Ready for Her Close-Up

Re-examining Ayn Rand's place in American intellectual and cultural life

(Page 2 of 2)

Burns, a political scientist at the University of Virginia, makes the most of her unique access to Rand's personal papers at the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, California. Like Heller, she situates Rand in a rich intellectual and cultural tradition that predated the New Deal and eventually gave rise to a revitalized limited-government movement that culminated in figures such as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Burns is particularly sharp at analyzing how Cold War conservatives such as Buckley rejected Rand's rationalism but eventually benefited from her popularity with college students during the 1960s. Since the demise of their common foe, the Soviet Union, conservatives and libertarians increasingly find themselves at odds with one another over precisely the same issues that Rand and Buckley fought over decades ago. These range from questions about the proper role of religion in a secular society to whether the state should be used to restrict alternative lifestyles to the legitimate circumstances for military action.

Individually, Ayn Rand and the World She Made and Goddess of the Market help elucidate an underanalyzed cultural figure. Together, they provide a rounded portrait of a woman who, as Burns writes, "tried to nurture herself exclusively on ideas." As Rand's biography underscores, she failed miserably in that, even as she helped create an ideological framework that continues to energize debate in contemporary America.

Nick Gillespie is editor in chief of Reason.tv and Reason.com. This article originally appeared in Wilson Quarterly.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    Great review, Nick, though, naturally, I do have a dickish comment or two up my sleeve, to wit:

    "Contempt has long been the standard literati response to Rand. Like Jack Kerouac, Rand is typically written off as a writer whose basic appeal is to maladjusted adolescents, a sort of vaguely embarrassing starter author who is quickly outgrown by those of us who develop more sophisticated aesthetic and ideological tastes. There's more than a small degree of truth to such a characterization, but the extreme prejudice with which Rand is dismissed belies a body of work that continues to reach new audiences."

    In other words, the "standard literati" are right: she is a vaguely embarrassing starter author. But so what? I used to think Carl Sandburg was a great poet, and I turned out OK.

  • Hamster Trap||

    She sure looks a lot like Woody Gutherie in that picture.

  • T||

    "If Bea Arthur and Princess Leia make a baby it will look exactly like Ayn Rand, I bet."

  • Jozef||

    Coincidentally, I've been listening to the Atlas Shrugged audio book in my car for the past two months or so. I'm currently somewhere in John Galt's speech (hard to tell how much longer he'll keep on repeating the same idea with different words). Having never read anything from Rand and having never read anything about Rand, the review made pretty interesting reading. I thought the fashioned Dagney after herself, but I guess that was only the wishful thinking.

    As for the literary quality of the work, I must admit it leaves a lot to be desired. Hell, even Goodkind's Sword of Truth series was better written, even though he was just parroting Rand's ideas.

  • Joel||

    And milking the same dumb plot in book after book. The next time one of those two characters (forget the names) betrays the other as the only way to save them, I hope the betrayee just pulls out a .45 and empties the mag into the other. In fact, I hope that happens in any case.

    Not that I'll know about it. The only reason I've read so many of those dumb Goodkind books is because I was borrowing them from a neighbor, and I still feel stupid for wasting so much time on them before giving up.

    You're right though: They're better than Atlas. Of course, so's a phone book.

  • smartass sob||

    I'm currently somewhere in John Galt's speech (hard to tell how much longer he'll keep on repeating the same idea with different words).

    I wonder - if you think he is just repeating the same idea over and over with different words, perhaps you might tell us what you think that idea is? When I read Galt's speech I saw a number of ideas that struck me as being meaningless to anyone who hasn't at least had some acquaintence with classical philosophical questions - particularly discussions of metaphysics and espistomology, but also ethics and political/economic theory.

  • ||

    True, but it's a novel and ffs that bit was long.

  • T||

    As for the literary quality of the work, I must admit it leaves a lot to be desired.

    It's a sermon with a cast.

  • ||

    I've always struggled with finding the pithiest way to express this, and you've nailed it: "sermon with a cast." Brilliant.

  • Suki||

    Is this a rerun from the weekend or a whole different review?

  • Joel||

    It appears to be a rerun. I must be wrong, though: It did say "New at Reason."

  • dhex||

    "There's more than a small degree of truth to such a characterization, but the extreme prejudice with which Rand is dismissed belies a body of work that continues to reach new audiences. "

    two words: dan brown

  • Xeones||

    two words: dan brown

    Oh shit, dude.

