Economics

Ayn Rand, Defender of Corporate Welfare

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I am not a huge fan of Ayn Rand, and Lord knows her novels are hard to get through, but this analysis of her economic thinking by Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, is head-smackingly clueless:

It is misleading to imply, as Morning Edition did, that Ayn Rand's philosophy was about free markets. The idea of promoting oneself at the expense of others, advocated by Rand, is consistent with taking advantage of whatever support one is able to get from the government in this process.

For example, the top executives of Wall Street banks are happy to take advantage of the implicit government guarantee given to too-big-to-fail banks as well as the explicit guarantee that is given through deposit insurance in addition to the support given by the Federal Reserve Board through access to its discount window and other facilities. It is politically advantageous for people who benefit from these and other types of government support to claim that they are advocates of free markets even if it is not true.

Baker, author of Taking Economics Seriously, evidently does not realize that the rap against Randians is supposed to be that they would heartlessly and shortsightedly stand by as banks fail, depositors lose their savings, and the financial system collapses. Here, for example, is the Ayn Rand Institute condemning both bank bailouts and federal deposit insurance, two of the government interventions that Baker claims are consistent with Rand's philosophy.

It is clear from Rand's essays and fiction that she took a dim view of businessmen who game the system, using government to gain an artificial advantage over their competitors or customers. Her books are replete with such characters, and they are not the heroes. She was emphatically pro-market as opposed to pro-business (hence Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal), and she never would have endorsed "promoting oneself at the expense of others" in the sense of seeking special breaks, subsidies, or privileges. In her vision, a moral man promotes himself by providing value to others, not by using force to get his way. No doubt it's true that many people who profess to believe in free markets, including self-identified Rand fans, do not uphold these principles, but that does not mean Rand herself did not. If you're going to take issue with Rand's ideas, it helps to have some inkling of what she actually said.

NEXT: Ron Paul Changes the Debate

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  1. Some of the villains in Atlas Shrugged could very well be Solyndra execs, as a matter of fact. Seems pretty cut-and-dried to me that she would be against the rent seeking welfare queens of today’s corporate world.

  2. If you’re going to take issue with Rand’s ideas, it helps to have some inkling of what she actually said.

    Oh, he has perfect knowledge of what the Ayn Rand in his head said; he doesn’t need to check her actual words. I mean, that might be inconvenient.

    1. When your opinion is informed by white-hot rage, the need for facts and fine distinctions disappears in the fallout.

      1. White hot rage, partisan stupidity, need for scapegoating…whatever. As long as he has someone to blame, especially someone dead who didn’t even remotely advocate what he’s talking about.

        1. Don’t forget the likelihood that his audience will not be comprised of folks who have read Rand, thus whatever he says concerning her is the truth.

    2. Reading is Hard!

  3. Jacob, why do you not embrace the sometimes hilarious wonder that is the alt text? Or designate someone to do it for you; I’m sure there would be plenty of volunteers.

    Caption Contest!

    “Before becoming a writer, I was A Flock of Seagulls groupie.”

    1. Running with the hipster meme: “I liked capitalism *before* the Tea Party made it popular”

  4. social security, etc.

  5. I have yet to read a single work by Rand.

    But the fact that most market critics out there tend to hold her up as satan incarnate suggests that I should look into her work after all.

    Needless to say, I do not see myself reading over a thousand pages to find out who the hell John Galt is.

    1. I read The Fountainhead and liked it. Started Atlas but couldn’t finish it.

      1. couldn’t didn’t

        1. was too sane to didn’t

      2. I prefer her non-fiction work, e.g. The Virtue of Selfishness.

      3. I thought I was the only one…

    2. Read We the Living. Much less didactic.

      1. Yes.

      2. And the same book as Atlas and Fountainhead, when it comes down to it… just shorter and not as inflammatorial blunt about socialist fascists large and small.

      3. Anthem is nice

    3. To get her gist just read some of her non-fiction philosophical essays.

      1. Yup. Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal is pretty good, and relatively slim.

        1. This can be some hard reading but worth it.

          1. BTW there’s an article by some one named “Alan Greenspan”.

    4. Anthem is a good place to start. Clocks in at around 95 pages, you can read it in a couple of hours.

      1. …and I downloaded it for free from the B & N website onto my nook

    5. I think everyone, at some point in their lives, should take the time to read Atlas Shrugged.

      As an example of fiction writing, it’s a disaster. The characters lack subtlety. The tone is strident. It’s really painful to read.

      But, there’s a great deal of insight within it if one is willing to look past the weaknesses. I, who really dislike objectivism, who think Rand was an overrated thinker, think it one of the more powerful pleas for people to be allowed to exercise their genius to come out of the last century.

      It is as I imagine the song of the Sirens to be – terrible, beautiful, painful and sweet.

      1. As an example of fiction writing, it’s a disaster. The characters lack subtlety. The tone is strident. It’s really painful to read.

        Alot of angst too…angsty angst!!!

        Its basically a long verbose diatribe against the government and for her weird sexual fetishes. Apparently rape is flattering to powerful women.

