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Ayn Rand: Ready for her closeup (Reason Writers Around Town)

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In The Wilson Quarterly, Reason.tv's Nick Gillespie reviews two brand-spankin' new (and largely sympathetic) biographies of Ayn Rand. A snippet:

Has any major postwar American author taken as much critical abuse as Ayn Rand? Her best-known novels, 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. Yet over the years, Rand's writing has been routinely dismissed as juvenile and subliterate when it has been considered at all. During the height of the Cold War, she managed to alienate leftists by insisting that capitalism was not simply more productive but more moral than socialism or a mixed economy because it allowed the individual to express himself most fully. And she angered the anticommunist Right with her thoroughgoing materialism, lack of respect for tradition, and atheism. (She once told William F. Buckley he was "too intelligent" to believe in God.)

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. That Rand's life story is in many ways more melodramatic, unbelievable, and conflicted than one of her own plots certainly helps to keep the reader's attention. As Burns puts it, "The clash between her romantic and rational sides makes [her life] not a tale of triumph, but a tragedy of sorts." 

Read the whole thing here.

NEXT: The Teutonic Turn

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  1. You just made me wan an Ayn Rand ‘Che’ style t-shirt.

    1. Ooh! Ooh! Me wantee!

      1. a couple more for me! 😀

        1. Me too! Not springing that one on beloved boyfriend without warning tho.

  2. The thing about Ayn Rand was that her hubris was quite mock-worthy.

    1. They should have staged it with the oversized furniture. I would love to see an animated Pixar-style adaptation…

    2. I need another morning cigarette.

  3. Has any major postwar American author taken as much critical abuse as Ayn Rand?

    Sure. Hundreds of them. But it hardly matters. Read her own (and others’) words and decide for yourself. I’d recommend a bound edition of The Objectivist (Volumes 5-10, January 1966 through September 1971). It’s a treasure trove of rational thought.

    1. Arguing that there must be nation states and that states must have a monopoly on the use of force is hardly “rational.”

  4. For all of her brilliance, she just could not conceive of a world without the nation state. For all of her love of the individual and distrust of the state, she insisted upon the state having a monopoly on the use of force and with the administration of justice.

    Its as if Objectivism eats its own; the apogee of the progression of the Atlas ideal is the rejection of the nation state, not surrender to it.

    1. Sure she could. She quite accurately conceived of the results ‘competition’ in the “use of force” would produce.

  5. All who wave a flag and weep during a national anthem and pay income taxes have surrendered to a nation state.

    1. I’ll give you the paying income taxes bit, and partly the flag bit, but the Star Spangled Banner is really a profound paean to liberty. Have you ever really listened to the words, and thoguht about the context in which they were written (looking out of a prison cell)?

      1. A prison cell? Francis Scott Key was on the deck of a British warship, HMS Minden, when he first drafted “Defence of Fort McHenry” (later called “The Star-Spangled Banner”) and he finished it the next day in his room at the Indian Queen Hotel in Baltimore.

        1. I knew there was a Balmor connection! The whole city is a prison cell.

        2. Eh? I heard he was captured by the British and he was basically asking the other prisoners (or maybe being asked by other prisoners) if they could see whether the flag was flying or not.

          Well, prison cell, or not, he was in captivity. A British ship is, ya know, an enemy vessel.

    2. The income tax, yes, is surrender, but the flag waving and weeping are far more deplorable than surrender. Those are acts of embrace. To put down your gun when you’re outnumbered is one thing. But to kiss your enemy and send him a Christmas card every year? That’s ignorance or stupidity.

      I’ll say I only do one of those three things.

      1. The death of Saleh al-Nabhan and some associates has probably openned up some prime real estate where they don’t worry about taxes, flags, or nation-states. Better hurry before y’all miss the opportunity of a lifetime.

    3. Where in hell did you get the idea that Ayn Rand was ever in favor of an income tax? She most assuredly was against it, especially a progressive one! She recognized that taxes of any sort were the moral equivalent of theft. She advocated a “voluntary tax” (which she realized was a contradiction in terms) and/or a lottery, although she admitted a lottery would take advantage of the ignorant. Another means of financing government she suggested was to let government charge a fee for the enforcement of contracts and property deeds etc. – functions she thought legitimate for a government.

  6. As Burns puts it, “The clash between her romantic and rational sides makes [her life] not a tale of triumph, but a tragedy of sorts.”

    I haven’t read Burns’ book, but this quote suggests that she is incapable of evaluating essentials. Rand’s achievement transcends the personal.

  7. “over the years, Rand’s writing has been routinely dismissed as juvenile and subliterate…”

    …by juvenile and subliterate critics who wouldn’t know philosophy from fellatio.

  8. No need to descend into ad hominem when your enemies do.

  9. Somebody like R. Crumb needs to do a graphic-novel version of Atlas. It could be awesome in the right hands.

    1. I second this. What a freakin’ awesome idea.

    2. Please, no. Choose someone who wouldn’t make that damned thing look like strung out Mickey Mouse.

    3. How about an ASCII Art version?

  10. For all of her brilliance, she just could not conceive of a world without the nation state. For all of her love of the individual and distrust of the state, she insisted upon the state having a monopoly on the use of force and with the administration of justice.

    You’re on to something there. It’s about time for the human race to come up with something to replace the nation-state. Something more suitable for our globalized, networked world.