  • ||

    I knew it was time to leave work when I saw the first line in Nick's headline ("New at Reason: Nick Gillespie on Ayn Rand's Place in....."), looked at the ortho photograph of Ayn Rand, and thought the headline said, "Ayn Rand's Face in Mars".

  • T||

    Ayn Rand's Face in Mars

    Proving, finally, that objectivism is the only true path.

  • ||

    Ayn Rand was literally the only modern-day philosopher that I respect. How can you possibly argue against free will and individualism? God? Society? State? You're a fool if your ideology is based on any of those. Especially society, because that makes you the opposite of a libertarian and an objectivist, in which I say "Fuck you"

  • shrike||

    I second your "Fuck you" although I fear the GOP God-nuts far more than a 38% top marginal income tax rate.

  • ||

    Agreed. I'd rather sacrifice to something tangible (people).

  • CH||

    I mean this sincerely:

    the comment (Agreed. I'd rather sacrifice to something tangible (people).) is one of the more intelligent I've seen on the subject.

    Well said.

  • ||

    NEW RED DAWN MOVIE
    United States of Israel.
    Treasury is Bankrupt.
    American Holocaust.
    9/11 False Flag.
    James Blunt,
    No Bravery

  • Vogateer||

    Don't forget about Ayn Rand's obsession with patents and copyright.

    To me that's her most embarrassing cherished belief: man as a nearly God-like Creator with supposed intellectual rights superior to property rights, which is why she was perfectly cool with Roark blowing up the Corlandt apartment building.

    How absurd can you be? So if I pay Roark to design a house for me, and decide to make changes to it – paint it a different color, move some furniture around, or commit the mortal sin of having a portico put in – it's okay for him to destroy my house next time I'm out of town?

    Of course, "intellectual property" rights never made any sense, as real property rights must be thrown out the window in favor of them, and as you can plainly see Rand thinks this state of affairs is the ideal.

  • smartass sob||

    Roark blew up the buildings because those who built them violated the terms of the contract which they had signed with him, namely that they would be built as he had designed them. But I guess one would have to have read the book to know that.

  • Vogateer||

    I read the book, though admittedly it's been a while, so I may have missed the "demolished if not built according to Roark's exact specifications" part of the contract.

    Besides, you're ignoring that the whole point of putting this in the book wasn't to show the importance of contract enforcement. Her books were all about her philosophy, and as the speech that came afterward showed, this was a chance for her to demonstrate her belief in the superiority of intellectual rights over other property rights.

  • smartass sob||

    so I may have missed the "demolished if not built according to Roark's exact specifications" part of the contract.

    There wasn't anything explicit in the contract about "demolishing" the buildings if they weren't built according to his specifications. However, there was apparently an explicit promise that they would be built just as he had designed them; afterall that was Roark's main motivation for designing them. The builders reneged and screwed him out of what he was supposed to receive from the deal. So he took the law into his own hands; I can't say I blame him.

    Her books were all about her philosophy, and as the speech that came afterward showed, this was a chance for her to demonstrate her belief in the superiority of intellectual rights over other property rights.

    Rand expressed no such belief that intellectual property rights were superior to other property rights - you are simply mistaken. She did, however, think that they were at least equally valid. Her writings, particularly her essays, make it quite clear that she is philosophically opposed to the concept of mind/body dualism - or to intellectualism versus materialism. Her philosophy, in fact, is at great pains to integrate the two into a cohesive, almost holistic view of man and his existence in reality. I do not remember precisely where, but she once wrote that "a mind without a body is a ghost, and body without a mind is a corpse. Both are symbols of death."

    If you want to assert that Of course, "intellectual property" rights never made any sense, you are entitled to your opinion, and that really isn't a debate I care to engage in at the moment; but to say that Rand considered one or the other to be superior just shows a complete misunderstanding of her approach.

  • Vogateer||

    There was no deal between Roark and the builders. The whole story was arranged to make sure that he didn't have an agreement with them.

    So you believe that a contract with the builders isn't needed to have a claim on the building. A simple agreement with someone else who did sign the contract (the one who doesn't own the building) is all that's necessary.