        1. It’s not rape if she wants it rough and consents to it. It’s role-playing.

        2. Can’t rape the willing

        3. A discussion of the sex in Rand’s work.

          http://www.troynovant.com/McEl…..arkly.html

        4. There is no rape in Atlas Shrugged.

      2. I liked the part where they were looking for the maker of the engine. That was more amusing that most of the rest.

    6. I think she introduces Galt at least by around page 700.

    7. Read Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, first.

  6. Dean Baker: ignorance on parade. Even reading wikipedia should have cleared him up on that one. I guess he was one of those students who was so lazy he couldn’t even get through the Cliff’s Notes.

    1. “I guess he was one of those students who was so lazy he couldn’t even get through the Cliff’s Notes.”

      More often I find those spouting nonsense about Rand are only repeating what they heard second- or third-hand.
      S/he had a college room-mate who read the introduction to Atlas Shrugged and they spent a beer-fueled evening griping about the ‘power’ of business.

  7. Ayn Rand Is Not a Supporter of Free Markets.

    The idea of promoting oneself at the expense of others, advocated by Rand, is consistent with taking advantage of whatever support one is able to get from the government in this process.

    I guess assuming the conclusion is the new Q.E.D.

  8. Oh the comments are delicious:

    The question Ayn Rand and her acolytes can’t answer and don’t even want to ask is: what is profit’s origin in capitalism?

    They’re afraid to answer this question because it undermines everything they think they know. They’re unable to answer it because capitalism’s surface appearances conceal its deeper layers. Thus, without any scientific economic analysis, they can’t answer it. They’re out in a fantastical wilderness wishing their ideological nonsense was the truth.

    Good God..The dogmatic semantics of progressive EKKKONOMICS is fucking hilarious.

    1. There’s also a staggering amount of projection in there. Staggering.

    2. WTF? Is he honest to god proclaiming that economists have never created a theory as to what the origin of profit is? Or is this like an acid rant, where he has seen the deep true nature of something and it would freak out our minds if we saw it too?

      1. Is he honest to god proclaiming that economists have never created a theory as to what the origin of profit is? Or is this like an acid rant, where he has seen the deep true nature of something and it would freak out our minds if we saw it too?

        The answer is Yes, I’m afraid. Sounds like the type of person if you asked “please clarify what your definition of ______ is”, he would declare that you’re too stupid to comprehend.

      2. What he’s doing is hinting that profit comes from “surplus value”, without actually saying it, because that would make people think he’s a Marxist.

    3. Let’s see. Ayn Rand promoted Ludwig von Mises back when he was (in America anyway) a nobody.

      Mises built up on Menger and Bohm Bawerks theories about the structure of capital, the role of interest rates in mediating between the different time preferences of the people participating in the economy, and the coupling of these interest rates with the profitability of ventures to mediate capital and labor flows into high demand activities from low demand activities.

      Jesus. As some physicist said about a dumb theory that was so bad that it explained nothing:

      “It’s not right. It’s not even wrong.”

      1. The Mises Institute has had to digitize Mises’s works and give them away as free ebooks over the internet, like Jehovah’s Witnesses’ literature or something, apparently because not enough people want to buy them. (By contrast, Rand’s novels seem to hold their own in a competitive market.) In the absence of price signals to tell the Mises Institute how many copies to produce, how can it do this without causing economic chaos?

        1. Everyone gets a bazillion points for this.

        2. give them away as free ebooks over the internet…In the absence of price signals to tell the Mises Institute how many copies to produce, how can it do this without causing economic chaos?

          You should have taken a left at Albuquerque, the retard thread is one more up.

        3. I already answered this retard’s question the last time he asked it.

          I guess the retard doesn’t read very well.

          He is, however, showing a trait I’ve come to associate with Objectivists, confusing patterns which are not economically scarce with property and services which are.

  9. Did Dean Baker take the time to read anything written by Ms. Rand? I first read The Fountainhead as a junior in high school. By the end of the book, I pretty much understood where she was coming from. For Dean Baker: she really believes in personal responsibility, and personal achievement. I agree with jester above. Baker seems intellectually lazy, which probably makes him the smartest dude on the Left.

  10. “It is misleading to imply, as Morning Edition did, that Ayn Rand’s philosophy was about free markets.”

    I should have just stopped reading. *should

  11. Let’s get something straight.

    “Wall Street banks are happy to take advantage of the implicit government guarantee given to too-big-to-fail banks…”

    Whether a firm is ‘happy’ to take advantage is utterly immaterial; were you to find one which did not take advantage, here is the word you would use to describe that firm: suicidal.

    1. Yep. You can stand on principle or you can stay in the market. I can’t really fault businesses for exploiting government handouts and tax breaks to their advantage; hell if they can’t even do that right, how would they handle competition? Unfortunately, the government is standing down with outreached hands feeding these businesses while shouting “See?? See?? Businesses are out of control and taking advantage of the system!!” The fuck are you supposed to do in this case, when half of America uses Wall Street as a pejorative for an economic system that’s being misrepresented? How the hell are you suppose to fix the problem?

  12. “If you’re going to take issue with Rand’s ideas, it helps to have some inkling of what she actually said.”

    Love your work, Jacob, but Welcome to Our World. – A Long-Time Objectivist

  13. I am amazed at how many times I hear libertarianism described as the “belief in individual liberty”. Who wouldn’t want that and only that?
    What many people get wrong about libertarians, Objectivists, and others who espouse individual liberty is that it is two-part. Individual liberty is meaningless to a libertarian without “personal responsibility”. That is very different from “promoting oneself at the expense of others.”

