Ayn Rand

Robert Reich Holds Seance With Dead Arizona Firefighters, Pronounces Them Refutations of Ayn Rand

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Robert Reich
Robert Reich

The 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who died in the Yarnell Hill Fire were based just 50 miles away from me, but I didn't know any of them. Neither did former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, though he seems to have dusted off his ouija board to interview them about their values and motivations. That's the only explanation I can find for his column at Salon, "Ayn Rand could have learned from the Arizona firefighters," in which he pronounces them paragons of selflessness for the final sacrifice they made amidst a roaring wildfire, and therefore, refutations of Ayn Rand's whole philosophy.

Writes Reich:

It's worth pondering that the 19 firefighters who died Sunday battling a huge wildfire near Prescott, Arizona, presumably were motivated by something other than rational self-interest. Like the first-responders to 9/11 and other emergencies, and members of the armed forces, they put themselves in harm's way (or chose a job that did so) because they wanted to serve.

Economics, and much of public policy and political strategy, assume that people are motivated by self-interest, that the definition of acting rationally is to maximize what you want for yourself, and that other values – service, duty, allegiance to others, morality, and shared ideals – are either irrelevant or negligible.

Ayn Rand, the philosophical guru of the modern Republican Party, popularized this view of human nature. In her world, selfishness is the only honest and justifiable motive. By looking out for Number One, we accomplish everything that's necessary. Economist Milton Friedman extended the logic: The magic of the marketplace can be relied on to allocate resources to their highest and best uses. Anything "public" is suspect.

First of all, while I'm not necessarily an Ayn Rand acolyte, I know that Reich's presentation of Rand's concept of rational self-interest is cartoonish. According to the Atlas Society, which actually subscribes to Rand's beliefs:

The Objectivist ethics rebuilds morality from the ground up. "You cannot say 'I love you' if you cannot say the 'I'," wrote Ayn Rand. According to Objectivism, a person's own life and happiness is the ultimate good. To achieve happiness requires a morality of rational selfishness, one that does not give undeserved rewards to others and that does not ask them for oneself.

That doesn't negate doing for others at all — it means that you consider others without devaluing yourself. That's rather different than "[b]y looking out for Number One, we accomplish everything that's necessary."

Second … How in hell does Reich know what motivated 19 different people he never met? He starts off by asserting they "presumably were motivated by something other than rational self-interest," as if that's a logical given for anybody who does such work. As I wrote above, I didn't know any of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, but the hotshots I've known (and they play an important role in tinder-dry Arizona) are motivated at least as much by love of the job — its thrill and challenges — as by a desire to serve the community. Of course, in working jobs that they love, they guarantee that they dedicate themselves to their work and so give the best possible service to those who rely on their firefighting skills.

Don't just take my word for it that many hotshots work jobs that they enjoy, rather than fulfilling Reich's fantasy of martyrs to the collective. In describing two cousins who died in the fire, Robert Caldwell and Grant McKee, their friend Zoltan Teglas says of them, "Fearless, feisty, always like an adrenaline junkie, like a lot of these firefighter guys are just like that."

We get an even clearer picture from current firefighters describing the life:

Former hot shot and current Sioux City firefighter, Jeff Bentson, talked about what it's like being on the front lines.

"You're looking for the biggest, hottest fire. The bigger the fire, the hotter the fire, the more excited you are to go up there and fight it," Bentson said.

Bentson said the training he went through as a hot shot was rigorous. He hiked six to 10 miles a day with gear on.

But, for him it was all worth it to pursue his passion. Something, he said, was probably similar for those fallen firefighters.

"Adrenaline junkies. That's what I was when I was there. You just, that's just what you want to do. It's a fun job. It's a dangerous job. These kids were doing, I guarantee you, all of them were doing what they loved to do and unfortunately, it turned out to be a bad situation for them," Bentson said.

Two former firefighters who have experience putting out wildfires said for them it was an adventure.

"We always felt like we were the first human to step foot in this part of the United States, in some of the most beautiful parts of the country, yet it's been turned black due to fire," Sohl said.

"I think it's for the adventure and chance to see different parts of the country and camaraderie with the crew," Deputy Director for Woodbury County Conservation Board Mark Peterson said.