    It seems to me that the whole point of having the contrived story with Roark having no contractual agreement was, in fact, to make the point I stated earlier: intellectual rights supercede other property rights.

    smartass sob: Rand expressed no such belief that intellectual property rights were superior to other property rights - you are simply mistaken.

    From Patents and Copyrights:
    Patents and copyrights are the legal implementation of the base of all property rights: a man’s right to the product of his mind.

    So I don't believe you had the correct interpretation.

    Roark didn't own the materials that went into building Corlandt. He didn't own the land. You're arguing that these things don't matter in the end, as Roark has some sort of claim on them despite only having an agreement with someone who wasn't the builder.

    And even if they had built it according to his design, could they make changes to it 10 years later without Roark's approval? If not, then how can they be said to own the building? If they can, why should it make a difference if they made the changes as they were building it?

  • smartass sob||

    smartass sob: Rand expressed no such belief that intellectual property rights were superior to other property rights - you are simply mistaken.

    From Patents and Copyrights:
    Patents and copyrights are the legal implementation of the base of all property rights: a man’s right to the product of his mind.

    So I don't believe you had the correct interpretation.


    On the contrary - I had exactly the correct interpretation.

    Note that the passage you quote from your link says "implementation of the base of all property rights" (emphasis mine) - not just intellectual property rights and not just material property rights. It does not say that intellectual property rights are somehow superior and neither does the rest of the page to which you linked.

    In Rand's philosophy all values proceed from man's mind or intellect - yes, even "material" values. Materials have no value in and of themselves, but only insofar as they serve some purpose. That purpose is created or chosen by thought and it also requires thought to discern whether some material (or some idea) actually is of use to one.

    The former is one instance of the intellectual component to material values. Another is the fact that in the case of manufactured - or even simply harvested - material things, some mental effort is required in addition to physical effort to produce them. For Rand all physical effort requires a mental component; even digging a ditch necessitates some degree of thought on someone's part, if only to determine where and how deep to dig it.

    On the Lexicon page to which you linked Rand writes: An idea as such cannot be protected until it has been given a material form. An invention has to be embodied in a physical model before it can be patented; a story has to be written or printed. In other works (Atlas Shrugged?) she asserts that an idea or plan, a dream or vision, is valueless unless its embodiment into physical existence is realized. This is the converse (proper term?) of the proposition that all material values have an intellectual component - all intellectual values do or must have a material aspect; if divorced from reality, they are not values. Theory which is not or cannot be applied to reality is useless by her thinking. She makes this evident in her literary treatment of the physicist Doctor Stoddard in Atlas Shrugged.

    I must reiterate - Rand's philosophy views man as neither a savage brute with no intellect, nor as an intelligence able to exist without a body, but as an integrated whole incorporating both aspects, both mind and body.

  • smartass sob||

    the physicist Doctor Stoddard

    That should be Doctor Robert Stadler; Stoddard is a character from The Fountainhead.

  • Vogateer||

    How can patents and copyright be the base of all property rights, and not be considered superior to other property rights? If they're the base (or perhaps foundation) of those rights, then they're the rights upon which all others stand. Therefore they're more important than other rights that are not the base.

    Yes every action has a mental component. So what?

    Why should an idea that has been given a material form and patented be "protected"? Particularly in this case "protected" is a euphemism that means that other people will be forcibly prevented from using their own property to do something similar to what's been patented, without any justification as to why that should be so.

  • smartass sob||

    There was no deal between Roark and the builders. The whole story was arranged to make sure that he didn't have an agreement with them.

    Yes, as I recall now, that is true. Though I've read The Fountainhead thrice, it has been about 28 years since I last looked at it; like you, my memory of it is somewhat hazy.

    Now that I think about it, Keating came to Roark asking for help in designing Cortlandt. Roark agrees to not only design the project, but to let Keating have all the credit for it, as long as his own part in it is kept secret and as long as Cortlandt is built exactly as he designs it. The project is a government one, the commission for which Keating gets through Ellsworth Toohey's connections.

    It seems to me that the whole point of having the contrived story with Roark having no contractual agreement was, in fact, to make the point I stated earlier: intellectual rights supercede other property rights.

    I don't think it is a matter so much of intellectual property rights superceding material property rights, as it is of Roark's property rights coming before those of the builders. The design is Roark's property, it would not have existed without his efforts; for the builders to have used it without abiding by Roark's conditions means that Roark didn't get paid. It amounts to theft of services.