    1. “‘Individual liberty’ is meaningless to a libertarian without ‘personal responsibility.'”

      I think I read that in the credits of one of those ass-fucking videos that are sold to subsidize Reason Magazine.

      1. Got a link? I am a connoisseur of ass-fucking videos & I’d love to find one that has a libertarian bent.

  14. her novels are hard to get through

    Not for me. But they do demand a little from the reader. Here’s Rand’s definition of “plot” as it relates to her approach to fiction-writing:

    “A plot is a purposeful progression of logically connected events leading to the resolution of a climax.

    The word “purposeful” in this definition has two applications: it applies to the author and to the characters of a novel. It demands that the author devise a logical structure of events, a sequence in which every major event is connected with, determined by and proceeds from the preceding events of the story?a sequence in which nothing is irrelevant, arbitrary or accidental, so that the logic of the events leads inevitably to a final resolution.

    Such a sequence cannot be constructed unless the main characters of the novel are engaged in the pursuit of some purpose?unless they are motivated by some goals that direct their actions. In real life, only a process of final causation?i.e., the process of choosing a goal, then taking the steps to achieve it?can give logical continuity, coherence and meaning to a man’s actions. Only men striving to achieve a purpose can move through a meaningful series of events.

    Contrary to the prevalent literary doctrines of today, it is realism that demands a plot structure in a novel. All human actions are goal-directed, consciously or subconsciously; purposelessness is contrary to man’s nature: it is a state of neurosis. Therefore, if one is to present man as he is?as he is metaphysically, by his nature, in reality?one has to present him in goal-directed action.”

    1. Also, Jacob displays unusual restraint and good taste in not utilizing the idiotic “dominatrix” pic so popular with Rand’s other ambivalent “fans” here.

      1. Rand-Boys prefer to spank themselves rather than have Ayn administer the punishment.

    2. Yes, and perhaps ironically, they do require a little something of the reader: charity, in the literary department. She was clearly gifted in her ability to discern, to deconstruct, and to predict the mechanism of the abstract socio-political machine, but as far as being a good writer, she was a pretty sorry example. Her writing reads, to me, as though conjured into existence by sheer force of will.

    3. Would you mind giving your handle for your mindless ran(d)t so you may be debated?

      Is it really too hard to defend your statement?

  15. To throw this idiot Baker a life preserver, maybe it was the insane length of Atlas Shrugged that deterred him from actually reading her work. (The Fountainhead was shorter, but still long.)

    1. Not sure why you find the length of the novel “insane.” That’s rather like saying a painting is too big, or a symphony takes up too many minutes. If the novel is entertaining and compelling, the number of words is irrelevant. I’ve been unable to finish several “classics” that are 1/10 the size of Atlas.

      1. your faulty assumption, block of idiocy, is that Mr. Mark found “the novel is entertaining and compelling”. Mr. Mark never made an accounting of the number of words, so you have constructed a straw man in your own image.

        1. maybe it was the insane length of Atlas Shrugged that deterred him from actually reading her work

          1. Basic logic, dumbass:

            If the novel is entertaining and compelling, the number of words is irrelevant.

            If the novel isn’t or isn’t compelling, the number of words is liable to be relevant.

            1. To clear this up some…

              I found the first third of Atlas Shrugged to be compelling and entertaining, but then it occurred to me that I probably agree with her anyway and I’ve got other things to do.

              One day, I’ll get the Cliff’s Notes.

              1. jester is a Mr. Mark too. Who are you?

        2. Emperor Joseph II: My dear young man, don’t take it too hard. Your work is ingenious. It’s quality work. And there are simply too many notes, that’s all. Just cut a few and it will be perfect.
          Mozart: Which few did you have in mind, Majesty?. -Amadeus

          1. all of them. Mozart’s music sounds exactly like it was written by a 5 year old.

            1. ^The stupid is strong with this one.

      2. “Not sure why you find the length of the novel “insane.” That’s rather like saying a painting is too big, or a symphony takes up too many minutes.”
        This ^
        I *like* reading; the act of reading. So if a book is long, well, I get more enjoyment.
        But along about the 10th or 12th page of Galt’s speech, mego, and I skip forward.
        Rand was a philosopher, a novelist, an essayist and only OK as a writer.

        1. No, but I’ve been to some Opera’s that dragged on. Rand took alot of words to say what a lot less could have said and repeated herself quite frequently. Atlas shrugged works equally as well smacking someone upside the head to make a point as forcing them to read it.

          1. Can’t disagree; cut it by half and it would still work.

            1. I just don’t get why the 2010 movie people didn’t at least try to tell the basic story in one film. If they thought there was going to be money available to make three films, they were high.

              1. It would have to be a long damn movie to cover the entire plot. I mean, do you really think you could cut 2/3 of the minutes of AS Part I and have it make any sense or do the novel’s plot justice?

                The real problem was that there just wasn’t a big enough audience to make this endeavor profitable. I mean, they could * try * to jam all the Dirty Harry movies into a single 2 hour movie, but why would they do that when every one of them made money?

                I would pay to see all three parts, but after Part I lost money, Parts 2 and 3 aren’t likely to get made.

    2. On and on goes the bitching about the length of Atlas Shrugged.

      I know that I am not alone (because others have reported the same though upon finishing reading) in wishing that the story could continue because it was just so well written. A parable, but a well written one.

