresome tutorial on Rand’s version of capitalism until she is copulated with John Galt . Up until that moment, Taggart is technicolor in a dismal black-and-white realm of smog and progressive dysfunction until she meets John Galt, at which point, she becomes colorless. It is useful to notice that, when ever she is in conversation with one of her heroes, her head is always at waist level to her respondent. In the world of philosophy and political discourse, Atlas Shrugged is a bodice ripper of the Harlequin Romance variety.

    In many ways, Rand’s emotional development stopped at menarche and her appeal is to people with a similar stunted emotional intelligence, which pretty well describes Paul Ryan and Rand Paul, However, she has influence a broad sweep of the people who grew up during the ‘60s. including Hillary Clinton, who embraces altruism (to her credit) but is embarassed by it.

    In terms of her influence on the current political milieu, the intent of crypto-Nazis like Steve Bannon and the Freedom Caucus in the House is to “starve the beast” of the Federal government until it is small enough to drown in a bathtub, The vision of this agenda is summed up by the last paragraph of Atlas Shrugged when John Galt, a domestic terrorist of the Steve Bannon ilk, makes the sign of the dollar over the smoking ruins of the American economy which has been reduced to the rubble of Ground Zero on 911.

    Rand’s essays, as the media of her system of thought, are a hall of mirrors. Many of her definitions of the most mundane words are esoteric and, in many cases, a perversion of Aristotle. All in all, she is trying to perform an end run aroung Kant’s Categorical Imperative and denying synthetic a priori data as the essential source of metaphysical knowledge. Although she claims to be a champion of individualism, she requires slavish conformity to her system of thought, deviation of which represents a “Hater of the Mind”.

    If it weren’t for the extraordinary influence she has had on the current political milieu, I would admire her as an American success story. She lived through the Bolshevic revolution which, if her mother hadn’t been able to get her a visa to America, would have consumed her in the Gulag, She worked for Cecil B. DeMille and dragooned her future husband, an Aryan Archetype on the model of Gary Cooper, into marriage to allow her to remain in America. She worked as a seamstress in the movie costumes arena, wrote a number of successful novels, including The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, wrote a Broadway play that ran for several years and became the subject of a lecture series created by her lover, Nathan Branden, which has evolved into the Rand Institute,

    In the final analysis, Rand was an emotional vampire. Dagny Taggart, a genuine masterpiece of characterization, is her alter ego and was created during a period when she and Branden were engaged in a particularly perverse affair, If she possessed a sense of humor, it was more circumstantial than deliberate much less desired,

    If you read her and really, really like her, chance are you’re a Trump voter past or yet to come.

  21. I’m politically a Liberal in the Gladstonian sense of the word. I believe in free markets, equality of opportunity, and social justice. According to some libertarian friends, I was supposed to like Rand and her works, but I don’t.

    I don’t know if it was her intention, but her followers seem extremely selfish to me. Her Objetivism is not about individuality; it is a philosophy of selfishness.

    I’ve read ‘The Fountainhead’ and, even though I enjoyed the architectural descriptions, I absolutely despised Howard Roark. What an annoying character! Why is he supposed to be a model of a man? Is Rand’s übermensch a heartless robot? Her books and Philosophy seem to completely ignore that we all live in Society, which I regard as a fatal sin in any political Philosophy.

    With regard to Ayn Rand, the person, I have nothing to say; she is not very well known in my native country and I was never presented to her persona. I just hope she was not unsufferable like the protagonists from her novels.

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