    1. *rolls eyes* Yep. The world state would surely be humanity’s greatest achievement.

      For those who believe that a society greater in size than 1000 people can exist without government, I suggest you go talk to the Raelians as you have much in common.

  11. Ayn had great ideas, but she her fiction was long-winded and preachy. Reading Atlas Shrugged is torture. The bad guys are all cardboard and interchangeable, and once you’ve read one of their four page “It’s not my fault” diatribes you’ve read them all. (And there are a lot of them.)

    It would be a much better book if the front and back covers were closer together.

    1. I agree. Parts of the books were boring due to the repetitiveness, but I still enjoy them. I love her non-fiction too.

    2. Rationalization alert.

      1. Yep, great philosopher–maybe. Great novelist, she wasn’t. When every single one of your characters is either a mouthpiece for you to preach through or a parody of your ideological adversaries, it’s time to think about sticking to non-fiction. BTW, what ever happened to the Atlas Shrugged movie that was rumored to be in the works? Did it die on the vine? One of the producers must have actually read the book, found out what it was about and cancelled production.

        1. BTW, what ever happened to the Atlas Shrugged movie that was rumored to be in the works? Did it die on the vine? One of the producers must have actually read the book, found out what it was about and cancelled production.

          I blame the Mel Gibson DUI incident.

        2. Nope, she wasn’t a great philosopher either. It’s probably up in the air which is worse – her philosophy or fiction. She may have said some stuff that I agree with but her “arguments” were ridiculous.

  12. I really doubt you will ever see an end to the nation state, because if some people got rid of it, then others would probably just come and take their shit, rape their women etc.

    You can wish that human nature was different, and we weren’t like that, but then your just like a liberal wishing socialism works.

    1. Hey, you shouldn’t kick a dreaming doggie. They wake up really grouchy.

      Anarchists, like socialists, don’t want to deal with reality.

  13. rolls eyes* Yep. The world state would surely be humanity’s greatest achievement.

    J dude, I didn’t say anything about a bigger state and more centralization. I was thinking in the other direction.

    1. Yeah, I’ve always wondered how I would function as a member of a nomadic band of hunter-gatherers. Downside: I wouldn’t be able to access the snark on Hit & Run.

      1. Me say Axman make great hunter. Chop-chop.

      2. Upside, you get to load your own ammunition. Downside, can’t find a Wal*Mart when you don’t have time to load.

  14. I really doubt you will ever see an end to the nation state, because if some people got rid of it, then others would probably just come and take their shit, rape their women etc.

    Kroneborge dude, I didn’t say anything about getting rid of all government. I was thinking more along the lines of right-sized territories.

    There’s an interesting study I can dig up on the optimal size for a democratic territorial government. I forget the exact size they came up with, but I do remember that the United States exceeds that size by far.

    I also think that we could evolve a system of networked jurisdictions where, say, your city-state of residence does indeed govern things like your water rights, but stays out of matters that don’t have a tie-in with territory: for example, the legal system for some business contract you’re a party to.

    Of course, we already have that to some degree, but our primary governmental paradigm is not networked, overlapping jurisdictions and territorial governments staying out of non-territorial matters. Our primary governmental paradigm is the nation-state.

    1. There’s an interesting study I can dig up on the optimal size for a democratic territorial government.

      There’s an interesting bunch of history along the same lines that I could dig up. The ancient Greeks believed a city-state shouldn’t exceed about 50,000 people.

      For one thing, if it got any bigger than no one person could hope to understand everything that was going on.

      So they had a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn’t be beat, and everything was fine until the next morning when first the Macedonians, and then Romans, showed up. Upon which the Greeks found themselves slightly conquered.

      These people who showed up in the morning did not constrain themselves with the idea that a nation-state should limit its size so severely.

      Really big nation-states are really good at producing really big armies. That’s why anarchist dreams will never prevail.

      Nation-states will rule the world until somebody figures out a different system that produces bigger or otherwise superior armies.

      Hint: anarchism isn’t the somebody, except maybe in doggie dreams.

  15. Is that human nature can’t do without the nation state? If the answer is yes, there are thousands of years of history and countless cultures that have said otherwise.

    What I have always found naive is the notion that man can’t exist without the nation state or that humanity can’t function without the nation state. What I have found to be particularly puzzling is the notion that man functions best with top/down governance.

    No, human nature being what it is, we are decidedly better off without nation states or large scale/top-down/centralized bodies of governance. No, I will not be placed in some dreamy utopian strawsuit for I am perfectly willing to live with the downside of life without the state.

    Sure, Roman Polanski might not be amenable to the long arm of the state; but neither would Steve Kubby.

    1. No, human nature being what it is, we are decidedly better off without nation states or large scale/top-down/centralized bodies of governance.

      Go read this book, it’s on Amazon.

      War Before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage (Paperback)
      by Lawrence H. Keeley

      Then come back and let’s see if you can still say that with a straight face.

  16. There may have always been some form of govt floating around, but the “nation-state” is a relatively recent invention.

    1. Define recent.

  17. Note that I have never stated that there should not be any order or governance.

    Kroneborge, you appear to ignore the fact that it has been the nation state itself that has caused large scale rape, theft and murder. It has been under the nation state paradigm that hundreds of millions have been murdered in the last 150 years-the time period that has witnessed the freakish exponential growth and slavish devotion to the nation state.