      1. I thought AS could have had about a third of the words excised and not lose anything important, by someone who knew how to tighten and sharpen prose.

        This pisses off hardcore Oists, but fuck them. The novel rambled too much for my tastes.

        1. One could almost say you could gambol throughout the pages.

  16. This “there is no such thing as ‘free markets’ ” idea of Baker’s is becoming a widespread meme on the left. Basically, they point to the existence of bailouts, government guarantees, and other corporate giveaways as some kind of prima facie evidence of bad faith on the part of capitalism’s arguments, I guess because the status quo is supposed to be the only kind of capitalist system that could or has ever existed. Never mind that the same people making this argument are usually also the same ones who think all these interventions were great measures to save the little guy from the market’s depredations.

    1. * should have written “bad faith on the part of capitalism’s advocates

    2. “This “there is no such thing as ‘free markets’ ” idea of Baker’s is becoming a widespread meme on the left.”
      Yes, and it is also self-contradictory when the left claims the problem is a ‘free market’.
      They’re right; the left has made sure there is no ‘free market’, so if there were any honesty, they would admit their efforts have caused the problems.

    3. I am reading Mann’s 1493. Anyone else? Timely stuff.

  17. Baker is obviously relying on third-hand accounts of Rand’s work as seen through the distorted lens of leftist ideology.

    I used to be completely dismissive of Rand and then I read Atlas Shrugged. Now I can’t believe so many people misconstrue her beliefs. She is many things as a writer, but subtle is not one of them. She beats you over the head with every idea.

    1. There’s a difference between misconstrue and misrepresent.

    2. A lot of people who haven’t read Rand form a negative opinion of her work based on their interactions with Objectivists.

  18. I hate to comment against the flow here, but Baker does have a point. Certainly Rand defended free markets as the ideal markets; however, she also defended ethical egoism, wherein a person taking advantage for oneself over others is perfectly justified for the individual. Hence the problem I have with Rand; her ethics and her economic policy are contradictory.

    In reality, those cronies in Atlas Shrugged who do what they can to get the “fairness” policies in place which benefit themselves at the expense of everyone else are the embodiment of Rand’s ethical egoism.

    Unless she was meaning to circumscribe her ethics with the clause “but you cannot do something for your own benefit if it is to the disadvantage of someone else.”

    1. however, she also defended ethical egoism, wherein a person taking advantage for oneself over others is perfectly justified for the individual.

      Repeated from Jacob’s post for emphasis:

      If you’re going to take issue with Rand’s ideas, it helps to have some inkling of what she actually said.

      1. If ethical egoism doesn’t teach that “one ought to serve one’s self-interest,” then what does it teach? Working with others can be in one’s self-interest, but from the position of certain individuals who otherwise have no way of gaining, the only means of serving what’s in their self-interest would be cronyism.

        She never provided a very compelling argument to demonstrate that it wasn’t in the cronyists’ self-interests to use the force of government as just another tool to their advantage. In fact, her own stories seem to make it clear that the only way of serving their self-interests was through political clout. They couldn’t compete in a way to serve their own self-interest any other way. That was one of the points of Atlas Shrugged, anyway.

        1. “Working with others can be in one’s self-interest, but from the position of certain individuals who otherwise have no way of gaining, the only means of serving what’s in their self-interest would be cronyism.”

          You should probably try “The Wealth of Nations” rather than Scrooge McDuck comix for econ reference. But then, it’s ‘long and really hard to read…!’
          Or, you can just admit you’re an ignoramus.

          1. That was a criticism of Rand’s positions, based specifically on her book Atlas Shrugged.

            I can grant that the individual characters from Atlas who engaged in cronyism would’ve otherwise been just fine in terms of a living, but they did, individually and in their own self-interest, get ahead through political clout. Which ethical egoism lauds.

            I’m sorry to have mentioned that Rand’s system of thought, taken as a whole, is less than perfectly coherent.

            Back to reading Mises’ Theory of Money and Credit for me…

            1. “but they did, individually and in their own self-interest, get ahead through political clout.”

              THAT is the strangest reading of Atlas Shrugged I’ve ever seen!
              Care to defend that?

              1. He appears to be mistaking the villians for heroes.

              2. It was in their self-interest to engage in cronyism because they had more for themselves what they desired than they otherwise had; they got power and wealth. Those things were their interests.

                They weren’t Rand’s interests, and she would’ve argued that their interests should’ve been otherwise, but for whose benefit? They couldn’t see it as being for their own benefit; they would have to give up the things they are interested in.

                But they can only have power and wealth through political clout.

                Therefore, political clout served as the means to the attaining of their self-interests.

                This is not a bizarre reading of Rand. It’s quite easy to interpret this from Atlas Shrugged. Dare I say the reader has their head pummeled with the fact that these cronies couldn’t have attained their interests except through these non-competitive means. And if that’s the case, then they are merely exercising ethical egoism in deciding to work for their own self-interests, even if it comes at the expense of others.

                If we are to insist that they shouldn’t, because we shouldn’t do something that would detract from another’s benefits, well that sounds almost altruistic, in Rand’s sense.

                It simply seems to be the case that either Rand’s ideal ethics or her economic policy must be qualified in order to make it consistent with the other. If you disagree and think that she’s accounted for this, fine, but I don’t think that she has sufficiently done so.

