All you need to know about Ayn Rand, savior of modern conservatism

Summary: Ayn Rand has become a hot intellectual property, whose wisdom many conservatives recommend guide our actions.  Here is the essence of her teaching.

The classic cover to any Ayn Rand

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Here are two columnists exchanging volleys about Rand.

  1. Obama Needs AIG’s Liddy, Not Other Way Around“, Caroline Baum, op-ed at Bloomberg, 19 March 2009
  2. Carol Baum: Welfare CEOs are Just Like John Galt“, Matthew Yglesias, ThinkProgress, 19 March 2009

I have not read any of her books.  I gave up after trying to go through both Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead (life is too short).  But perhaps we can find all we need to know about Rand in the comments to Yglesias article.  Here are a few of the best.

#13 Mnemosyne Says:

In defense of Ayn Rand (and that’s the last time you’ll see me say that), in her books the heroes were people who actually made and built things, like railroads and buildings. The financiers – the kind of guys who would sell and re-sell the same mortgage 20 times – were always the villains. They’re a bunch of James Taggarts trying to convince everyone they’re John Galt.

#15 burritoboy Says:

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Beyond Rand’s other numerous stupidities, she had no idea what modern corporations actually do, or even the bare basics of how they operate. The great corporate innovators of her era like Gerard Swope, John J Raskob and Alfred P Sloan were precisely NOT the inventor / entrepreneur figures a la Galt. Indeed, Alfred Sloan forced out William Durant out of GM, a figure far more like Galt than Sloan was. By the time of the 1920s, the era of inventors / entrepreneurs (if there ever really was such an era) had already long departed.

#64 Dr Zen Says:

“Though there are two serious flaws in Rand’s novel”

This is true. She can’t write and her ideas are stupid. Her “philosophy” boils down to: “the rich are entitled to be greedy, erm, because, erm, because, hey want a blowjob?”

I’d say it’s a good rule of thumb in this life to consider everyone who thinks Rand is a philosopher and not a clown to be irredeemably stupid. I’ve never seen a counterexample.

#96  Kevin Says:

Going Galt after reading Atlas Shrugged is somehow akin to moving to the Shire after reading Lord of the Rings. This meme has now had it’s fifteen minutes.

#99  Jon Says:

I can’t remember if my passing desire to be John Galt came before or after my passing desire to become the Kwisatz Haderach.

#112  Trollhattan Says:

I suspect John Galt was actually a pseudonym for Tom Swift, so Rand didn’t have to pay royalties. Working title for Atlas Shrugged: “Tom Swift and His Atomic Razor.” Isn’t “going Galt” just code for stiffing your Applebee’s waitress?

For more information

See Wikipedia on Ayn Rand and Objectivism.

Posts about Libertarianism:

  1. All you need to know about Ayn Rand, savior of modern conservatism, 22 March 2009
  2. A modern conservative dresses up Mr. Potter to suit our libertarian fashions, 17 November 2011
  3. Ron Paul’s exotic past tells us much about him, the GOP, libertarians – and about us, 27 December 2011
  4. Choose your team: our election is a conflict between long-dead philosophers, 12 September 2012
  5. The difference between Christianity & Libertarianism marks a line between America & the New America, 11 February 2013

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57 thoughts on “All you need to know about Ayn Rand, savior of modern conservatism

  1. I’m under the impression that Rand’s reputation is mainly an american phenomenon. What reputation she had seems to have been a result of the Cold War, and of her status as a moral victim driven from Russia by the Soviets. She seems to have hit her stride touring 50’s American college campuses. To this day, there are a great many suburban kids who find themselves able to identify with her brand of sub-Nietzsche assertiveness.

    Her popularity attest more to the increasing resentment and social atomization that has afflicted the American polity, at least since the 50’s. This was also the period when a a certain breed of paranoiac neo-conservativism was invented by Cold War defense intellectuals and Rand Corporation analysts. They invented game theory which assumed that people were never truly altruistic, in other words, behaved like sociopaths.

    Mary Gaitskill’s 1991 novel “Two Girls, Fat and Thin” contains a nice, and rather psychologically fine account of Rand and her following.