    1. Kroneborge, you appear to ignore the fact that it has been the nation state itself that has caused large scale rape, theft and murder.

      Again, read the book I cite above. The evidence shows that this premise is patently false.

  18. There may have always been some form of govt floating around, but the “nation-state” is a relatively recent invention.

    How recently are you thinking? Several thousand years or just hundreds, when watery tarts began tossing swords about?

    1. Haha, dig the Holy Grail reference.

      1. Writer buddy gave ‘me’ a similar line in his most recent novel. As soon as I saw it I busted out the Holy Grail DVD and giggled for an hour 🙂

  19. What I have always found naive is the notion that man can’t exist without the nation state or that humanity can’t function without the nation state. What I have found to be particularly puzzling is the notion that man functions best with top/down governance.

    The thing man cannot live without is a higher being. THAT is cross cultural, inherent, not needing to be learned.

  20. that cover of Rand is awesome. who created it?

  21. The thing man cannot live without is a higher being.

    I know lots of people who are living counterexamples.

  22. ML,

    Man as in mankind, not the individuals. Thanks for playing.

  23. This thread is infected with rationalization.

  24. Man does just fine, thank you, without a higher (hocus pocus) being.

  25. Try telling that to the greenie freaks.

  26. Suki, mankind’s attitudes toward relgion is an aggregation of the attitudes of individual men and women. When you make an assertion about the aggregate, it is perfectly valid to make a counterpoint about individual members of the aggregate.

  27. All of this discussion about whether or not we can live without the state is a little comical because it ignores the primary question of what a state is.

    If there were no states anywhere, and Libertymike and I got together and started living nicely in a little libertarian environment, and someone walked up to us and said, “Hi, I am a Trostkyite and I’m here to take all your stuff for myself,” and we did the sensible thing and killed him, at that moment we would be the state.

    The state is any association that employs violence to enforce its own judgments. Unless you can come up with a way to create universal agreement about what constitutes justice and what constitutes autonomy and what constitutes an enforceable claim to property, you’re always going to have people who will violate what you consider appropriate claims in these areas, and the only way to stop them is with violence. And if two or more of you organize to perform that violence, that makes you the state. Whether you like it or not.

    1. Unless you can come up with a way to create universal agreement about what constitutes justice and what constitutes autonomy and what constitutes an enforceable claim to property, you’re always going to have people who will violate what you consider appropriate claims in these areas,

      You will probably always have such people anyway – they are called criminals. And they violate the laws even when they agree with them; they just think they should apply to everyone but themselves.

  28. Fluffy,

    Is that our reminder that property rights don’t enforce themselves?

    BTW, any extra room at Libertopia? Do I have to have my shotgun before applying, or will pledging to have one if accepted be good enough 😉

    1. Pretty much, Suki, yes.

      Our right to life doesn’t enforce itself, either.

      If we’re going to use violence to enforce our rights, we’re going to have states. And if we’re going to have states, we all have to have the same one. Or else in my state the first law is that we all can do whatever we want to the members of every other state.

  29. Fluffy,

    I don’t need any stupid gun licenses or pay extra taxes for a shorter barrel in Libertopia, do I?

    Looks like I can’t post from Chrome, trying IE.

  30. Vista Google Chrome users are being silenced by Big Squirrel!

    1. Vista users should be silenced period. 😉

  31. ‘Suki, mankind’s attitudes toward relgion is an aggregation of the attitudes of individual men and women. When you make an assertion about the aggregate, it is perfectly valid to make a counterpoint about individual members of the aggregate.’

    Let’s see what George Washington had to say about that:

    ‘Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice ? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.’

  32. So, pointing to some people with ‘minds of peculiar structure’ doesn’t rebut the idea that mankind in general needs religion.

    1. Even if you could successfully establish that mankind “needs” religion [and you can’t] that does nothing to establish whether or not any particular set of religious claims are true.

      All I’m interested in hearing about in apologia for religion is truth. I don’t give a rat’s ass what Irving Kristol or George Washington think is “necessary”.

  33. It was hand-me-down Nietchzeanism wedded to hand-me-down Misesism, put inot a comic book plot. But I guess that’s something of an achievement.

    1. It was “hand me down Nietzcheanism” in the sense that Marx wrote “hand me down Hegelianism” – it employed similar terms to argue the exact opposite points.

      Anyone who thinks Nietzsche and Rand are similar doesn’t really understand either of them very well.

      1. Please eludicate.
        I like both Nietzsche and Rand, and I do see similarities. In fact, I think Rand even lifts the term “slave morality” right out of Nietzsche. They are also pretty focused on individual self-development. If you wanna be all pseudo-po-psychology, self-actualization.

        What do you see as the fundamental differences?

        1. I think that it can’t be overemphasized that Nietzsche utterly rejects reason both as a tool of cognition and as a means to performing moral analysis.

          We always have to remember that Nietzsche sees Socrates as every bit as dangerous a competitor as Christ.

          Rand saw the universe as a place that was ultimately comprehensible. She considered the appropriate tool to use to achieve that comprehension to be axiomatic or “naive” reason. She was a “nature” ethicist, by which I mean that she believed that by rationally identifying Man’s nature one could devise an appropriate morality for him.