                I don’t have any other theoretical disagreements with Rand’s economic policy (I differ on morality, but there you go, I’m not an Objectivist). You don’t need to call into question my intelligence or political views, since that really isn’t helping to establish your point that I happen not to be a Rand-worshipper. Let me put that out there; I’m not a Rand-worshipper. My name is not Peikoff. I don’t smoke cigarettes. I prefer traditional architecture. I don’t believe love is a-logical or in fostering sexual relationships based on the admiration of a person’s humanistic achievements.

                1. Bryce, by “rational self-interest,” Rand did not mean, “whatever one happens to desire.” Just because the cronyists in Atlas *wanted* unearned power and wealth, didn’t mean it was actually in their self-interest to pursue them, as the events of the novel amply demonstrate.

                  The cronyists’ fundamental flaws were really psychological and philosophical. The immoral political measures they pursued were just one symptom of those flaws.

                2. Bryce|11.14.11 @ 9:47PM|#
                  “It was in their self-interest to engage in cronyism”
                  Please define “cronyism”.

            2. “I’m sorry to have mentioned that Rand’s system of thought, taken as a whole, is less than perfectly coherent.”

              No, you asshole. You should be sorry for having to apologize for what is a patently true statement.

            3. As one commenter pointed out a while back, “egoism” as a personal philosophy within a political system with a mixed economy or even a purely communist one gives you guys like Stalin; it’s in your best interest to commit any atrocity necessary to stay on top. “Egoism” within the context of a free-market/democratic system means you’re going to do whatever it takes to get what you want without doing shit that’s going to land you in prison. (murder,extortion, violent threats, etc.)

            4. @Bryce – I will respond hoping you are sincere in your conception and open to a free discussion, though the position counter to yours may prevail.

              Rand’s writing makes very clear that her ethics are of “rational” self-interest, a self-interest that is based solely on the free exchange of values between two parties. The moment that government cronyism enters the picture, the free exchange element is removed. The government is the only entity authorized to take away my property by force/threat. When they do that, and then give my money to those whom they propose to prop up, that is not a free trade. When the recipient accepts such extorted funds, that is not a free trade – nor, then is it rational self-interest. The lack of rationality stems from the possible perpetuation of such extortion against oneself if one were to justify such a policy. For more on her position, please refer to the series of essays contained in the text titled “The Virtue of Selfishness.”

        2. Right, because all the cronyists in Atlas Shrugged become extremely happy, successful people and make out very well in the end of the book.

          James Taggart, Orren Boyle, and all the corrupt politicians in Atlas Shrugged would have led better lives if they had become *janitors* in the companies run by the Dagnys, Ellis Wyatts, and Dan Conways of the world.

          Rand had a sophisticated line of argument as to why simply grasping for any advantage over others, regardless of the means, was not ultimately a successful strategy for long-term personal gain. Now, you can disagree with whether she was *right* about that, but just because you’re not familiar with this argument of Rand’s doesn’t mean she never made it.

        3. I’m not a Rand fan at all, but her point was that serving one’s *ethical* self-interest was supposed to be done by producing things or coming up with useful, innovative ideas.

          1. I think that’s “rational” self-interest.

    2. Youre wrong about that. If you actually read Rand she is fairly adamant that nobody should ask for, look for, or accept, handouts. Not even from private individuals. And ESPECIALLY not from the government.
      She would have been abhorred by anyone saying that egoism required them to ask for a bailout.

    3. You’re confusing “ethical egoism” with pure egoism.

      The first person to advocate a kind of egoism as a moral philosophy was actually Max Stirner. Stirner was actually a lot more hard core of an egoist than Rand, but he was also a radical anarchist.

      Neither Rand nor Stirner would have regarded political cronyism as a valid pursuit of a healthy egoist. Egoists are supposed to pursue their own interests, sometimes ruthlessly, but they are also supposed to be independent and self-sufficient.

      Both Rand and Stirner would have argued that pursuing government subsidies is ultimately self-defeating since it makes you dependent on a source of income you did not produce from your own creative enterprise, and therefore, you become a slave of the state. If you depend on another entity for your welfare, that entity can threaten to stop supporting you, and can therefore control you.

      Stirner might have made a case that if you could get away with enslaving others, that was permissible. But he almost certainly would not have endorsed depending on money from any source that you didn’t personally control, such as receiving a grant from a government.

  19. Ayn Rand sucked on the government teat like it was Alan Greenspan’s schlong when she collected Social Security and Medicare benefits.

    She also approved of murderers:

    “In her journal circa 1928 Rand quoted the statement, “What is good for me is right,” a credo attributed to a prominent figure of the day, [multiple murderer] William Edward Hickman. Her response was enthusiastic. “The best and strongest expression of a real man’s psychology I have heard,” she exulted. (Quoted in Ryan, citing Journals of Ayn Rand, pp. 21-22.)”

    Sounds like promoting one’s self at the expense of others to me. It certainly sounds like using force to get one’s way.

    If you’re going to apologize for Rand, it helps to have some inkling of what she actually said and did.

    1. too late. I already commented on this. https://reason.com/blog/2011/11…..nt_2634743

      1. +1

        Should we get all the other tropes out of the way?