  2. This post points up the reasons why the modern conservative movement is in trouble: 1) their leaders don’t have weird names, as in Ayn Rand novels (Dagny Taggart, anyone?). If the leaders of today’s conservative party were named Zorbulon Glarkenvark and Droob Verfblarp, they’d have a chance; 2) John Galt triumphed because he invented a perpetual motion machine. If the modern conservative movement could invent one of those, they’d have it nailed.

  3. Perhaps we can find out all we need to know about Rand from Yglesias comments? With respect, no.

    Like you, Yglesias hasn’t read Rand (source). To quote another blogger, “It’s bad enough to repudiate rational self-interest as the guiding ethic of a moral political economy, but attacking Ayn Rand’s objectivism, and those endorsing it, without having read the book is beneath contempt.”
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    Fabius Maximus replies: This makes little sense to me. Most of the philosophies I do not believe I have not read. I doubt few people who attack communism have read Marx. Few people who attack capitalism have read Adam Smith. Few people who attack Islam (the Jews) have read the Koran (or the Torah).

    Nor need I need Rand to despise “rational self-interest” as the highest goal for a man. My family, my nation, my god — all these stand higher to me than my rational self-interest.

  4. I think this quote going around sums it up well:

    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.

  5. Even thought I’m a conservative, I’ve never understood the whole Ayn Rand cult. I’m happy to hear someone smarter than me say life is too short. Adam Smith told us that people are motivated by their own self-interests, and that can benefit society as a whole. Does it really take thousands of pages of turgid fiction to expand on this?

    Walter E. Williams said it even better: “I’ve never been given a job by a poor man.”
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Adam Smith never believed that man was economic man, nor that self-interest was the ultimate foundation of a capitalist society. For good reason was “A Theory of Moral Sentiments” written before “Wealth Of Nations”.

  6. Walter E. Williams was stupid. A whole lot of predatory payday loan company officers were given their jobs by poor men.

  7. The criticism of Ayn Rand reprinted above is an order of magnitude less cogent and relevant than anything Rand ever wrote. It is also suspiciously selective, I might add, as in “cherry picking?” Had a person who never read a book actually wanted to present a semi-objective portrait of such a book he had never read, he might go a bit beyond Yglesia’s comments. To somewhere at least slightly credible, perhaps?

    Rand should be only a transitory phase of a person’s intellectual development, but without that phase a person’s development will likely be shortchanged.

    If one cannot understand why writing a book report on a book you haven’t read is illogical, perhaps he should take time off from his blog? Honestly, FM!

  8. Part of the problem is the Randite disciples (and libertarians in general), esp Alan Greenspan, has been the push to abdicate regulation almost completely, especially in the financial realm. Unfortunatly, this flies in the face of known reality.

    All the philosophical musings in the world can’t get around the facts that market failures exist, externalities happen, some people are inherently untrustworthy, and the tragedy of the commons is real.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Greenspan led one of the greatest economic experiements in the history of mankind. America will pay the price for generations to come. In a rational world no new children would be named Alan until the memory of Greenspan’s deeds fades.

    In the face of these great deeds the Republican Party closes its eyes and turns to fiction. Doing so dooms them to irrelevance for a generation or more. Unless the Democratic Party implodes under the burden of clearing up this, the world’s biggest mess. That is my opinion.

  9. Fab: Thanks for pointing us to the two articles. First, I don’t believe Rand would have considered herself a Conservative. Libertarian, maybe. Objectivist, absolutely. Second, you don’t need to buy the whole of Objectivism to appreciate Rand, or her prescience; people act in their self-interest, unless and until there is no longer a benefit to doing so. While I am not a Randian, I suspect she would have laughed at the same group of people crying foul and holding public hearings over executive compensation while actually voting for the massive transfusion of Billions (Trillions?) of dollars into these same entities.

    The question for Rand was, as I take it, the limits of self-interest. At what point does the unlimited need of others who do not create value and yet take it from those who do cause the human spirit to revolt? The economic looting is the subject of Atlas Shrugged, her most popular book. The Fountainhead is, in my opinion, the same theme, but instead of economic “looting” it is more of a psychological “looting” by asking one to give up their vision and dreams.