    No, the land and the building materials don't belong to Roark, but neither did he claim or take them. He left them as they would have been without his design - without the work of his mind and the minds of others who wrought the raw materials from the Earth. Frankly, it's just poetic justice - which, of course, it is intended (by Rand) to be. The Fountainhead is a novel, a dramatization - it is not a legal brief or a philosophy text.

    And even if they had built it according to his design, could they make changes to it 10 years later without Roark's approval? If not, then how can they be said to own the building? If they can, why should it make a difference if they made the changes as they were building it?

    I don't if they could make changes to it ten years later - that issue wasn't even addressed in the story. In real life it would depend on what is in the original contract, but I would suppose that the contract would be written such that its terms would allow that, or that law would dictate it. Why does it matter if they make the changes as they are building it? Well in the story it matters to Roark because he desires to see it built just as he designed it, for his own selfish pleasure, I suppose. Really not much of a price to ask for all the design work he did. Don't you think one should be paid for one's work? Or do you think it is okay to cheat them out of it just so long as it is only "intellectual" work?

  • smartass sob||

    I don't know if they could make changes to it ten years later.

    (Sometimes even preview isn't perfect.)

  • Vogateer||

    I already said that if Roark should have been compensated, but with some concept of proportionality. If you believe in any concept of proportionality at all and want to claim the bombing was a just act, you have to believe that the mental and physical work of Roark was more valuable than all the other mental and physical work that went into making the building, and there's no reason to place such grandiose value on Roarke's work alone.

    What of the value of the work of other architects who came before Roark, whose ideas he necessarily used in his own designs? Roark could not have designed a building without their previous work, so does that make Roark's work of no value? If it doesn't, then how does Roark's previous work of design somehow make the mental and physical work of the men building Cortlandt of absolutely non-existent value such that Roark is allowed to destroy their work without compensating them? This flies in the face of any responsible notion of justice.

    But he didn't have a contract at all. Not only that, Cortlandt wasn't Roark's design.

    It was the work of other architects who took his designs and modified them into something different. Should we hold that an architect who came up with ideas that Roark used (windows, toilets, using certain plants for landscaping, all ideas that someone else originated long before Roark) should be able to destroy his work because he used those ideas in his own?

    smartass sob says:
    I don't think it is a matter so much of intellectual property rights superceding material property rights, as it is of Roark's property rights coming before those of the builders. The design is Roark's property, it would not have existed without his efforts; for the builders to have used it without abiding by Roark's conditions means that Roark didn't get paid. It amounts to theft of services.

    Here you either contradict yourself or have a non sequitor.

    Take your pick between:
    1) Contradiction: you state this isn't about intellectual property rights being superior to other property rights, only to say that Roark's rights "come before" the builder's rights because his design is his intellectual property that wouldn't have existed without him thinking it up.

    2) Non-sequitor: you bring up the fact that Roark was cheated, but this has absolutely no bearing on the builders of Cortlandt, as only the agreement with Keating was broken (for that and that alone was Roarke owed recompense from Keating).

    If Rand had wanted the story to be about the theft of services, she wouldn't have taken the trouble to make absolutely certain that Roark had no conceivable contractual claim against the builders. That whole contrived business would have been completely unnecessary. So why the contrived plot? If you want to make a case for your position, you'll have to make it here.

    So Roarke's services weren't compensated for, which I already stated was a problem and an act of aggression due to the broken (oral) contract with Keating. Being compensated for this is not the same as being able to blow up a building that's worth far more that just Keating's design services (so says the free market, if you have any faith in it at all).

    And even if it had been Roarke's design, he can't own a design because a design per se is only an idea. One can't own a idea. He can own the blueprints, which was real physical property, but he can't own the idea of not using a portico, or making a room triangular, because ideas can't be controlled.

    And you say he didn't own the concrete or land. In that case, he isn't allowed to control them by changing them from a building to a pile of rubble. Unless you mean to commit an absurd case of equivocation, destroying a building is not leaving "them as they would have been without his design." Without his design they would have been serviceable construction materials or have been formed into a different building altogether.

    And to claim that Roark has some say on the building's design in perpetuity by contract is in fact stating that he's a de facto partial owner of the building, as ownership is about control of a scarce resource. Once he's a partial owner, he does have those rights, not because he thought up the design, but because he negotiated a partial ownership (specifically in the design of the building) in the contract.