I'm not minimizing the losses suffered by these firefighters, their families and their friends when I emphasize that the hotshots who died in the Yarnell Hill Fire very likely loved their work and eagerly sought their jobs. To the contrary, the loss is that much greater because they enjoyed what they did, and that enjoyment probably enhanced their lives, even as their labors were so valuable to the community around them.

Robert Reich may think otherwise, but I think it's great that we live in a world where people find personal fulfillment in seeking out and doing dangerous and valuable work. Everybody benefits from that much more than they would if, instead, they set aside their preferences "to be part of something larger than themselves" as Reich would wish.

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  1. I saw the headline at Salon, but I couldn’t bear the thought or reading anything by Reich.

    1. He’s a buffoon. I used to just lose it hearing his nonsense on NPR. One of the reasons I gave up trying to wade through their state love on the radio.

  2. I think the lesson we can all learn from this is to never read anything at Salon.

    1. ^This. It’s has all the gravitas of People magazine.

      1. No it has the level of thought of People Magazine. It has the level of gravitas of the most philosophical work in history. The combination is either hilarious or aggrevating, depending on how you feel about human folly.

  3. Every event every second of every day is a refutation of Ayn Rand, because they involve real human beings.

    1. I am actually cracking up in my cubicle. Too perfect. Sublime.

      1. If you enjoyed that, be sure to check out the Krugman-Rogers rehash he does a few threads lower.

    2. ….because they involve real human beings.

      What’s your excuse you mincing thockpuppet.

    3. Yes, but if we’re being fair to Ayn Rand characters, they involve progressives too.

  4. Everyone acts out of self interest. Even Mother Theresa acted out of self interest. Sometimes self interest is “I want a thrill now!” and sometimes it is “I want an afterlife in heaven!”. But all motivation is internal and self-interested.

    1. The most that can be said about this observation is that it’s trivially true. Rand doesn’t explain why people might not want to act collectively, even to the point of providing a safety net for the vulnerable and incapable, for their own self-interest.

      You can accept your point fully and be a socialist. In the end, Ayn Rand just completely misunderstood how people achieve their best self-interest.

      1. ” Ayn Rand just completely misunderstood how people achieve their best self-interest.”

        I’m not an objectivist and have never actually read any of Rands works (but I did see the first installment of Atlas Shrugged) but my bet is that she was not concerned with how people achieved their *best* self interest but rather that they got to choose which interest was best for themselves

        1. But all worldly evidence suggests that the most successful choices people have made involve setting up stable cooperative societies via strong central governments with socialist elements. Nothing else has worked so well, and she certainly didn’t advocate for that.

          1. Tony| 7.3.13 @ 4:21PM |#
            “But all worldly evidence suggests that the most successful choices people have made involve setting up stable cooperative societies via strong central governments with socialist elements.”

            Yep, Red China, the Soviet Union, Cuba, all qualify nicely, along with a hundred million murdered citizens.
            Real successful, shithead.

            1. I think we’re all agreed that totalitarian systems are bad, strawman police.

              1. A strong central government with socialist elements is necessarily totalitarian to some extent. The more force it wields that is not in defense of people’s rights, the more authoritarian it is.

                1. Any means of defending rights requires collective action/socialism/government intervention.

                  1. Socialism is not collective action. It is necessarily singular action using resources derived through force. Not even remotely the same thing.

                  2. [citation needed]

          2. Trying too hard there, man.

            Anarchy? Yeah, not a successful choice (and not going to be, no matter what the Rothbard faction says).

            But let’s not forget that “cooperative” is the important part of your thesis – not “strong central governmetns with socialist elements”.

            Which is exactly why, as Sevo says, the Communist states are all dreadful failures – and why the more Socialism there is [and axiomatically the less cooperation, because state control is not “cooperative”] the less success we really see.

            Remember that “socialist” means “state control of production”, not “has some social service programs”, when we’re talking poli-sci.)

            Objectivists [self-labeled] tend to overstate the individualism – in reaction to the fog of collectivism all around us – but I don’t recall Rand suggesting nobody cooperate… just that nobody be allowed to force you to “cooperate” in order to achieve their goals rather than yours.

            Turns out there’s a huge difference…

            1. Socialism is simply how cooperation is done on large scales. Safety nets–and law and order for that matter–don’t work without some government coercion. It’s just anti-statist reflexiveness that informs the sentiment that cooperation on large scales is possible in some noncoercive form, which is nonsense. You have to mitigate freeloading, just to give one example. Rand, well, isn’t even worth talking about, since she isn’t coherent.