    Meaning no disrespect (this is one of the smartest and most thoughtful blog’s on the web), I am afraid you may have fallen into Rand’s trap in your response to Jana. While you may profess to despise “rational self-interest as the highest goal for man,” you cite “your family, your nation, and your God” as higher values. I would suggest that these are your values precisely because they are in your self-interest. Would you have it any other way?
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    Fabius Maximus replies: What would Rand write about the modern conservatives who approvingly cite her? Perhaps much as would Nietsche at the leftists who approvingly cite him. Contempt would be the response in both cases, I suspect.

    As for your last point, I don’t see how sacrafice of one’s own life for a nation or god — or even a child — can be in one’s rational self-interest. Unless we broaden to concept of reason to include things beyond reason.

  10. Ayn Rand was a remarkable woman. She was able to set up an Anti-Communist cult, which was a perfect copy of the Communist Party, down to the self-criticism sessions.

    It is not the time and place for a deeper analysis of the libertarian and communist utopias, but it should be obvious by now that both will not work, and that they share very many common traits, despite the surface differences.

    I am also certain that in this kind of polite blog any mention that the Jewish-Arabian civilisation is the model from which Communists and Rand copied their party/cult system wouldn’t be welcome, so I won’t say anything more about it.

    Here are some additional interesting webpages about Ayn Rand (which is an assumed name meaning I’m Grand – she was nothing if not self-confident).

    * “The Sociology of the Ayn Rand Cult“, Murray N. Rothbard (1926–1995, the founder of modern libertarianism), 1972 — This was the first piece of Rand revisionism from the libertarian standpoint.
    * “Was Ayn Rand evil?“, Michael Prescott, 21 March 2005
    * “Shrugging Off Ayn Rand“, Michael Prescott, 2003 — Note links at the end for more info on Objectivism.

  11. This brought back memories. I enjoyed the first couple of chapters of ATLAS SHRUGGED (some 20 years ago), but by the middle I became bored by the shallow tantalizing that I put it down for good. That book shaped my perspective of Rand as a writer for more than a decade (including a terse argument with my daughter’s godfather, who is a devoted Libertarian and huge fan of Rand).

    When I read THE FOUNTAINHEAD, I actually liked it — a creative genius, unappreciated by “the establishment”, achieving success by his own hand in his own way. Though the ending was a bit trite (and ironically constructivist), I came to see Rand as a half-decent novelist. At least when she keeps her books short.

  12. deichmans wrote the deathless words: “When I read THE FOUNTAINHEAD, I actually liked it — a creative genius, unappreciated by ‘the establishment’, achieving success by his own hand in his own way.”

    Yeah — by blowing up an entire housing tract with dynamite. Nowadays, we have a different name for that than “creative genius.” We call it “terrorism.” Next up, deichmans professes admiration for those 19 creative geniuses above 757s who achieved success by their own hand in their own way on September 11, 2001.

  13. Rand is not so convincing when we have a functional free market near equilibrium. In this case, people in the far left segment of the Bell Curve, and others, are perceived, correctly IMO, to deserve help from the lucky one’s on the right. Her overarching observation I think, is that government often begins here using this rather unassailable argument as a starting point. It then ineluctably proceeds, over time, to include ever more people in the “needs help” category. The end game can get ugly, with not just ever poorer compensation for the smart and hard working, but actual vilification, and demonizing of the same. A strong work ethic is hard to stamp out, but it can be done. East Germany is a case in point.

  14. As of this point only 218 hits to this post — but 14 comments. Highest ratio of commments to hits I’ve seen on this site. More common to see a 1000 hits and 30 comments.

  15. I hate to raise the ratio further, since this a post without a point. Who takes Ayn Rand seriously anymore? The conservatives I know are much too intelligent for that. The comparison with Lord of the Rings says it all.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: You need to get out more. The conservative world is abuzz with talk about Rand and John Galt. To immerse yourself in this stream, here is a Google search references by the Instapundit.