    But he never had such ownership claims at all. He had no contract or agreement with the builders. In the end Cortlandt wasn't even Roarke's design.

    I firmly believe there is no argument for this plot that can withstand scrutiny.

    Also, I think I'm at the very least owed an apology from you for accusing me of having not read the book, as I think it should be pretty clear by now that I did. ;-)

  • Vogateer||

    And my memory is fuzzy, but Roark made the agreement with Keating, not the builders of Corlandt. He had no contractual claim with them, only with Keating.

    Do you approve of his actions? Do you really think a contractual dispute is grounds for blowing up a building? How does this jive with libertarian non-aggression principles? Did the builders not own the materials?

  • smartass sob||

    It was Elsworth Toohey's idea to have Roark design the buildings and he sent Keating to talk him into it; he even told Keating what to say. If anything Keating was acting as an agent for those who wanted the project built.

    Do you approve of his actions? Do you really think a contractual dispute is grounds for blowing up a building? How does this jive with libertarian non-aggression principles? Did the builders not own the materials?

    How is breaking a contract not an initiation of force or fraud?

  • smartass sob||

    Did the builders not own the materials?

    Did Roark not own the design? Have you ever read a software EULA?

  • Vogateer||

    That's the problem, I don't believe copyright and patents are legitimate. They're artificial, government-granted monopolies.

    How can Roark own the design? The design is an idea. What if someone had seen his design, copied elements of it, made changes, and built another building that was similar to his? Would he own that design or building to? The concept of ownership of something that's an idea is flawed. Once you make that idea known, you can't control it. You can't force people to dispossess themselves of the idea or tell them to behave as though they were never exposed to the idea because you "own' it.

  • Michael||

    Breaking a contract is an act of aggression, but Roark didn't have a contract with the owners of Corlandt, so his beef should have been with Keating.

    But let's suppose Roark did have a contract with the builders and it had been violated. What's the appropriate response? Roark would indeed be owed something, but what? Libertarians usually subscribe to some concept of justice that has proportionality as a determining factor. A minor infraction (say, finishing a project a few days late) would obviously not justify bankrupting someone and taking their house from them and giving it to the aggreived.

    So with this in mind, Roark put time into the design, and should be paid accordingly. The harshest punishment I've seen a libertarian suggest is that the aggrieved should receive twice the amount he would have received otherwise, so at the most this would involve paying Roark twice the amount he would normally have received in wages (probably using the pay he received for his past projects and the going rate for architects would serve as a guide for an experienced judge).

    Blowing up a building is obviously exacting a form of revenge that goes beyond any reasonable concept of proportionality, and therefore constitutes an act of aggression on the part of Roark, and in the end we have a glaring example of how two wrongs don't make a right.

  • Serolf Divad||

    The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, have sold more than 12 million copies in the United States alone and were ranked first and second in a 1998 Modern Library reader survey of the "greatest books" of the 20th century

    And Battleship Earth was ranked #3 and Dune 14, Stephen King's The Stand 29. All in all, L. Ron Hubbard had 3 of the best novels of the 20th century... if you go by this online "reader's poll."

    It's not a list to be particularly proud of, I'm afraid.

  • Space Fiend||

    Dune is a great book. A great, great book, that has more insights into the human condition than every self-help book ever written.

  • ||

    Dune is an extremely rich work, delving into philosophy, psychology, sociology, and history. Which is why nobody can or ever will make a good film adaptation. Best of luck to the most recent crew to try, but the man who can bring the real depth of that story to the screen gets an instant lifetime achievement Oscar.

    On a side note to Frank Herbert's son: Please stop pretending you found extra stories your father was going to write. Anybody who read up to Chapterhouse knows he couldn't keep his head straight from page to page, much less maintain a virtual library of royalty-generators for you to publish 30 years later.

  • ||

    The publication of Anne C. Heller's Ayn Rand and the World She Made and Jennifer Burns's Goddess of the Market indicates that a belated but timely reconsideration of Rand's place in American cases for Rand's importance to the past 80 years of American intellectual and cultural life all the more convincing.

    Say what?

  • ||

    On a side note, an upcoming essay is about arguing that a certain advertisement is morally wrong (any ad btw). Is there such a thing? I suppose if it outright lies it is, but one of his examples was: "you could argue that a Hummer commercial is morally wrong because Hummers are bad for the environment." See what kind of bullshit I have to put up with? The teacher claims to be a libertarian...