          Nietzsche rejected each of these. He not only considered the universe fundamentally incomprehensible, he denied the value of comprehension and found fault with philosophers for uncritically assuming that truth was important or valuable. To the extent that Nietzsche believed one could apprehend important truths, he certainly did not think that you did so with reason; his famous infatuation with the “will” makes this clear, as does a continual flirtation he makes with a sort of undefined non-rational aesthetic sense that identifies ineffable truth by direct perception of art [particularly music]. Nietzsche definitely was not a nature ethicist, because he not only denied that reason was a good tool for moral analysis – he rejected the entire idea of moral analysis, in favor of the naked assertion of unsupported moral claims by artist/creators who would by their deceptions create a moral horizon within which the members of their “peoples” could live. In that, at least, Nietzsche was infinitely more like Strauss than he was like Rand.

          Nietzsche’s literary style and taste in rhetoric might make it look like there’s some overlap between his individualism and Rand’s, but it’s an illusion. Nietzsche certainly didn’t want a universal individualism like Rand did. In fact, he specifically identified universal individualism as pernicious and destructive of culture. If Rand had come before Nietzsche and not after, I think Nietzsche would have singled her out for particular disdain, and probably would have tossed in a line for the “Last Men” to say to Zarathustra that would have been specifically designed to malign Rand.

          1. Okay, I’ll grant there are significant differences, but having differences in outlook (rationlist vs. non-rationalist). I’m also not sure I would put Rand as firmly in the universal individualist camp are you do. If you look at Stirner, you can see echos of his writing in BOTH Nietzche and Rand.

            I see them as part of a family tree of egoist-individualist writers that form a kind of body of philosophical work that stands opposed to the socialist-collectivist tradition. There are divergences and differences amoung them, for sure, but they also share some fundamental ideas that link them together.

            1. Er having some differences doesn’t negate the other similarities. (Got ahead of myself).

  34. Her best-known novels, 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. Yet over the years, Rand’s writing has been routinely dismissed as juvenile and subliterate when it has been considered at all.

    Is that really good evidence? Is that evidence that Ayn Rand herself would find persuasive? Note that the Bible has outsold her books, and tends to rank first is nearly every (US) survey of the greatest book every, not just just 20th c. And yet Rand herself dismissed it as “juvenile and subliterate,” no?

    Her books are for the most part bad writing; if you want to read them because you enjoy the philosophy, fine, but the characters are still cardboard cutouts. I also don’t get off on rape fantasy, unlike her. We the Living is pretty good, though.

  35. Rand’s books have sold 12 million is supposed to convince people it’s great? The Da Vinci Code has sold 80 million. Does that mean that critics and I have to take it seriously?

  36. Watch for Shoshana Milgram’s biography of AR, due out soon. It will be more sympathetic than either of these others.

  37. Fluffy, everything you said is true enough, except we were talking about “nation-states” specifically. Those peculiar (18th Century?) territorial thingees that make up the membership of the U.N. and have flags and declare wars on each other and shit like that.

  38. re: “‘Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports…”

    George Washington was right about the morality or ethics part. Wrong about the religion part. I mean he was a great guy and all, but he wasn’t always right about everything.

  39. ‘George Washington was right about the morality or ethics part. Wrong about the religion part. I mean he was a great guy and all, but he wasn’t always right about everything.’

    So, ‘reason and experience’ have refuted Washington’s claims? I would have thought that experience has, if anything, buttressed his assertions. When has a militantly post-Christian society benefited from renouncing religion? Or, for that matter, a militantly post (insert traditional religion) society?

  40. Even if the revolutionary regime was trying to establish a new religion, if this was done by an attack on the traditional religion of the people, the results tend to be the same in practice as if they went right out and called themselves anti-religious. The French Revolution is an example – many Deists who wanted a Cult of Reason (How *dare* you call us anti-religious?) but in practice focused their efforts on uprooting the actually existing religion of the people.

  41. Chrome users are still being silenced! WWARD?

  42. We don’t read novels anymore. Saying that ‘Atlas’ is too long is like saying you fall asleep during Wagner. Of course you do; these are the artistic devices of a past age, and all we can do is try to develop a critical eye for what they meant when they were important. Rand wrote big, “three-decker” (Kipling’s term) Russian novels. Nine out of ten of those who dismiss her for that, also can’t work their way through Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky. Kids, the 20th cent. was a long time ago. When you go into their art forms, take a jacket and a flashlight. Your GPS won’t work.

    1. Your GPS won’t work.

      And apparently neither will the short attention spans of the “instant gratification” generations.

  43. comatus,

    Writer buddy John had a similar observation/complaint. His first book was only 94,000 words, but his friends were complaining that it was “too long”. Bad formatting didn’t help, making it over 600 pages before he cut the spacing down and it is now 400+ pages. These are people who read a lot too. I liked it, but I got to help so I have a bias. That story just would not be right if it were not that long. The rest in the series are much shorter, but you really need to read the first one to get into the rest.

    The comment about Rand being into fantasy rape or something. In books with serious topics, romance and relationships, surviving rape seems to be a simple vehicle to show the strength of a relationship. I never read any Rand (‘my’ character is supposed to read Atlas annually) so I am not sure how she uses it. Would like to be educated on that bit.

    1. I’ll over-simplify and summarize:

      Rand’s sex scenes in both The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged infamously have the female protagonist taken quite forcibly by the male protaogonist.