              1. Socialism is simply how cooperation is done on large scales.

                Arbeit macht frei: How to make Jews cooperate with your socialist aims.

                The Gulag: Teaching kulaks the art and science of cooperation.

                Trai hoc cap tai tao (reeducation camps): Learning to cooperate with Ho Chi Minh in a fun, natural environment.

                Tony, were born a dishonest piece of shit or did you come by it through practice?

                1. It’s sure easy to accuse someone of dishonesty when you aren’t even capable of making an argument.

                  1. Tony w/o spaces, we’ve been over this several times. You are incapable of being reasoned with. Several parties have tried it.

                    Since you are immune to reason, I may as well just mock you and watch you squirm.

                    1. I don’t squirm in response to substanceless insults. So I’m glad to save you the bother.

                    2. Substanceless? Hardly, I work with what you give me, and you bring plenty of idiocy to the table.

              2. Funny how you define coercion on a large scale as “cooperation”. As in: “you will cooperate or suffer the consequences.”

              3. Socialism is simply how cooperation is done on large scales.

                Yet, you somehow believe there’s no limit to these scales.

            2. “Remember that ‘socialist’ means ‘state control of production’, not ‘has some social service programs’, when we’re talking poli-sci.”

              Thank God that someone else still understands this! For some reason (of which most individuals at Hit and Run are aware), the Left *and* the Right have decided that there is no clear demarcation between “socialism” and “social services,” transfer payments, etc. I’m sorry, but the road to serfdom is not a straight slippery slope — these things, although related in important ways, differ not only in degree but in kind.

              “With the liquidation of the market and of the credit system each factory resembled a telephone whose wires had been cut.” *That* is socialism. On the other hand, life goes on in “socialist” Sweden.

          3. But all worldly evidence suggests that the most successful choices people have made involve setting up stable cooperative societies via strong central governments with socialist elements.

            Oh look, Tony w/o spaces is trying to conflate cooperation with coercion!

            Way to go, you dishonest fuck!

          4. But all worldly evidence suggests that the most successful choices people have made involve setting up stable cooperative societies via strong central governments with socialist elements.

            As pioneers throughout history have shown, people act cooperatively without the threat of armed might. It is their very nature as social beings to do so.

            History has also shown that societies dominated by strong central governments eventually fall as political power corrupts the people, leading them to believe they don’t need the voluntary contributions of others and instead, rely on the coercive power of the state.

            History also shows that trade between people is the best means by which people can live in harmony and prosperity.

          5. But all worldly evidence suggests that the most successful choices people have made involve setting up stable cooperative societies via strong central governments with socialist elements.

            Nope. The historical evidence is that successful societies are ones with minimalist centralized authorities, and large amounts of free-reign by private entities….although it is true that those societies tend to be co-opted by socialist elements, at which point they begin to decline.

              1. The United States of America 1789 – 1913.

        2. Don’t bother. Tony will cling to his straw man no matter what the facts actually are.

          1. I’ve read Rand. A philosopher of nuance she was not.

            1. Nuance is for people who can’t systemize.

              1. Spoken like a true libertarian. Libertarianism is for people who believe human society can be easily systematized.

                1. Spoken like someone who never actually read the Austrians. Or Nozick.

                  In fact, I’m not sure I can think of an actual libertarian theorist of any note who was a systematizer.

                  (That said, I completely agree on Rand – she’s not a great philosopher, nor great with nuance.

                  But she also wasn’t entirely wrong.)

                2. No, that’s Liberal Top Men. Stop trying Tony you’ll just embarrass yourself.

                  1. The key word is “easily.” Human society works, the story goes, if you just put the right pieces in place and let it run like a well-oiled machine.

                    Liberals realize that a well functioning society requires constant tweaks and compromises, and tend to reject all-encompassing philosophies.

                    1. Of course you do, Tony. You can’t hand out special favors if the rules aren’t malleable.

                    2. You can’t create an artificial system of cooperation on a large scale without handing out some favors. The point is you have to have human well-being as your guiding star, not the confines of a particular philosophy. That always leads to widespread misery if it ever gets let out of its intellectual cage.