  • smartass sob||

    one of his examples was: "you could argue that a Hummer commercial is morally wrong because Hummers are bad for the environment." See what kind of bullshit I have to put up with? The teacher claims to be a libertarian...

    Does the teacher actually believe that or is he(she) just tossing that out there for discussion?

  • hlm||

    Given that Branden said that the name change had nothing to do with Ayn's chosen pen name, why does Nick repeat the story as if it is gospel? Having read both the Burns and Heller manuscripts I find the review disappointing.

  • smartass sob||

    Branden can say whatever he likes - that doesn't make it so. I first encountered the name-change story in Jerome Tuccille's book, "It Usually Begins With Ayn Rand," which was published around 1970 or so.

  • Jeff Montgomery||

    Objectivism is a proper name, i.e. capital "O".

    I'm an Objectivist, and after about 100 pages of Burns' book, I'm still pretty pleased. It's nice to read an objective biography, rather than a hateful screed, for a change. I have minor quibbles over certain points, which tend to be statements about causal influences on her thinking, but overall the book is good, and I'm enjoying reading about Rand's life. She was one busy woman.

    It would be a mistake to dismiss Rand as a tragic figure who is nonetheless popular. Her reputation has been significantly warped by those who were rejected by her.

    Her thought runs much deeper than many think. I believe this miscalculation is because A) her written formulations are clear and simple and B) readers do not always fully understand her redefinitions of major terms such as "selfishness". Many who read her work retain the conventional definition and are thinking "brutish and careless exploitation of others", whereas Rand actually means something akin to eudemonia, or the flourishing of the human being over an entire lifetime. Rand is someone who paid careful attention to definitions, and readers need to also, to benefit from the work.

    I also don't agree that Objectivism's current adherents deny her intellectual influences, they simply don't think that they shaped the mature version of her thought. It's one thing to say that Rand read Nietzsche and liked his work as a young woman, and quite another to say that his ideas shaped her final philosophical system. The latter is not true, and to say so indicates that one doesn't really understand her ideas. It is more accurate to say that Rand had favorite thinkers on the way to developing her own system.

    Jeff Montgomery
    http://funwithgravity.blogspot.com/

  • Vogateer||

    @Jeff Montgomery

    I greatly appreciate your friendly tone. Unfortunately there are a few Randians here who are all to willing to disrespect others' views.

    Jeff Montgomery:
    It's one thing to say that Rand read Nietzsche and liked his work as a young woman, and quite another to say that his ideas shaped her final philosophical system. The latter is not true, and to say so indicates that one doesn't really understand her ideas. It is more accurate to say that Rand had favorite thinkers on the way to developing her own system.

    I fear this to be a distinction without a difference.

    If she had favorite thinkers, then I believe we can assume that she liked them because of their ideas. If she liked their ideas, then she must have found value in those ideas. How could she find value in those ideas and not be shaped, even if only in part, by those ideas? Even if these ideas were only to be used as a starting point, they would play an important part in how she arrived at her own ideas.

    That she even feels the need to make this distinction is odd, and suggests Rand had some strange need to inflate her ego by suggesting that she didn't need anyone besides Aristotle.

    While some people are unfair to her, some of her arguments were simply bad. See the discussion I had above about her views on intellectual property. Her views on altruism – as I understand them – were unjustly extreme, her novels were Manichean with humans that were more caricature than character, and I don't ever recall her discussing children or addressing the fact that we all need other people in order for life to have meaning.

    In Peikoff's Objectivism, he says that love and all responses to others are selfish and "rest ultimately on self-preservation – on the value to one's own life of other men who shares one's values."

    If self-preservation is the ultimate reason for relationships, how can one explain the fact that practically everyone would find life meaningless if there was no other human to share life with?

    I believe libertarians can do better than this, and I personally find Austro-libertarian ideas to be more rigorously thought out and more consistent with such values.

  • smartass sob||

    Unfortunately there are a few Randians here who are all to willing to disrespect others' views.

    If you are referring to me, I assure you I don't wish to seem unfriendly; it is only that I think you do not have a very good understanding of Rand's philosophy. If you wish a better understanding, you would be better advised to concentrate on her non-fiction writings rather than her fiction.