  16. The few libertarians I know take her very seriously. Membership in the libertarian party seems to come with a free cross-enrollment in the Ayn Rand cult and the Austrian school of economics. In fact, it may be against the rules for someone to belong to one without belonging to the others! :)
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Perhaps that should be membership in the faux school of Austrian economics. Outside of the economics and finance fields, I have found very few people who have the most basic understanding of Austrian economics — and how it differs from the mainstream fields. Most of the folks claiming to be “Austrians” on this site know almost nothing of economics (in any flavor).

    Modern economics is a complex and subtle science, if still far from the maturity needed to provide a reliable basis for public policy. Like pre-modern medicine (before the early 19th century), we use it because of our great need — not because of its adequacy.

  17. Some things she’s influenced that are relevant in pop-culture currently are Watchmen and Spider-man. Alan Moore detested Rand’s philosophy and based Rorschach’s philosophy on it. He said “It was a ‘white supremacist dreams of the master race,’ burnt in an early-20th century form.

    He wasn’t the first one to use Ayn Rand as an inspiration though, Steve Ditko, creator of Spider-man was a devotee and follower of Objectivism. (For his really Radical Objectivist stuff, comic book character Mr. A, independent comics are where to look. Although Rorschach is kind of close to Mr. A in personality.)

    Rand, of course, became an Objectivist (a political ideology she invented) after living through the Communist revolution in Russia. She started out following Nietzsche but then discarded him after finding his philosophy wanting. Her take on Nietzchian man is one of the villains of The Fountainhead, Gail Wynand.

    I have some compassion for her even though I find her political philosophy wanting. In the Soviet Union, altruism and the common good were excuses for show trials and the Siberian gulag. The Cold War is over, but people were genuinly terrified in those days. George Orwell, a socialist, was motivated by the same fears when he wrote 1984.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: As I have heard the story, Ditko became influenced by Rand’s ideas while working on Spiderman (as artist, which also included writting the stories). Spiderman was created in 1962; Ditko left Marvel in 1966. I see few elements of Objectivism in the Spiderman legend; it seems to me to have far stronger elements of Christianity. The Ditko and Spiderman entries on Wikipedia have little on this.

  18. Fab: Contempt is probably correct in both cases. I don’t believe Rand can be claimed by Conservatives. She is clearly being cited by economic Conservatives (which are really classical liberals). But she was an avowed atheist, and I doubt she is being cited by the Christian Right Conservatives.

    Your quote: “As for your last point, I don’t see how sacrafice of one’s own life for a nation or god — or even a child — can be in one’s rational self-interest. Unless we broaden to concept of reason to include things beyond reason.”

    If it were irrational to do so, why would you sacrifice your life for you nation, your god, or your child? Surely you are not suggesting you would sacrifice your life without some reason that to you seems rational and in your self-interest?

    You might sacrifice your life for your country for many reasons (to protect it from it’s enemies, to further it’s ambitions, to protect your family’s way of life– all based on a reason). You may sacrifice your life for your God, and I suspect that would also be driven by a rational self-interest (some would argue that a place in Heaven is irrational, but most would not). I suspect you would willing sacrifice your life for a child for a rational self-interested reason, such as the knowledge that the child will continue to live thanks to your sacrifice (and might the child in this hypothetical be your own? Or would you sacrifice your life for any child?). Maybe I have listed the wrong reason, but I believe you have reasons that you believe to be rational and that are in some way in your self interest.

    Even self-actualization, which is often times acted upon by altruistic means, is based in rational self-interest.

    Again, I am no Randian or Objectivist, but Rand’s point (as I take it) is that your own self-actualization is your first obligation, not altruism, if by altruism we mean a sacrifice demanded by others to fulfill their needs (or those of their elected representatives). This is why she is being cited by “Conservatives,” who you correctly suggest she would find contemptible.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I believe that reason is the beginging of wisdom, not its end (to paraphrase Spock in the movie Star Trek VI). Your attempts to find reasons for irrational acts is like pouring the ocean into a teacup. The tea cup is not inadequate or unworthy, but can hold only a cup of liquid.

  19. In response to “electrophoresis”: Do you REALLY equate dynamiting vacant buildings (Roark’s *own* creations that, in his opinion, were bastardizations of his design) with 9/11?