                    3. Woah did I start drinking early or what. Sorry about the metaphor salad.

                    4. You can’t create an artificial system of cooperation on a large scale without handing out some favors. The point is you have to have human well-being as your guiding star, not the confines of a particular philosophy. That always leads to widespread misery if it ever gets let out of its intellectual cage.

                      Evidence of sublime cluelessness.

                    5. Natural human cooperation doesn’t require any of you nuanced fuck sticks. It mostly requires you to just get out of the way.

                    6. Liberals reject all-encompassing philosophies because they require intellectual integrity and rigor, neither of which you’re capable of.

                      That and it gets in the way of your appeals to emotion.

                    7. Human society works, the story goes, if you just put the right pieces in place and let it run like a well-oiled machine.

                      The projection is amaze.

                      …and tend to reject all-encompassing philosophies.

                      Which is another way of admitting that Liberals can’t think.

                    8. Liberals realize that a well functioning society requires constant tweaks and compromises, and tend to reject all-encompassing philosophies.

                      Liberals did until they were displaced by progressives of the 19th century.

                    9. Ironically a large amount (all?) of the tweaking we are doing now is to compensate for the distortions caused by previous tweaks.

                      Obamacare is a perfect example of this. A series of federal and state laws (e.g., the tax-favored status of employer-sponsored health insurance, federal and state created professional and facility monopolies, gigantic social safety programs which reward providers for providing quantity not quality, etc.) that have led to the healthcare “system” we currently have is to be “fixed” by a nightmare law 2,000+ pages long with accompanying regulations ten times as voluminous.

                      It won’t work. It never has and it never will.

            2. I see Tony w/o spaces has read the talking points to chase after Ayn Rand and to conflate Objectivism as Libertarian. Of course, they are too chickenshit to go after Rothbard, Hayek, Bastiat, or Mises so…keep aiming low, Tony w/o spaces! Maybe you’ll actually hit a target on your level!

              1. They’re all useless too, but Rand is the subject of this post.

                1. Arizona was the subject of the post as well, until you ran off on a tangent of all of these “successful” socialist states which exist only in your fevered imagination.

      2. The most that can be said about this observation is that it’s trivially true.

        New (?) proggie paradigm: even things that are objectively true are somehow false if they don’t fit the narrative. Or something.

      3. I have never read Rand. I don’t give a fuck about Rand, and I am tired of reading bullshit from liberals that say Rand is the driving force behind my value system.

        1. Maybe you should. When you read Rand as a middle-schooler, and then maybe go on to get an engineering degree but don’t learn any more philosophy, you tend to become a libertarian.

          When you read her as an adult, it’s possible you have the presence of mind to realize how utterly foolish, fallacious, and anti-human her philosophy is, and perhaps you can reflect upon its similarities to your own politics.

          1. “You” meaning “Tony and fellow extra-chromosome dipshits”.

          2. Well, Tony. You are at the top of my internal list of “do not read” assholes that frequent these discussion threads. And I don’t plan to change that any time soon, but since to replied directly to my post:

            Fuck off

            Have a wonderful holiday weekend everyone else. I am heading out the door for a 4-day weekend.

            1. You fuck off. What are you, a child? In that case, I don’t recommend reading Rand.

              1. Oh Tony, there you go again. If you had actually wanted to make a deep cut, you should have said “What are you, a child? In that case, you should definitely read Rand. She’s good for immature minds.”

                Tony w/o spaces, not only are you unprincipled, but you’re witless. A dangerous combination.

                1. The point, which I just made a post earlier, was that Rand tends to impress underdeveloped minds and stunt their growth.

              2. Surely there’s an undergrad around who you can blow this afternoon to “take the edge off” isn’t there?

                1. Why, you know one?

                  1. Why, tired of blowing your law school graduate?

                  2. Your world must be the happiest of all worlds to inhabit.

                    That beautiful pristine world in which all of your and your allies’ ideas are perfect and moral and rational and common sense and… well, perfect.

                    & where your opponents’ ideas are all wrong, uneducated, unpatriotic, mean spirited, hateful, evil, stupid, illiterate (because no one against you ever reads)… etc/etc/etc

                    Oh – and no replying with “I have problems with Obama – he’s just too damn good looking” or whatever other false “critique” you have planned just for this – as all you do it shout out your love for the all powerful state (so long as your guys are in charge).