        – Ok for teenagers but real adults grow out of it
        Atlas leaves readers stunted unlike Lord of the Rings which involves orcs
        – She was close with Alan Greenspan, devil incarnate
        – Had a messy, kind of bizarre affair with Nathaniel Branden
        – So scarred by communism she didn’t understand how great government can be
        – Smoked a lot, ugly, etc
        Atlas is like Mein Kampf or an L. Ron Hubbard book
        – Objectivism is a cult
        – Rand was a “sociopath” or “anti-social”

        1. I didn’t say anything about Rand’s mug or how shitty her writing is. I don’t care who she fucked, or how fucked up her followers are. I quoted her and cited her actions. No wonder you have no response.

          1. This doesn’t sound like rather, this sounds like angry anon pussy troll who pops in occasionally and also handle hops. We should include him in the game. +1 for Graphite!

            1. This sounds like a very desperate lefty who is beginning to run out of other people’s money.

              1. No sevo, this is a troll arguing in bad faith. He sounds like the same one who pops in occasionally to be a dick and get his jollies off.

                1. “No sevo, this is a troll arguing in bad faith. He sounds like the same one who pops in occasionally to be a dick and get his jollies off.”
                  So like WI, the argument is irrelevant and the attention is what matters?
                  In which case, no more feeding.

          2. and through this quote, are you coming to the conclusion that she endorses murder or his actions in any way?

        2. Many of these are partly true, trope status regardless.
          That affair with Branden WAS kind of bizarre.
          Damn alienating towards the end because she held the fewer and fewer people around her to such high standards, but hardly “sociopathic.”

          I’m not 100% against Rand (had many inspiring words and sharp insights) but she cannot be credited with effective P.R.

          1. The Mein Kampf comparison doesn’t deserve serious attention obviously.

            1. National Review thought it did.

              1. “No, no, no, that ain’t me babe”

          2. The point isn’t whether they’re true or not (I’d agree the affair was weird), but whether they’re at all material to the substance of Rand’s arguments. These are all just things that people — who don’t want to be bothered to actually understand Rand — repair to when they want to dismiss her views out of hand.

            1. “These are all just things that people — who don’t want to be bothered to actually understand Rand — repair to when they want to dismiss her views out of hand.”

              Yes.

        3. Oh, I forgot the “rape fantasies / kinky sex” angle, but Lost_In_Translation covered that above.

          1. No, you forget that she praised a murderer whose “philosophy” was “What’s good for me is right.” You know, the facts.

            1. What does it mean ‘she also approved of murderers’? Say society has a standard that disapproves of murder, but the same society causes someone to murder. What then?

              1. re: “What is good for me is right,”. One can approve of a person’s statement without approving of his actions.

            2. Why didn’t you quote the part of those journal entries where she called Hickman “a monster”? Or even mention that it was written to herself, in her private journals, when she was very young and still working out her perspective on the world? Or maybe mention that she acknowledged and disowned her own early Nietzschean phase (of which the Hickman writings were one small part), even to the point of revising a lot of passages of We the Living?

              Oh right, because including that whole context turns your trollery to dust.

              1. Monster, you say? Context, you cry?

                “And when we look at the other side of it — there is a brilliant, unusual, exceptional boy turned into a purposeless monster. By whom? By what? Is it not by that very society that is now yelling so virtuously in its role of innocent victim? He had a brilliant mind, a romantic, adventurous, impatient soul and a straight, uncompromising, proud character.”

                Context enough for you? Funny you didn’t provide it.

                Society killed a 12 year old girl, not the murderer/kidnapper. Certainly not the proud uncompromising romantic soul who did this: “Her legs had been chopped off and her eyes had been wired open to appear as if she was still alive. Her internal organs had been cut out and pieces of her body were later found strewn all over the Los Angeles area.”

                Nothing sociopathic about praising the person — excuse me — “the real man” — who did that, and who pronounced it good and right.

                But if you write it “to yourself” — in journals you preserve for the edification of mankind — you never wrote it. Especially if you’re 23 years old, because you’re really just an infant.

                Let me know when you find Rand’s renunciation of her adoration of Hickman, or her words of sympathy for Hickman’s victim. So I can take those out of context too.

                1. “Monster, you say? Context, you cry?”
                  Yes, context.
                  Cite missing.

                2. I thought you said she “adored” Hickman but here she is, in a quote *you* selected, calling him a “purposeless monster” and referring to any positive character traits he may have once possessed in the past tense. This isn’t even competently done trolling.

                  Rand makes it clear over and over again in the journal entries that she is focused on only a part of the Hickman story and something that his character “suggests” (!) to her, and does *not* mean to praise his murder, which she calls “degenerate” and “purposeless.”

                  And yes, one’s views and philosophical outlook *can* actually change after one ages past 23, although yours appear to have been cemented in place around age 5 or so. In particular, Rand specifically rejected the sort of Ubermenschish “what is good for me is right” perspective as her philosophical views matured, so you’re essentially trying to tar her morality by bringing up an early perspective that she later changed. Awesome work, that.

            3. Hard to say for myself “I murdered someone, it was good for me”, when I have sacrificed any appeal to a higher moral principle/law/basic golden rule in the future. Piss poor trade off excepting self-defense.

    2. I was wondering how long it would take some idiot to start copy-pasting context-dropping snippets from other Rand hate threads.

      1. Can’t handle Rand’s own sociopathic words, so you’re left with your thumb up your ass wondering when the truth will come out. Typical.