    That is quite a precarious leap of logic. And to suggest my tacit support of al Qa’ida based on enjoying a work of fiction is beyond absurd.

    Perhaps Fabius Maximus should consider moderating his comments so such banal drivel won’t mar an otherwise rational and collegial dialog.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: (1) I suspect electrophoresis was making a point thru extension of your reasoning, not a personal attack. Done for effect, as you see it is quite powerful.

    (2) Yes, IMO Roark’s actions were terrorism. Using dynamite to settle commercial disputes is not acceptable. It’s a corrosive practice whose spread destroys the foundation of civil society. 9/11 is on the direct road from these idealistic acts, and not at the end.

    And what if some people were injured or killed (in the real world nobody can guarantee such things). No doubt Ayn Rand would advocate a nice letter of apology.

    (3) I only reluctantly moderate for content, mostly for personal attacks and excess length (esp if boring IMO). Otherwise let the intellectual swords shine in combat!

  20. Had electrophoresis not included the ad hominem attack (yes, Fab, “Next up, deichmans professes admiration for those 19 creative geniuses …” IS a personal attack and not merely a rhetorical device) then I’d agree with your assessment.

    As for your (2) assertion: don’t you see that THAT is the entire point of the latter part of the book? It boils down to property rights: buildings are razed with dynamite all the time. Does that mean Bechtel and Holrob are also terrorists?

    The fact that Roark felt ownership of the site voids any correlation to 9/11. So I emphatically disagree that “9/11 is on the direct road from these idealistic acts” — not even in the same frakking Time Zone.

    By the same logic as expressed (vulgarly, not “powerfully”) by electrophoresis, anyone who appreciates any creative endeavor that hints at destruction is guilty of the same accusation. (Enjoy Picasso’s GUERNICA? Wow — you must support Fascism!)

    Oh, wait… You haven’t read it. Case closed…. :-)
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    Fabius Maximus: People frequently feel ownership rights to other people’s stuff. This creates everything from fights between neighbors to wars. Hence we have a system of property “rights” based on social norms expressed in laws, with courts to decide among disagreements — rather than allowing violent nutcases to just get dynamite and solve the problem as they see fit. Since Rand wrote the book, her dorko hero Roark beat the rap. Which also happens frequently, but sensible people don’t rejoice when this happens.

    “So I emphatically disagree that “9/11 is on the direct road from these idealistic acts”

    I disagree. It’s a commonplace of history that people believe their acts of violence are justified, and the resulting sparks creating widespread conflict just happen. No personal responsibility. It’s never “my fault.”

    Your analogies are both bogus, IMO. How many times have Bechtel employees been arrested for blowing up buildings? Guernica is a protest against war, not (like Atlas S) an endorsement of violence.

  21. I like Sean’s comment #141, as in this excerpt:

    “We’re all Keynesians now”? We’ve all *been* Keynesian’s for almost 100 years. Rand’s economic positions have only lost ground since the 50s, not improved. The entirety of our government has been steadily more centralized, power concentrated in the hands of a few, regulations being increased, tax rates increasing, new taxes being created, we’ve got smoking bans, trans-fat bans, bans on riding bicycles without a helmet. Crikey, this world is so far away from what Rand wanted to see that to even remotely try to equate her with the “cause” of the economic problems we’re facing right now is nothing short of malicious and ignorant.

    Plus, as Ron Paul pointed out the other day, it’s just a distraction! $165M was a fraction of one percent of the money that’s gone to AIG. It deserves a fraction of 1% of our outrage. 99.9% of our outrage SHOULD have been directed at government for A. taking tax payer money to reward private corporations for faililng (something Rand vocally and passionately opposed – as do all of the Austrian and Chicago school economists btw), and B. for not even taking the time to do some goddamn due diligence once they did decide on unconstitutionally redistributing money and printing fat amounts of cash.

    I don’t give a shit about the bonuses personally – I care that the government has condemned me, my future children & grandchildren into a world where the dollar is worthless, prices skyrocket and their lives positively suck compared to the promise of this country’s founding ideals… Maybe you guys should show some outrage about that instead of calling Rand “stupid”.

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    Fabius Maximus replies: This is a nice rant, for folks who like this art form. No logic, strings together lots of unrealated stuff. Much of this is just nonsense, like “we” being Keynesians for almost 100 years.

    Greenspan, for whatever reason, was the leading figure in the massive deregulation of the US financial sector. The resulting damage will be with us for generations. Yelling at the fire fighters, not the arsonists, appears to make some people feel better. That’s nice, but a few shots of cheap scotch work just as well. Either way, the problems remain.

  22. Rand is best read while keeping in mind the historical context which gave birth to the ideas. Atlas Shrugged is useful as a radical reply to Communism. While Communism concentrates all power in the State, Rand provided an argument for placing all power in the individual: the free market radicalism of the her work springs from that more fundamental argument, in my opinion. It’s about power more than anything else.

    A few posts ago, you passingly mentioned the utility of a Marxist education. Marxism can be useful as a mode of social interpretation, while keeping in mind that it gave birth to the most oppressive ideology/economic system in human history. Rand provides another sort of modern, secular faith which places salvation not in the union of Man with the collectivist State, but in Man’s complete individuality. Both Marx and Rand, if actually followed to the letter, will smash the world economy; as modes of interpreting social interaction, they can both be useful – Marxism for its analysis of group conflict, Rand for the precautions against the creeping power of the State under the guise of humanitarian/social improvement. The truth, of course, is always somewhere in between.

    As the Bard says:

    Mark you this, Bassanio,
    The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.
    An evil soul producing holy witness
    Is like a villain with a smiling cheek,
    A goodly apple rotten at the heart:
    O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!

    Citations of any sort of philosophical text – if you’re willing to call Rand’s work that – are usually bent for personal rhetorical objectives. It’s usually best to read the works themselves, IMHO.

  23. “I care that the government gross corruption of the wall street casino capitalists and premeditated fraud of the crony capitalist CEOs who run America has condemned me, my future children & grandchildren into a world where the dollar is worthless, prices skyrocket and their lives positively suck compared to the promise of this country’s founding ideals…” — arms merchant

    There, fixed that for you.

  24. Fabius Maximus note: The comment policy appears at the end of every post and here. It requires that comments be brief (250 words max) and topical. This is neither, just using this site as a bulliten board. I have truncated it. Interested readers can go to Digby’s site to read the full text.
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    Let me note here that in 4th Generation Warfare, the Moral Component of Conflict/Warfare is emphasized. The three major components of warfare being, Physical, Mental, and Moral: following Boyd. (Col. John Boyd) See ref. Below article. While those fighting foreclosure want to avoid raising the physical level of their tactics to violence, the mental and moral should be cranked up to the maximum. Specific anti-foreclosure action groups will be reported here soon on a need to know basis.

    I can’t say it any better than this: “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche“, Digby, 22 March 2009:

    From “Capitalism and Moral Sentiments”, Jeffrey Sachs, Huffington Post, 21 March 2009 (hat tip to Digby):

    The great scholars of capitalism, from Adam Smith to John Maynard Keynes, understood full well that a functioning economic system depends not on greed, but on moral sentiments and an acceptable social contract between the rich and the rest of society. The rich can make money, of course, but they must not flaunt it or consume it frivolously. Instead, they must invest their wealth for social benefit, whether in business or in philanthropy, or in both as in the case of history’s most celebrated capitalist-philanthropists, from Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller to Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. It is only the dangerously arrogant rich or the servants of the rich who believe that morals don’t matter in the great matters of finance.

    They didn’t believe they were being immoral. And we can blame our chain-smoking, Dexi-popping, overstimulated cougar philosopher Ayn Rand for taking one of the seven deadly sins and calling it a moral system. …

  25. you aren’t really going to take a bunch of leftist comments as an accurate opinion of Ayn Rand are you? I hope this was tongue in cheek. If you want a better idea of Ayn, try reading “The Return of the Primative” which is a collection of her OPEDs she wrote over the years.