      Written that way because that’s how Rand fantasized about being taken, by a masterful man that knows they both want each other, even if the woman isn’t acknowledging the mutual desire.

      Which irritates a lot of people , of course. Causes a lot of controversy and discussions where people use phrases like “the difference between ‘ravishing a woman’ and ‘raping a woman’. ”

      Makes for a good essay question “Was the sex scene in The Fountainhead a rape? Why or why not?”

      (the sex is Atlas Shrugged is a lot less controversial. Dagny Taggart is a lot less sexually repressed)

      Rand was an interesting person in her emotional life. A clear Alpha Female who prefered to dominate almost every situation she was in, but in bed, she wanted a man who could put her in her place (at her command and direction, suggests some of the autobiography of Nathaniel Branden).

      1. EJ,

        Thank you!

        John writes his love scenes as consentual, staying in limits, safe-words if needed, etc.

        Rape scenes are a whole other matter. The ones in Suki II are drug induced, used for financial gain. Suki III, financial gain is an element but the primary motivation is revenge by an ex.

      2. Rape fantasies are actually incredibly common, which is why I don’t get everyone’s hysterical objections to Rand’s sex scenes. Maybe I’ve spent too much time reading Savage Love, but if Rands big detractors are as progressive as they like to think they are, they have to be disingenuous not to get the whole fantasy/kink aspect. And not to separate it from the reality of actual rape. That’s pretty much what they spend considerable time doing in their own discussions of sexuality.

        1. One of the many good things I can say about John’s books, the rape scenes are depicted as true rape scenes and the characters do not look back at the events fondly.

      3. “If it was rape, it was rape by engraved invitation.”

  44. And you’re going to replace the nation-state with what exactly, Liberty Mike? Puerile.

  45. I’d rather chew a giant roll of tinfoil than read a Russian novel, but I find Rand’s books real page-turners.

    Is anyone else finding that the nation-state vs city-state-ish entity is missing the point? Yes, the city-state invariably finds itself under siege from larger political entities hostile to its existence and yes, the citizens of modern mega-states tend to find themselves enslaved in all but name to that same State. Neither is a workable model, it would seem. Isn’t there a happy medium here, say the originalist Constitutional model where a large nation-state is charged with defending the smaller political subdivisions and keeping commerce between them open, with the smaller divisions left free to tend to their own affairs?

    The more I learn about politics, the smarter guys like Jefferson, Madison and Washington seem.

    1. Is anyone else finding that the nation-state vs city-state-ish entity is missing the point?

      But it’s not missing the point at all.

      The more I learn about politics, the smarter guys like Jefferson, Madison and Washington seem.

      I have read and liked them too.

      And it all seemed like a great idea, up until about the time of the Civil War. Then, some (about half) of those little “smaller divisions” got some new ideas. We all know how well that went.

      Of course you realize, the Jefferson-Madison-Washington experiment very nearly never got off the ground, because they nearly had the Civil War right after the American Revolution. That they got nearly a century down the road before that land mine went off is a minor miracle.

      When you find a new form of government that gives us all the benefits of the nation state — and I particularly mean the ability to field large, highly effective military force — and yet with none of the down sides of the nation-state, let us know. Because I agree, the nation-state can be a real bummer.

      But until a better answer comes up, you can bet the nation-state is going to rule.

  46. The natural state of man is governance. Everyone is born underneath authority. Parents, even in a Libertopia, control, dominate, coerce, provide and sustain children. It’s a necessity. The more eyes looking after children increases the probability of them surviving.

    This is why government comes so easily to man; without it we’d all have died shortly after birth.

    We don’t, and can’t, know anything other than top/down control.

  47. Parents, even in a Libertopia, control, dominate, coerce, provide and sustain children. It’s a necessity. The more eyes looking after children increases the probability of them surviving.

    And it prevents them from slacking off in the factories and mines.

    1. if only we could find a substantial deposit of children to mine, we would have cheap labor forever! kids mining kids! how awesome would that be? much more free time for yachting.

      1. Hollywood does that. Just check the recent headlines.

  48. Jeffersonian, Russian scholars tell me the novels suffer in translation. Then again, Russians love suffering. I neglected the comparison to Victor Hugo, who I’d have never read except for Rand’s unlikely plug. “The Man Who Laughs” is pretty damn excruciating for about 200 pages (translation again?) and then gets gripping. So Rand’s got that going for her: if you make it just 100 into her books, she’s got ya. Shorter Victor Hugo, right.

    ev, you are trolling, right? Good one Suki. You & me’s pals now.

    1. Every child is born into a governance system, even if it’s not necessarily the state doing it. By the time children break free of parental control, they are already indoctrinates with the idea of top/down control, as it’s the only system they’ve ever known.

      It’s not the hardest fucking concept out there.

    2. some 19th century novelists serialized their work too. i wonder if this is true for Hugo as well? Dickens did this and as much as i abhor his ideals his work is good.

  49. *indoctrinated

  50. Saying religion is necessary for “political prosperity” just begs the question — which religion? Most of them are mutually exclusive so you can’t say that one is as good as the other. And if we are going to assert the superiority of one over the rest we must resort to reason as our basis after all. Some comparisons are easy. Christianity is far superior to Islam if for no other reason than its founder was not an illiterate, murderous brigand whose hobbies were slave taking and pedophilia. Likewise sacrificing virgins will not keep a volcano from erupting. Other comparisons may not be so easy to make. But the fact we can make them sans any belief in the Cosmic Easter Bunny puts paid to the argument before it gets started.