        1. “Can’t handle Rand’s own sociopathic words, so you’re left with your thumb up your ass wondering when the truth will come out. Typical.”
          No, it’s your stupidity that’s the problem.

          1. Another dickless wonder who can’t address, let alone defend, Rand’s own words. Rand would laugh at pussies who won’t even defend her writings.

            1. “Another dickless wonder”

              OH, OH! Look!
              Adolescent ignoramuses on parade!
              What other stupidity can our new shithead add?

              1. Avoid the facts at all cost.

                1. “Avoid the facts at all cost.”
                  What facts?
                  The fact that you can’t read?:
                  “Sounds like promoting one’s self at the expense of others to me. It certainly sounds like using force to get one’s way.”
                  You invent an opinion and that’s to be taken as fact?
                  Go away, shithead.

                  1. Now you’re not even trying.

                    1. “Now you’re not even trying.”
                      Well, when you post bullshit, expect to be called on it.
                      Some ‘facts’.

                    2. Clap harder!

                    3. “Clap harder!”
                      No use. Your stupidity is beyond any help I can offer.
                      Go away, shithead.

                    4. Doesn’t this qualify as feeding vermin?

                    5. “Doesn’t this qualify as feeding vermin?”
                      Might be.
                      If the new vermin shit keeps it up for one or two more ignorant comments, I’m done.

                    6. You can’t quit now. Ayn needs you.

                    7. Banjos,
                      You think this is WI?

                    8. No, WI is either Rather, or Rather’s even more retarded cousin. They both use the same techniques. The one I am referring to is more intelligent and knowledgeable than rather/WI and a hell of a lot more angry and dickish. He pops in occasionally to try to piss people off then disappears.

                    9. And you reckon that’s LPD? Any other handles?

                    10. Now roll over! Good boy.

                    11. Looking like WI; no more food.

        2. “The best and strongest expression of a real man’s psychology I have heard,”

          Yep, sounds sociopathic to me. Couldn’t have any other explanation. No siree, sounds like she wanted in on some of those murders herself. Maybe just a wounding, but still.

          1. “What is good for me is right.”

            That doesn’t sound sociopathic at all.

            Rand Rules!

            1. Jerry Sandusky|11.14.11 @ 9:36PM|#
              “What is good for me is right.”

              Oh, better call an ambulance! That strawman is badly injured!

              1. I’ve got a first edition of The Fountainhead in my van. Would you like to see it?

                1. “I’ve got a first edition of The Fountainhead in my van. Would you like to see it?”
                  How…………………………
                  infantile.

                2. Why would anyone on this site who is in any way aligned to Objectivist ideals engage with the likes of the vulgarity I’m witnessing on this site?

                  Sticks and stones…, but names…?

                  You are casting pearls before swine. Why do you feel the need to respond to obvious expressions of pure disdain and denigration?

                  Act in your own rational self-interest…. surely, you are not being enriched in this “debate.”

      2. Not long. And, of course their ‘knowledge’ of Rand is from that college room-mate who read the introduction to “Atlas Shrugged”. And all the beer they drank that night.

    3. Yawn.

      “[My hero is] very far from him [Hickman], of course. The outside of Hickman, but not the inside. Much deeper and much more. A Hickman with a purpose. And without the degeneracy. It is more exact to say that the model is not Hickman, but what Hickman suggested to me

      And the Social Security thing doesn’t deserve comment.

      1. “And the Social Security thing doesn’t deserve comment.”

        Why?

        How is the claim that Ayn Rand accepted Social Security and Medicare benefits anything less than entirely germane?

        The claim requires a response, whether that response be a denial, apology or acknowledgement of hypocrisy on the part of Rand.

    4. Hickman was soon caught and hanged. So murder obviously wasn’t very good for him.

  20. I’ve only read sections of Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal and “We the Living”. Both were insightful and well-written defenses of the individual and capitalism.

    I already know that 99% of liberals are incapable of making an accurate criticism of Rand, so stuff like this shouldn’t deter anyone.

  21. We needs an post about Saint Che.

    1. Yes, really, there’s a surprising dearth of Che threads lately. What happened?

  22. “No, you forget that she praised a murderer whose “philosophy” was “What’s good for me is right.” You know, the facts.”

    What stupidity!
    Did you know Hitler praised vegetarianism? Did you know that FDR said Stalin was a ‘good guy’? Those are “facts”!
    The other fact is that you’re an ignoramus.

    1. “Did you know Hitler praised vegetarianism?”

      Can’t argue with that.

      1. Please, do not feed vermin. If you do, we get vermin shit, such as LPD.
        Shame on me for feeding vermin shit as much as I did.

  23. The new troll has been sent back for reprogramming. Please check back tomorrow.

  24. Another restaurant claimed to use fresh mozz arella cheese, when it’s dishes were actually made with economy cheddar. The “fresh pasta” advertished on another menu tumed out to be frozen.My boyfriend thinks the same with me. He is eight years older than me. We meet online at —-Ag?d?t?.??M–.- .. a nice and free place for younger women and older men, or older women and younger men, to interact with each other. Maybe you wanna check out or tell your friends.

  25. — Ag?d?t?.??M—, a nice and free place for younger women and older men,or older women and younger men, to interact with each other

  26. Where did everyone go? Between your responses, and whacking off, I’ve got nothing.

    Don’t leave me alone. It’s a bad place!