  26. The misinformation in most of what is above is directly proportional to the admitted failure of the writer to read anything that Rand or her advocates have written and inversely proportional to their positive take on her. Just for starters, John Galt is not an industrialist but a day laborer and former engineer who worked for an automobile company in the novel, his personality is much the least flamboyant or conflicted of any of the male heroes of the book, and he doesn’t appear ‘on stage’ until well into the novel. Should we readers take some instruction in the value of the comments from the writers who display such obvious and admitted ignorance? Seems wise. It does, indeed, seem wise.

  27. Rand’s Objectivism is certainly one strong element in Libertarian circles, tho Rand was against the Libertarian Party (both Rothbard and Republican Friedman liked the LP). Heinlein’s “The Moon is Harsh Mistress” (far more re-readable) is another path towards my former Party of Principle, the party Ron Paul ran for President as (1988) against Bush I. But pro-abortion ‘Randroids’ weren’t all that happy with pro-life Ron Paul, altho they did like his gold / hard money policy and small gov’t aims.

    The relevance of Atlas Shrugged is based on characters but also the ‘social climate’. Many Rand written characteristics are recognizable and relevant. Today in society, the Politically Correct (Liberal Fascism) anti-capitalist elites nearly dominate and bully the Mass Media public discussion (but not Rush L. on talk radio; and less in general on Fox). As Washington D.C. half saves/ half destroys Wall Street, by requiring all ‘successful’ businesses to hire Kiss-up lobbyists, it seems likely that quite a few productive multi-millionaires choose to re-locate outside high tax jurisdictions.

    Good rules for capitalism require that producers gain profits thru peaceful, voluntary offerings of products & services to buyers who have a choice of what to buy. If profit only comes thru special political laws, both buyers and producers suffer (tho politicians get more power and cash). Rand saw it happen in Russia. Anti-socialist Obama protesters see it happening in the US. There will be a greedy elite in any society — one bailout purpose is for the gov’t to have the power of choosing, rather than the buyers of products.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I too like Heinlein’s novels, but as political theory they are inferior to Spiderman or Batman comics (which is say, zero and near-zero). IMO that’s true of Rand’s novels as well. Fun, provocative material.

  28. Fascinating that this cherry-picking attack occurs now, when the United States seems to literally be living through the last 2/3’s of Atlas Shrugged with every new “policy” announced. Atlas Shrugged was long regarded as “over the top” due to its sarcastic and “take it to the utmost logical extreme consequence” of government action – except now we have a government that seems to desire nothing more than the total financial destruction of the U.S. These so-called conservatives that now use Ayn Rand as tool in their arsenal would be the villains in Atlas Shrugged – they are the Wesley Mouch’s of this world – Mnemosyne is dead on in the comment you snipped above.

    There are many, many cogent criticisms of Ayn Rand’s works, none which resort to Junior High School girlish name calling or the tired old saw of comparing it to Lord of the Rings. Perhaps you should source those instead? Or was this a post just to gin up comments? Worked on me…

  29. Re, FM comment on #22: Oh, I see. It’s OK for you to post silly anti-Rand mini-rants on this post (64, 96, 99, 112 above), but when someone else highlights a comment with an alternative view, there’s no logic. Well, excuse me, I just don’t buy the “deregulation caused it” explanation for the meltdown (or, I suppose, any mono-causal explanation for it). “Greedy Wall Street” is at about the same level of analysis as “Freddie and Fanny.” Our economy is (and was) highly regulated. Most of one audience, at least, agreed with me: see here.

    And of course Keynesianism hasn’t been around for 100 years but Throw Money At the Problem has, which is all the Porkulus and Son Of Porkulus are; no, wait, they’re just “Throw Money” — not even addressing the problem.

    Well, it’s your blog, you can write what you want.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Yep, exactly. So long as folks follow the minimal requirements of the comment policy, everyone gets to express their opinions. Both you and me.

    “And of course Keynesianism hasn’t been around for 100 years but Throw Money At the Problem has”
    Please give an example from 100 years ago of “Throw money at the problem” in anything remotely like a Keynesian sense (follow-up from you comment #22).

    “Well, it’s your blog, you can write what you want.”
    Thanks!