                    What you should instead do is ask yourself – is is more likely that everything I believe is correct and all of my opponents are evil or is it more likely due to strong convictions, backed up by scant evidence, I prefer to believe is this as “good versus evil” because any real investigation might force me to contemplate I’m wrong?

          3. OK, Tony, summarize Ayn Rand’s objectivist philosophy as best you can without resorting to caricature.

            1. Unlikely. From all of his assertions regarding Rand above, it’s clear that Tony’s knowledge of her works is about on par with Reich’s own knowledge.

              JD actually saves everyone the trouble of having to refute the keyboard diarrhea that Tony has deployed here today by linking to the Atlas Society, which has actual excellent descriptions of what Objectivism is all about.

            2. Reality is objective, and the proper way to live is to pursue rational self-interest, and for some reason laissez-faire capitalism is the only regime compatible with this morality.

              1. When the alternatives necessarily mean violating people’s rights, yes.

        2. What I am tired of reading is that Rand is the driving force behind Republican value systems. Um, no. They are politicians, and therefore have no discernible value system beyond “FYTW” and “Where’s the money, Lebowski?”

          As for Rand being the inspiration, motivation, or *anything* behind Friedman’s values… …well, Robert Reich can only get away with that shit because Milton is gone. Even in his 90s, Friedman would have debated that walking piece of shit into oblivion. On a bad day (for Friedman), it still would have been a full-blown “Scanners” moment.

      4. “You can accept your point fully and still be a socialist.”

        No you cant you retard. If people are self interested then socialism is necessarily self destructive. Its a gigantic tragedy of commons.

        1. Tragedy of the commons is much more inherent to a laissez-faire system. The point is people can act individually in their own rational self-interest and come to favor socialism.

          For that matter, people can rationally choose to commit suicide, I suppose. Rand’s problem was creating a grab bag of political preferences and stamping them with the word “rational.”

          1. “Tragedy of the commons is much more inherent to a laissez-faire system.”

            Nope, capitalism only deals with this problem in public goods. Socialism turns everything into a public good, even what would otherwise function efficiently as private goods. That’s why it sucks.

            “The point is people can act individually in their own rational self-interest and come to favor socialism.”

            Sure, I suppose they can. But it means that socialism can’t work, which makes them idiots. And by them, I mean you.

      5. The most that can be said about this observation is that it’s trivially true.

        No it’s not.

        Plenty of people claim to be acting out of altruism, against their own self interest in the service of others: bureaucrats, politicians, activists, holy men etc. Rand was pointing out the transparent bullshit of their claim

      6. ” Rand doesn’t explain why people might not want to act collectively, even to the point of providing a safety net for the vulnerable and incapable, for their own self-interest.”
        No she understood how people might want to act “collectively” including how they would “collectively” coerce others to pay for the safety net they didn’t want to provide themselves.

    2. Mother Teresa was a sadist who spent her life prolonging suffering whenever possible.

      1. ^This. But she was still acting in her own self-interest.

        1. Certainly. But the example posits that she had the best of motives, when that couldn’t be further from the truth.

        2. Her appeals to altruism and people’s credulence of altruism are what made her such a potent progenitor of suffering.

          1. What I can’t understand is why the atheist hospices didn’t simply steal her patients, since the atheist hospices were so clearly better than hers.

            1. Cost?

  5. Economics, and much of public policy and political strategy, assume that people are motivated by self-interest, that the definition of acting rationally is to maximize what you want for yourself, and that other values ? service, duty, allegiance to others, morality, and shared ideals ? are either irrelevant or negligible.

    Anyone who actually says this, let alone assumes it, is an idiot. Anyone who goes around saying that other people think and/or assume it is clearly retarded.

    1. Well, up until “and that other values” he’s mostly right – and up until “that the definition” he’s completely right…

      People are motivated by self-interest, by all empirical evidence.

      The idea that “fulfilling duties” or “performing service” or “obeying the moral code they hold” is different fulfilling their perceived self interest is the core of the fallacy…

  6. So wait, they were volunteer firemen?

    1. That hated the groupies and adrenaline rush that came with the volunteering.

  7. We should be thankful that there are people willing enough to do some jobs well, so that the rest of us don’t have to. I doubt if Reich wants to get into how that’s inherently at odds with collectivism and central planning.