    Religion is by definition belief without evidence. This is why environmentalism and communism etc… can be recognized as being religious in nature. Fantasy fills the void where knowledge is lacking and people create that which they wish were true in neglect of, or even opposition to the known facts.

    Washington was a brilliant man, as indeed were all of the founding fathers, but this wasn’t one of his shining moments. He even picked a particularly poor example of using oaths taken in court as an instance where religion is necessary. I would think no matter one’s beliefs the thought of hanging or doing time in jail for perjury would be a much more powerful incentive than some supposed punishment which may or may not come after death and which in any case can be avoided by the simple expedient of being repentant after the fact.


    1. This is why environmentalism and communism etc… can be recognized as being religious in nature.

      yes!!!!!!!!


    2. This is why environmentalism and communism etc… can be recognized as being religious in nature.

      yes!!!!!!!!

      1. Religion is by definition belief without evidence. This is why environmentalism and communism etc… can be recognized as being religious in nature. Fantasy fills the void where knowledge is lacking and people create that which they wish were true in neglect of, or even opposition to the known facts.

        And also true of [fill in blank]ism.
        (yep that includes libertarianism).

  51. Christianity is far superior to Islam if for no other reason than its founder was not an illiterate, murderous brigand whose hobbies were slave taking and pedophilia. Likewise sacrificing virgins will not keep a volcano from erupting…

    Perhaps Christianity as we know it today. In AD 100-200, it was an end-of-the-world cult (read or re-read the Book of Revelation).

    1. By our modern standards, the Christian God is a slaveholder and a pedophiliac. So I don’t hold it against Islam in particular.

      In the OT, Yahweh sends an angel to capture one of Abraham’s escaped slaves so that Abraham can rape her. Yahweh was apparently a big supporter of fugitive slave laws.

      And in the NT, since it is extremely unlikely Mary would have remained an unmarried virgin after the age of 13 or so, that means that God himself via the mechanism of the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary when our laws would have considered it statutory rape to do so. [In the context of persistent Mediterranean myths about gods visiting maidens and impregnating them, it’s pretty clear that the Bible story about Jesus’ conception is meant to describe actual sex, in the same way all the stories about Zeus fathering demigod bastards on human women are meant to describe actual sex.]

      1. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention how in the Book of Acts the evangelists on more than one occasion preach to an individual, and then baptize that individual “and his household”. The underlying Greek term makes it clear that by this the author of Acts is saying that the new Christian was compelling his slaves to accept baptism, and that the evangelists were more than happy to baptize them despite their lack of individual conversion or consent.

        These compulsory baptisms would later on occur on the scale of entire tribes and nations, but these small-scale forced baptisms of slaves are to my mind even more damning, since we’re talking about fucking apostles here, who supposedly were acting under the direct influence of the Holy Spirit. So apparently when the Christian god sends one of his aspects to directly inspire you, one of the things you’re inspired to do is to endorse the structure of a slaveholding society by supporting the actions of slaveholders who are engaged in compelling slaves to adopt a new religion. Nice going, Holy Spirit.

      2. …God himself via the mechanism of the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary when our laws would have considered it statutory rape to do so.

        I wonder if our laws would consider artificial insemination of an underage girl to be statutory rape – or would it come under something else?

  52. Perhaps Christianity as we know it today. In AD 100-200, it was an end-of-the-world cult (read or re-read the Book of Revelation).

    Another reason why girls like me are better off in the USA of today than anyplace else.

  53. “her thoroughgoing materialism”

    “The clash between her romantic and rational sides”

    WTF? Get educated…

  54. Christianity (some forms of modern Protestantism especially) is a great choice for many reasons:

    The Bible is debated as to whether it is a record of man’s interaction with God, or divinely inspired. This allows a good amount of wiggle room in the interpretation within a general framework outlined by the Ten Commandments. Contrast that with the Koran, which is supposedly the word of God himself, and doctrinally unalterable. Even the crazy crap about killing infidels.

    Since the Bible is not universally accepted as infallible, many of the Commandments can be interpreted as temporal (I hope I’m using that word right. I mean, pertaining to the time they were proclaimed).

    There are other reasons, of course, but I can’t keep my train of thought on the tracks…stuff like salvation being internal, not external, the enshrinement of Free Will as the greatest gift of God to man, etc. etc.

    1. This is a load of tribalistic b.s. There are liberal Muslims, just as there are liberal Xians.

  55. For all her political and economic insight, she had no idea how having a baby, a disabled sibling, or any totally dependent person in the family, could alter a person’s priorities. The job-reward stops being the main goal; keeping that baby (or brother, sister, whatever) clothed, fed, and warm, becomes the #1 driving force.

  56. Raised Catholic, I went thru my explicit atheist phase long ago. Now I appreciate the whole RC thing much more although I still don’t really ‘believe’ it. Both the anti-religion liberals and libertarians can’t get away from one inescapable truth — that it is simply objective fact that Christianity (at least major elements within it — it’s not monolithic) is the historical vehicle by which the western notions of universal individual human rights (and justice) came into their own.