  30. Looking throught he comment-poster’s handles, I find no Mnemosyne. Who would MAF be referring to then? Most probably M13, seeing that no other comments have been edited. Now, why does MAF refer to M13 as Mnemosyne then. Well, the answer to that seems to be that FMs experiment has met with success – and that Randites runs in packs.

    You want the “take it to the utmost logical extreme consequence” of objectivism? Go knock on the door at your local Church of Satan, they will be more than willing to update you on LaWey’s wonderful world which is objectivism taken to it’s logical extreme.

  31. Why good left handed pitchers are so rare in MLB;

    Started young, loves baseball, male….10%
    Wanted to pitch…………………………10%
    Good at pitching…………………………10%
    Never injured…………………………….10%
    Not too young,not too old……………..10%
    Smart enough to play MLB……………..10%

    This yields about 150 pitchers in 300 million Americans. Now add left handed: 8%-15%

    And, I forget the coach who said it, but you get great quotes like; “We recruit good left handed pitchers for up to two weeks after they’re dead.”

    Rand’s list was;
    Super smart…….00.1%
    Self confident….10.0%
    High integrity…..10.0%

    Yielding a few thousand suitable for “Captains of Industry”, job titles. To those who can’t appreciate this, she would say, “Don’t worry, for the same reasons, there are plenty of others just like you”.
    .
    .
    Fabius Maximus replies: Interesting math to determine a fantasy title in a fantasy system. The captains of industry I know are mostly borderline sociopaths. What’s the math for wizards?

  32. “Looking throught he [sic] comment-poster’s handles, I find no Mnemosyne.” — Rune

    He was referring to the original comments to the Matthew Yglesias article. See right at the top of FM’s post.

    BTW, there’s nothing original or interesting about Ayn Rand’s philosophy: it’s just Herbert Spencer’s social darwinism warmed over and dumbed down. If you want to read the original non-lobotomized version of Rand’s ideas, peruse Spencer’s 1851 text Social Statics and his 1870 System of Synthetic Philosophy.

    Incidentally, everyone cites Marx’s prediction of the withering away of the state due to a proletarian uprising and seizure of the means of production, but no one cites Specer’s prediction of the withering away of the state due to the perfect adaptation of workers to laissez faire capitalism, with the capitalists taking over all functions of the government. American society is arguably much closer to the situation predicted in Specer’s 1851 Social Statics than to the one predicted in Karl Marx’s 1867 Das Kapital (volume 1).

  33. @Rune, as electrophoresis indicates above, I was referring to the comment pulled from the Yglesias article. Thanks electrophoresis.

    And I come not to defend Rand or her works, merely to point out that the cartoonish portrayal of the system she cobbled together misses many nuggets of interesting and original thought buried in the verbosity. The combination of satire and philosophy (agree with it or not, in toto or in pieces) presented in Atlas Shrugged has had immense staying power over the decades in terms of sales and influence on individuals – good and bad – and that maybe the subject deserves more than spin and fulmination, but actual analysis. Crazy concept in this modern age, I know. If that somehow makes me a pack-running Randite, well, you have your opinion. How nice.

    As for LeVey and his crew, Randites (unlike myself) are atheists and would despise them as well.

  34. Re,#34. I suppose it’s a matter of perspective. The real economy (i.e., people that make stuff or create value) has a host of government-created obstacles to contend with. I couldn’t hire even one person to make a two-person small business, because in my area it was just too daunting–much easier to fly solo.

    Put enough bs in peoples’ way, they will move to an underground economy, which is what I suppose Wall Street essentially became, except they were too busy using that hotline you posted about so they could get additional goodies from the feds. You don’t find me arguing for corporate welfare.

    Yeah, let’s concentrate more money and power in DC. That will certainly fix the problem.

  35. Hmm, I can’t vouch for Ditko’s Randian influence on Spider-man (although Jameson has always reminded me of Wynand) but I’ve read enough things like this, Ditko! to make me think that the influence was there in Spider-man.

  36. Unfortunately, you put your finger on the crux of the problem. Where do we get the “Integrity-ometer” we need to implement Rand’s plan?

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