    I'm not certain I could be considered a "Randian" or an Objectivist. I first encountered her work over forty years ago as a very young man and devoted a great deal of time and study to it. In the end, however, I took what I thought to be useful or valid from it - namely its basic principals - and then moved on. I really haven't spent much time looking at it in over thirty years.

  • Vogon Poetry||

    Hey, so what if you believe in all this classical liberal bollocks but also believe that it is good for people to help each other (even, gasp, altruistically) so as to not need government to guide them to do so, and you think that Rand had a grotesque view of sex and a view that was incompatible with anyone who actually thinks most human beings are pretty groovy.

  • Vogon Poetry||

    Or what if I derive my vision of classical liberalism from the 18th century and (gasp) religious beliefs and think this Rand person is all bollocks?

  • Vogateer||

    From The Fountainhead:
    Every major horror of history was committed in the name of an altruistic motive.

    Yeah, because Alexander the Great was a paragon of altruism.

    Many tyrants have come up with rationalizations for what they've done, but that's just for show. It's a mistake to lump these rulers together with people who honestly do have altruistic motives.

    Rand throws out the baby with the bath water. Rulers who knowingly and falsely claim to have altruistic motives to justify heinous acts are not evil because they're altruistic, but because they commit heinous acts. Just because altruism can be used as a front for evil acts doesn't mean that altruism itself is evil.

    Yes, we know the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, but it's usually easy to see that we're heading in that direction when altruistic motives are used to justify violating people's rights.

    If people's rights aren't being violated, and altruism is taking place in a non-coercive way, where's the problem? To my knowledge Rand never addressed this.

  • ||

    She did address it. She addressed it specifically in the books mentioned. Specifically non-coercive altruism is fine because she imputes that it is really not altruistic. You do it because you want to.

    Reardon took care of his brother because he chose to. It was a mistake but it was his mistake.

  • Vogateer||

    You just said it was a mistake for Rearden to be altruistic toward his brother in the book. This is hardly a ringing endorsement for individual altruism. In fact, Rand seems to be using this example to suggest that this form of altruism is bad as well.

    faithkills: Specifically non-coercive altruism is fine because she imputes that it is really not altruistic. You do it because you want to.

    Isn't wanting to do something a requirement for the act to be considered altruistic?

    You could try to argue away the whole concept of altruism by saying there's no such thing, but in the end I have found these arguments unconvincing.

    I'm sure you'll disagree with me, but perhaps I could be forgiven for suggesting that a parent who's willing to sacrifice their life for their child would be committing an altruistic act. You could find selfish motives if you look for them (DNA being passed on), but they'll hardly be convincing to non-Randians.

  • ||

    Rush has some of the worst lyrics ever.

  • ||

    US of israel B52 cheney Nobel peace 911 false flag NAFTA nation Treasury theft 7 nation army Persia nat gas Of mice & men Red dawn 2010 Mil spec anthrax Pres carter smile Chickenhawk roost American holocaust Mossad megaphone USS liberty & trident James blunt no bravery Jericho III north america Nile is not just a river in egypt

    In the high school halls
    In the shopping malls
    Conform or be cast out
    (subdivisions)
    In the basement bars
    In the backs of cars
    Be cool or be cast out

    Any escape might help to smooth
    The unattractive truth
    But the suburbs have no charms to soothe
    The restless dreams of youth

  • ||

    I'm weighing in late on the intellectual property right's debate, but I had to toss in my two cents. You absolutely do own your ideas if you've made them tangible. How else would one be paid for one's work? If you wrote a book and didn't own the work you put into it, anyone could copy it, put their name on it and call it "The Original!" and have no problem. This is patently absurd. I can't believe individualists of any stripe would advocate the idea that somehow your work, whether mental or physical does not belong to you. By this standard, it is good that Mozart rarely got paid for his works and died a pauper in an unmarked grave. The libertarian obsession over the supposed illegitimacy of intellectual property rights and copyright law, is to me flat out bizarre. It is diametrically opposed to any philosophy of individualism.

  • abercrombie milano||

    My only point is that if you take the Bible straight, as I'm sure many of Reasons readers do, you will see a lot of the Old Testament stuff as absolutely insane. Even some cursory knowledge of Hebrew and doing some mathematics and logic will tell you that you really won't get the full deal by just doing regular skill english reading for those books.

  • nike shox||

    is good

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement