Ayn Rand

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Ayn Rand. A great philosopher and writer who developed the Objectivist school of thought

Ayn Rand (1905-1982) was a libertarian novelist, screenwriter, philosopher and an atheist, who began her career in Hollywood. She used her novels to promote her philosophy, known as Objectivism. Her best-known novels are Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Ayn Rand asserted that selfishness was a virtue and altruism was wrongheaded (see also: Atheism and uncharitableness). She wrote a book entitled The Virtue of Selfishness.

She was a highly political author, with her novels often serving as political messages. She advocated laissez faire capitalism, with minimum government intervention (known by the name Minarchism) in business and strongly objected to socialism and nationalism. Combined, more than twelve million copies of her two best-known novels have been sold in the U.S. alone. Despite her anti-Christian and liberal views on social issues, her opposition to state economic intervention has made her works and philosophy popular with the TEA Party movement.[1]

Her first name "Ayn" rhymes with "mine", and she was born in Russia as Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum.

Philosophy

For a more detailed treatment, see Objectivism.

Ayn Rand attracted a following based on her opposition to collectivism, as articulated in her novels, particularly Atlas Shrugged. Her followers today tend to be libertarians and predominantly unmarried men, many of whom are drawn to a self-indulgent lifestyle consistent with Rand's philosophy. Rand often called herself a "radical for capitalism," by which she meant the pure, laissez-faire variety. Rand had very little in common with conservatives except for a mutual opposition to communism and socialism. Rand has also been accused of being a rape apologist for her rape scene in The Fountainhead.

Conservative Whittaker Chambers was a harsh critic the caricatures in Ayn Rand's work, and how she implied that evil systems would collapse on their own without the need for good men to do anything. Edmund Burke famously stated, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing," but one might conclude from Rand's work that being selfish and doing nothing is what good people should do, and then evil will fail all by itself. Whittaker Chambers observed in a book review he wrote for National Review in 1957, "Happily, in Atlas Shrugged (though not in life), all the children of Darkness are utterly incompetent" (emphasis added).

Rand's most famous and powerful follower was Alan Greenspan (b. 1926), long-time head of the Federal Researve System (1987-2006), though it is difficult to see manifestations of Rand's ideas in Greenspan's work.

Rand was a moral absolutist with the virtues of rationality and hard-work as central themes to her writing. However, conservatives reject Rand’s elevation of reason over faith, sentiment, and tradition.[2] Social conservatives in particular reject Rand’s view that sexual fulfillment is an important part of life and not merely limited to procreation. Her views are seen as hedonistic, selfish, and sinful--she accepts the usage of birth control and abortion[3] as proper means to an active sexual life without the consequences of child-rearing. In general Rand’s view of the perfection of human character is at odds with the Christian view of man’s essential sinfulness.

Rand's philosophy was anti-Christian to the point of even declaring that "faith, as such, is extremely detrimental to human life: it is the negation of reason."[4] While Rand advocates absolutes in the realm of ethics,[5] her ethical principles are at odds with traditional Christianity.[6] Her followers support an "absolute right" to abortion at any time during pregnancy,[7] including partial-birth abortion. Ayn Rand's philosophy and followers also support a "right" to have same-sex marriage, and opposed California's Proposition 8 defining marriage as between one man and woman.[8]

Rand was an atheist and opponent of traditional family values, who personally adhered more to Hollywood Values than conservative ones.[9] She was a strident opponent of altruism. As far back as 1957, Whittaker Chambers denounced the “wickedness” of Atlas Shrugged in National Review, and Dr. Gabe Vertin derided her "senseless self-aggrandizement."

Nevertheless, Rand still remains a major inspiration and "recruiter" for those on the right. Common ground is often found in several areas. In metaphysics and epistemology she argues for a reality-based outlook as opposed to the subjectivism of progressive post-modern academia.[10] In ethics she emphasizes honest productive work, earning one’s keep, engaging in honorable trade, stern moral dealings, self-reliance, and, in general, being a productive member of society. In politics she returned to the natural rights tradition of Locke and rejected paternalistic government on moral grounds. She deferred to the Austrian School on economics.

Rand can appeal to those conservatives who emphasize the Greco-Roman tradition of Western Civilization, especially Aristotle, while she disappoints those who give greater emphasis to the Judeo-Christian influence.[11] She continues to attract converts, especially the young, to right-leaning Republican politics--including notable figures with more traditional outlooks.

Psychological profile

The psychological underpinnings of Ayn Rand's socio-political and eco-political views are arguably related to her gender in the same way that Karl Marx’s views can be related to Marx’s gender. Namely, by the tendency of the genders to becoming overly sensitive in regard to their respective virtues. The male is most able in matters of individualism, the female in matters of the collective. Ayn Rand’s disfavoring of the female virtues, and her consequent exclusivism in favor of the male virtues, may have been caused (in a modern world in which all good things are turned into more-or-less exclusives by some group or nation) by a particular sensitivity on her part to the female virtues. While it is good to feel things for others, it is not good to have that feeling used, in effect, to make one feel that one has no personal rights and needs. It can be argued that Rand typically felt so used, as do many women, but that Rand, unlike them, found herself with an opportunity to so 'right the wrong' that, unknown to her atheism, she went much too far.