  8. Ayn Rand, the philosophical guru of the modern Republican Party

    All Ayn Rand’s fault.

    1. Wait, what? I don’t see how that’s even remotely true. Really, I don’t think it’s even true of the Libertarian Party.

      1. Follow the trail, ProLib. The fire was Republicans’ fault, and everything the Republicans do is the fault of their unholy high priestess Ayn Rand.

        1. I thought everything the Republicans did was at the behest of the High Priest of Evil, Karl Rove?

          1. I thought is was false consciousness or racism.

      2. This.

        Rand’s influence among libertarians is small, and libertarians influence in the GOP is smaller still.

    2. Yeah, tell that to the large religious base of the Republican party; yeah, they’re all about them some godless Ayn Rand. Totally.

      1. Yeah, tell that to the large religious base of the Republican party; yeah, they’re all about them some godless Ayn Rand. Totally.

        More evidence of sublime cluelessness.

    3. That quoted bit seemed a little strange to me.

      So Ayn Rand, who supported abortion, is the “philosophical guru” for those dangerous extremists who are waging WAR ON WOMEN by ……….. restricting abortion.

      1. You’re messing with the narrative, citizen. That’s dangerous. This is your final warning.

  9. “It’s worth pondering that the 19 firefighters who died Sunday battling a huge wildfire near Prescott, Arizona, presumably were motivated by something other than rational self-interest.”

    Why? It is not like rational self interest precludes including the needs of others in your moral calculus. Defense of friends, family and property are just as much rational self interest as looking out for #1. It is claiming to be motivated by an abstract concept like patriotism or oven “the general good” that Rand spoke against

    1. You can’t whitewash Rand’s tendency to separate humans into makers and moochers. It is rather central. I know it’s not about rich vs. poor but about having the right attitude, or what the fuck ever, but, still, she did basically cheer if not outright advocate the deaths of the undesirables.

      1. Tony| 7.3.13 @ 4:20PM |#
        “You can’t whitewash Rand’s tendency to separate humans into makers and moochers.”

        Shithead, is that strawman a K-mart special? It’s real nice, except for the damage.

        1. So Rand did not separate people into makers and moochers, like, explicitly?

          1. No, she separated them in spirit. Every individual, of course, will have a little of both, but hopefully more of the former and less of the latter.

            1. No, I don’t think so. You either have it or you don’t. That’s essential Randism.

              1. You wouldn’t know essential Randian thought if it bit you on the ass.

              2. You do realize her fiction (which like most here I haven’t read a great deal nor do I adhere to) was a caricature of her beliefs?

                IE – just because her society basically had only producers and rent-seekers doesn’t mean that her philosophy didn’t believe people were more nuanced.

                I should quit… it’s not going to listen nor care… trolls troll, right?

      2. And as has been pointed out to you countless times here, and is constantly pointed out on actual objectivist websites: Objectivism is not libertarianism.

        1. Kissing cousins.

          1. Kissing cousins.

            Citation?

            1. “For the record, I shall repeat what I have said many times before: I do not join or endorse any political group or movement. More specifically, I disapprove of, disagree with, and have no connection with, the latest aberration of some conservatives, the so-called “hippies of the right,” who attempt to snare the younger or more careless ones of my readers by claiming simultanteously to be followers of my philosophy and advocates of anarchism.” – Ayn Rand

              Sloppy work on Tony’s part, as usual.

              Non-anarchist libertarians may find a lot to agree with in Objectivism, but they aren’t the same any more than Objectivism is modern liberalism because they’d both advocate for the right of a woman to have an abortion. The same could be said of Objectivism and conservativism: they aren’t the same just because Objectivists and conservatives think businesspeople should be free to do business how they please.

          2. I’m not a fan of Rand. I think she intentionally played vague with her concept of selfishness so that she could play to part of her fan base that wanted to hear it was fine to be self-centered jerks while also claiming that, sure, it was OK to put your loved ones lives above yours.

            Having said that, objectivism is a relatively small part of libertarianism.

            Rand had a philosophy of metaphysics and an ethical system that went beyond political philosophy.

            Libertarianism is simply an idea about politics: governments should enforce only negative rights. It’s a political philosophy, not a social one.