    They are certainly not uniquely or inherently Christian ideas, but its the Christian version that ‘took’ with the greatest cross-cultural appeal. Christianity was the conduit.

    Even in their reaction the secular communists and socialists are shaped by it even as they kicked aside the scaffolding. The ‘progressives’ can trace their better ideas back to William Wilberforce and his fellow travelers.

    The one-sided Christianity-bashing by many libertarians and Objectivists (and leftists) is historically ignorant.

    1. You mean Christianity happened to be the dominant religion in the area of the world where 1000 years of philosophical and legal evolution led to notions of individual liberty–a product of a movement that placed itself in direct opposition to church rule.

    2. I’m with Tony on this one. Western Civilization owes more to Athens than to Jerusalem. The West slowly became freer for two reasons: the head start it got from the Roman Empire spreading classical ideas in Western Europe, and the geography of the continent, which prevented all of Europe from falling into a one-state continent (the Chinese were ahead of us, but stagnated from the lack of competition). Christianity helped in some cases, hurt in others, but was mostly along for the ride. It was oppressive when society was oppressive, and tolerant when society was tolerant. If Buddhism has been the primary religion of Europe, I don’t think things would have been much different.

      1. Regarding:
        “Western Civilization owes more to Athens than to Jerusalem”

        Sigh.

        Yes, Christianity is a Hellenized messianic Jewish mystery religion. And yes, Christianity piggybacked on the Roman Empire. But that’s the whole damned point.
        Sure, the Greek philosophers had great ideas, many of which influenced Christianity (Paul, etc), but in practice Greek ideas of a sort of equality only covered *Greeks*. Same thing for the Romans. It was the synthesis in the form of Christianity, with its Jewish monotheistic foundation, that is the source/conduit/turbocharge for the notion of universal human worth/dignity. In particular, the great leap was probably the decision in the early Church that Gentiles could become Christian without having to explicitly become Jewish or follow Jewish religious/dietary law. All Christians share something in common regardless of language or nationality — and every non-Christian is a potential Christian. That *did* affect things, however much normal divisive human nature reared its ugly head in practice.

        The various secular humanists, and later socialists and Marxists kept some of these beliefs regarding some form of universal human rights even while rejecting (with some very good justification) the temporal influence of the Church hierarchy, and ditching the supernatural component entirely (although not really — what else is Marx’s ‘scientific materialism’;) )

  57. Where would you rather live? Gaza, Libertopia or Ayn Rand’s apartment?

  58. Maybe Rand should have a character raped by Roman Polanski. Some readers would eat that stuff up.

    1. Wasn’t that the Diary of Anne Frank?

  59. I read Ayn Rand for the first time when I came from Argentina looking for the freedom I did not have there.
    I agree with most of her philosophy but there is something that is missing in her books that I think shows her blind spots. Can you guess what that is? I will give you time to think about it and tell me, if you do you might get a prize, the understanding of the limits to individual freedom and the importance of states. I give you a few hours to think about it. I will be back

  60. Man, I missed a lot of post, maybe is the children I have around me! I am a convert to Catholicism, what do you mean by “church rule”, I cannot see it or find it in the Church.

    1. Although Rand did leave a large blind spot in her novels in how to treat children, it is easy to reconcile children with libertarianism. Since my children are the result of a conscious act, I am responsible for taking care of my own children until they are grown. I am not, however, responsible for other people’s kids.

  61. It is me again, what is missing is children, once you have them you are responsible for their well being, at least for a time, also the well being of your wife if you homeschool like we do, and that brings us to the state idea where many families associate with others to defend themselves and those they love.

    1. I don’t think you can see that Rand’s philosophy has no room for children in it.

      I think it is fair to say that she doesn’t address them enough, and that this is probably due to her lack of personal experience with them.

      But since Rand’s ethics is a nature-based ethics, it can be made to accomodate anything you can successfully identify as a fundamental aspect of Man’s nature. If she screwed up and left something out because she failed to make the right identifications, we can just add it. Whether Peikoff likes it or not.

      I would say two things about the impact childrearing has on Rand’s ethics:

      First, many people try to argue that the fact that we raise children shows that altruism is part of our nature. I would dispute this, because I dispute that raising children is an altruistic act. We are biologically driven to raise children, in much the same way that we are biologically driven to eat or have sex. We are programmed to experience pleasure from taking care of children, at least when we are sane. Since I don’t view eating or fucking as altruistic acts, I also don’t view raising one’s own offspring as an altruistic act.

      Second, the real mistake that people who argue for ethical systems based on the so-called altruistic aspects of childrearing make is the false extension of the principle. They argue, in effect, “If you can defer your own satisfaction to care for your own children, you can defer your own satisfaction to selflessly toil for the nation as a whole,” and they have no grounds, really, for arguing this. The fact that it does seem to be an aspect of our nature to care for our own children does not demonstrate that our nature can be re-made to make us want to toil without reward for people we have never met and will never meet.

  62. What? No clever alt text for that Rand Rorschach Test pic?

  63. Thesis:
    Kroneborge dude, I didn’t say anything about getting rid of all government. I was thinking more along the lines of right-sized territories.

    There’s an interesting study I can dig up on the optimal size for a democratic territorial government. I forget the exact size they came up with, but I do remember that the United States exceeds that size by far.