Like Marx, Rand's atheism saw only one way toward a global salvation, namely by the opposite of her natural virtues as a woman. Jesus never preached liberation of women from men, nor men from women, but most perfectly empathized with the plights of both in the face of the other. Adam was created without a penny to his name, but he owned the entire Earth. And, Adam never shrugged anything in order to possess it, which means it cannot be owned by a kind of individualism which denies a common culpability for a common plight of the suffering which results from the fact that differentiated individuals and genders cope differently to a given non-ideal situation.

Rand also grew up during the early years of communism in Russia which by her own admission had great effect on her personal beliefs. It is likely that the traumatizing effects of being a child at this time would have given her a great distaste for both the state and religion which was the object of intense propaganda under the Soviet regime. To a young and impressionable mind this may have had an effect on her thinking.

Similarities to George Orwell

Just like George Orwell Rand had first hand knowledge of living under a communist/socialist dictatorship. They both used their knowledge to paint vivid pictures of the specific ways in which these political philosophies break down. Orwell's focus was on control of the mind through the use of secret police forces and through the reworking of the language itself, Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four was about the horror of a functioning dictatorship; Rand focused on the corruption and vice that inevitably follows from a political philosophy that rewards failure, rand also pinpointed the specific maneuverings that liberals use to avoid justice and justify their might makes right attitudes.

In Atlas Shrugged Rand put a great deal of emphasis on the use of informal procedures as a way to rob victims of any tools they might be able to use in their defense, production tribunals in the book met and had an informal discussion, so that the producers that they were strangling could not call any kind of precedent or procedure to rescue them from the abuse of power. In the crumbling socialist world of Atlas Shrugged the only defense was to agree with those in power. Orwell envisioned (and had seen) the same problem, a world in which the market place of ideas was as strangled as the marketplace of goods and services, only done in private and hellish jail cells.

Both of these authors had some very liberal characteristics, Orwell being a socialist himself and Ayn being an atheist and egoist but in spite of their liberal traits they couldn't help but look at the world that liberals created and decry how wicked it was. Author Christopher Hitchens, writing about Orwell, called this a "power of facing", where in Orwell was able to face the issues on his own side, a very important characteristic shared by many great academics and philosophers in the Christian tradition.

Quotes

"We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: The stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission – which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force."[12]

"The most profoundly revolutionary achievement of the United States of America was the subordination of society to moral law. The principle of man’s individual rights represented the extension of morality into the social system—as a limitation on the power of the state, as man’s protection against the brute force of the collective, as the subordination of might to right. The United States was the first moral society in history."[13]

"Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism."[14]

Works

  • We the Living
  • Anthem
  • The Fountainhead
  • Atlas Shrugged
  • Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal
  • The Romantic Manifesto
  • The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution
  • The Virtue of Selfishness

References

  • Burns, Jennifer. Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right (2009), standard scholarly history, by a conservative historian. excerpt and text search
  • Doherthy, Brian. Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern Libertarian Movement. (2007), popular history.
  • Gladstein, Mimi Reisel. The Ayn Rand Companion (1984) 130 pp. good starting point
  • Heller, Ann C. Ayn Rand and the World She Made (2009)
  • Kirsch, Adam. "Ayn Rand’s Revenge" New York Times Sunday Book review Nov. 1, 2009
  • Uyl, Douglas J. Den, and Douglas B. Rasmussen, eds. The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand (1984) 235 pp.; dense essays by professional philosophers

References

  1. Ayn Rand stars at Denver stimulus ‘tea party’ protest, Colorado Independent, Wendy Norris - 2/28/09 - [1]
  2. William R. Thomas. Myth: Ayn Rand was a Conservative.
  3. Abortion:An Absolute Right. The Ayn Rand Center.
  4. http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=media_topic_religion%
  5. Ayn Rand. Absolutes.
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    Ayn Rand. .
  7. http://www.aynrand.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5105
  8. http://www.aynrand.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=21821
  9. Richard Lawrence. Ayn Rand FAQ.
  10. Roger Donway. The Postmodern Assault on Reason.
  11. Edwin A. Locke. The Greatness of Western Civilization. Ayn Rand Center.
  12. http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=45735 WorldNetDaily.com Should Democratic Party merge with Communist Party?, August 12, 2005
  13. Ayn Rand. "Man's Rights", The Virtue of Selfishness:. 
  14. Ayn Rand. "Racism", The Virtue of Selfishness:. 

External Links