  27. Rand is actually pretty clear that she thinks people should neither give nor accept charity. Everyone focuses on the not giving part. Everyone ignores that she admonishes people never to ask for a handout either.
    Both parts of this equation are essential to her philosophy.

    1. “Rand is actually pretty clear that she thinks people should neither give nor accept charity.”

      “My views on charity are very simple. I do not consider it a major virtue and, above all, I do not consider it a moral duty. There is nothing wrong in helping other people, if and when they are worthy of the help and you can afford to help them. I regard charity as a marginal issue. What I am fighting is the idea that charity is a moral duty and a primary virtue.”
      -Ayn Rand, 1964

      “The fact that a man has no claim on others (i.e., that it is not their moral duty to help him and that he cannot demand their help as his right) does not preclude or prohibit good will among men and does not make it immoral to offer or to accept voluntary, non-sacrificial assistance.”
      -Ayn Rand, 1966

  28. I don’t like Ayn Rand BUT…

    Please. Make your point. You don’t need to slander her to seem objective. Silly.

    1. So it is false that Jacob is not a huge fan of Ayn Rand? Because that is the only way that statement could be considered “slander,” and that still doesn’t make a lot of sense either.

    2. What you mean is “You don’t need to inform people of your personal opinion on Rand to seem objective.”

      But Sullum wants to. Because apparently he thinks it matters that we know he doesn’t like her, before getting into the journalistic part.

  29. Someone should take all the misconceptions of Rand and write a compilation essay written by the farcical Rand.

  30. Indeed, Rand held that using force could never be justified by self-interest because ultimately that action would have more negative repercussions (physical or psychological) than short term gains. If this is true, coercion does not benefit oneself and is therefore irrational.

    Whether this is actually true is a completely separate matter. It seems to me that many can live a life full of coercion and easily profit greatly from it.

    1. I think the more direct criticism Rand would have made is that you can’t really be autonomous if you depend on someone (or something) else for your sustenance.

      A true egoist (according to Rand) is obliged to be as self-sufficient as possible. His lifelihood must therefore come entirely through his own productive enterprise and through voluntary exchange with others. Depending on the state would make him a slave of the state.

    2. “Indeed, Rand held that using force could never be justified by self-interest[…]”

      But if, hypothetically, there would be a case where someone could use such force to his true, ultimate benefit, then Rand /would/ approve of such an action– at least according to your words.

      It follows from there that Rand did not consider such use of force to be /inherently/ immoral.

      /That/ is the point.

  31. The guy has obviously not even read “Atlas Shrugged”.

    The book is full of crony-capitalists, corrupt businessmen, lobbyists and so on, and Rand’s utter contempt for all of them could not possibly be more obvious.

    You continue to wonder why anybody would write such easily refutable bullshit.
    After all, if he’s preaching to the choir, his choir does not need any more incentive to hate Rand anyway.
    And those who even moderately sympathize with Rand’s work will see an outrageous liar in Dean Baker.

    1. @Uncle Joe
      Yes. Thus, the question becomes “why would he do it?” I will posit an answer: for the same reason that Gail Wynand tried so hard to corrupt the “great” men he encountered. The reason why Gail Wynand is not a hero in his own life.

      Don’t be distracted by it… don’t attempt to confront it at its own level. To do that, you have to enter the gutter right along with them.

  32. I’m not a huge fan of the philosophy, but Atlas Shrugged villians can be seen every day.

    1. I was channel surfing last night, and saw three of them on Bill Maher’s show.

      1. Four if you count Maher.

  33. I don’t need to add anything to this comment. Jacob has been pretty through.

  34. I’m not responsible for what Rand said, thought or believed. Skip the foil and get on with your policy argument.

  35. Ayn Rand is probably the most purposely misunderstood philosopher in history. Liberals paint a caricature of the most vile crony capitalist they can think of and then tag it with “Ayn Rand” in the nearby synapses of their brain. In doing so, they hold a view of her which is not only wrong, but diametrically wrong, then they blissfully go about their lives wondering how anyone can possibly disagree with them.

  36. Gee, Mr. Sollum, I made it through Atlas Shrugged three times since my first read in 1970 or so. Give it another try and you might see how accurately she foresaw the future of the US.

    Right down to a Directive 10-289 that NY State tried to pass a recession or so ago, to prevent employers from laying anyone off “in order to stabilize the employment market.”

    But you got the rest of the message spot on. She’s been falsely accused of so many things, and those were a few of them.

    Thank you for the good write!

  37. I think Atlas Shrugged was an artistic masterpiece. Perhaps some of the minor characters are caricatures (caricatures I happen to find insightful, accurate, and often humorous), but her main characters are psychologically complex and the novel’s theme is beautifully woven. I’ve read a lot of great literature and I think Atlas Shrugged ranks highly among history’s greatest works of art. Treat yourself to a great artistic experience: read Atlas Shrugged! It’s a long novel because it’s about (almost) everything important in life.

  38. “It is clear from Rand’s essays and fiction that she took a dim view of businessmen who game the system” Yes. ‘Nuff Said.

  39. The entire “hypocrite” argument is a logical fallacy called “appeal to hypocrisy”, so anyone using the government assistance argument to discredit Ayn Rand has failed.

    Say what you will about Ayn Rand, but the validity of objectivism is completely independent of any actions she may or may not have taken.

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