    Antithesis:

    There’s an interesting bunch of history along the same lines that I could dig up. The ancient Greeks believed a city-state shouldn’t exceed about 50,000 people.

    For one thing, if it got any bigger than no one person could hope to understand everything that was going on.

    So they had a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn’t be beat, and everything was fine until the next morning when first the Macedonians, and then Romans, showed up. Upon which the Greeks found themselves slightly conquered.

    These people who showed up in the morning did not constrain themselves with the idea that a nation-state should limit its size so severely.

    Really big nation-states are really good at producing really big armies. That’s why anarchist dreams will never prevail.

    Hey, I got a crazy idea. What if we set up a system of government where you had these “democratic territorial governments”, and they got together and agreed to form sort of a big super-government? The big super-government could do things that require size and economies of scale, like raise armies and manage foreign policy. Then the little governments could run their day to day affairs as their citizens saw fit, without having to worry about being to small to survive in the nation-state world. The big government could make sure that all the little governments got along and stayed friends, by regulating the trade between them and setting up a common monetary system. Since we’re used to saying “nation-state”, we could even be cute and call the big government the nation part and the little government the state.

    Naah, it’d never work.

    1. Hey, wordwall. STOP IT.

      1. he made a good point though Suki…

    2. priceless.

    3. Great idea but no, it wouldn’t work. For the same reason the European Union is more theory that fact.

      There’s this little problem of sovereignty that keeps getting in the way. Call it the ego of each of the little democratic territories.

      I’m not opposed in principle to what anarchists would like to achieve. I just don’t see that they’ve gotten anywhere near achieving it.

  64. When has a militantly post-Christian society benefited from renouncing religion?

    I’m not sure what a “militantly post-Christian society” means. I do know lots of people who have benefited personally by rejecting god-based religion, in terms of increased personal happiness, relief from the needless guilt and strange ideas that keep messing up their mental model of how the world really works.

  65. Rand wrote big, “three-decker” (Kipling’s term) Russian novels.

    OK, I’ll accept that as justification for the length of some of her books. But what about the thin characterizations — one of the points of lengthy novels is to have fleshed-out characterizations.

  66. When you find a new form of government that gives us all the benefits of the nation state — and I particularly mean the ability to field large, highly effective military force — and yet with none of the down sides of the nation-state, let us know.

    Not clear that the huge military is a boon. There are many cases of a nation-state’s huge military being misused by power seekers, to grossly understate the case.

    1. The boon is the fact that huge militaries can and are used to conquer and defend territory.

      Yeah sure this is a tool that can and does get misused, like any other.

      My point is that anarchism isn’t going to work until somebody finds a way to at least match the efficacy of this particular tool that nation-states produce.

      1. Terrorism. It’s what anarchists originally advocated, IIRC.

  67. We don’t, and can’t, know anything other than top/down control.

    Really? We don’t know any other model than top-down control? What’s all this trading and voluntary association and such going on?

  68. Sure, seguin, Christianity is great the more you gut the requirement that you actually have to believe and follow all of it. There’s some pretty wacky stuff in there.

  69. …what do you mean by “church rule”, I cannot see it or find it in the Church.

    Umm, you are aware that the Roman Catholic Church had more direct power over people’s lives in years past than it does now, aren’t you?

  70. sfalphageek, your analysis of the Greeks and the conquering Macedonians and Romans was all about which group ended up winning power. You said nothing about how happiness of individuals faired.

    1. Mike, sorry, it wasn’t clear in the post – somehow the comment upload ate my html tags.

      The top parts were quotes from earlier posts – my contribution, such as it was, was at the bottom.

    1. The earlier post he speaks of was mine. And I’m not sure but it looks like the server rodents ate it. Or something.

      Anyway,

      your analysis of the Greeks and the conquering Macedonians and Romans was all about which group ended up winning power. You said nothing about how happiness of individuals faired.

      I’m not arguing your point here at all, but you’re missing mine.

      Which is, that it doesn’t matter how happy people were or weren’t in the aftermath. They who had the power, made the decisions. Might made right, for all practical purposes.

      I gave up utopian dreams many years ago, at the same time I gave up religion. I’m looking for solutions that work.

      Small democracies (or similar) don’t have long term staying power in this world because they can’t defend themselves against larger powers. Hence it doesn’t matter how happy the people are (temporarily at best), if their order can’t survive.

      1. Utopian dreams are collectivist. Libertopian dreams are freedom.

  71. And my point is that when we say country X conquered country Y, all that keeps track of is which team of power holders is officially recognized as being in charge of a piece of territory.

    But it doesn’t tell you what it means to any particular individual citizen of either country. For instance, did auto workers in Detroit gain or lose from America’s victory over Japan in World War II?

  72. But it doesn’t tell you what it means to any particular individual citizen of either country. For instance, did auto workers in Detroit gain or lose from America’s victory over Japan in World War II?

    They lost on that one but won on the victory over Europe.

    What do I win?

  73. “Has any major postwar American author taken as much critical abuse as Ayn Rand?”

    dan brown.

    1. Dan Rather

      But he deserved it.

    2. I’ve sent a lot of abuse toward Dan Brown and toward James Patterson.
      One flaw I have is that I will pick up almost any book that I see lying around. As a defense mechanism, I no longer consider the works of those authors to be books.

    3. “major” not best-selling

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