            1. Not sure if this matters, but Rand hated libertarians by the way.

              1. Yeah because they are essentially anarchists and dickheads. That’s quite an indictment coming from the likes of Rand.

                1. Yeah Tony, you of all people are in such a good position to call other people dickheads. You clearly show your superior wisdom and virtue here daily.

                  1. Thank you.

      3. she did basically cheer if not outright advocate the deaths of the undesirables.

        I think you have her confused with Margaret Sanger.

    2. I recently had an interpersonal situation in which I could have chosen superficial delights, as many others would have, but I decided I care more about my character and conscience, so I did what I considered to be the right thing. This, too, could be called rational self-interest, even if I didn’t make the most egregiously selfish choice.

      1. Green stock pick went south eh?

        1. Nothing like that, thank you. I have beer money.

    3. “Defense of friends, family and property are just as much rational self interest as looking out for #1.”

      I don’t see how you get there.

      I can see saying “it’s in my rational self interest to be good to some people so they will be good to me.”

      But once you start saying “it’s in my rational self interest to sacrifice my life for another person because I love them and all” I think you’ve gone into incoherence.

      1. No, people choose the values that they live for and often those values include ricking your life for the sake of those values. If survival is your one and only value, then you cannot differentiate yourself from the lowliest of animals. To be more than an animal, you must choose values that mere animals cannot have.

        1. It’s incoherent to say that you’re risking your life for others is in your self interest because you’ve chose a value that involves risking your life for others. You’ve just build in a cake-and-eat-it-too into the concept.

          1. http://www.atlassociety.org/ge…..f-interest

            All of these are worth reading, actually:
            http://www.atlassociety.org/ob…..de_to_life

            And if you’ve got a little more time, check out a book called “Unrugged Individualism: The Selfish Basis for Benevolence.” It’s how I found out about the Atlas Society in the first place, actually. Just over 50 pages long, and it can explain this concept a lot better than we can, probably.

            1. Edit: the title is actually “Unrugged Individualism: The Selfish Basis of Benevolence.” Not “for.”

            2. Thanks, perhaps it will be more convincing that my previous reads of her. I read Rand’s The Virtue of Selfishness a few years ago. I didn’t buy her discussion there.

              Selfishness literally means “concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others.” Sounds like a jerk to most.

              Rand’s out is to argue that a selfish person chooses certain things valuable to them and that sacrificing for those values is therefore selfish.

              But that makes no sense. Why not say that the uber-altruist has simply adopted altruism as their value, and then all seemingly altruistic acts are ‘really’ selfish? It becomes an idea that can’t be falsified because it encompasses everything. I think more simply than saying it’s non-falsifiable it can just be said that it is totally idiosyncratic to label such things as ‘selfish.’ When I go without so my kid can have, it sounds weird to say I’m being selfish. It’s more in line with normal meaning to say I’m putting my kid’s needs above mine.

              I think it was just a way for Rand to have her cake and eat it too. She wanted to say it’s ok to be selfish but knew that only a pretty despicable person doesn’t put some principles or persons above themselves, so she just collapsed the latter into the former. But it’s nonsense.

              1. I hear you. She insisted on using the word “Selfish” because she was kind of a she-prick (in my opinion) and thought everyone would adopt her meaning if they could just see reason.

                Her own stated understanding of the word is more akin to rational egoism or self-interest than uncaring egotism, but that doesn’t stop the connotation that everyone else understands from coming through.

                The book is actually written by David Kelley. He’s one of Rand’s former students and the founder of the Atlas Society, and a great voice for the spirit and meaning of Objectivism.

              2. “But that makes no sense. Why not say that the uber-altruist has simply adopted altruism as their value, and then all seemingly altruistic acts are ‘really’ selfish? It becomes an idea that can’t be falsified because it encompasses everything.”

                But what if it does encompass everything? So, in fact, the altruist can only be an altruist by adopting it as a value, which is a contradiction, meaning they lose their own moral high ground. Which is good that they should.

                “It’s more in line with normal meaning to say I’m putting my kid’s needs above mine”

                But you don’t see the value in understanding every motive as ultimately self-interested?

                The problem for me that all of this resolves is that people who believe in the virtue of altruism are always demanding that everybody else be altruistic. They do this because they mistakenly think its some kind of universal imperative. If you can get them to realize that altruism never actually happens, they can’t make that demand on others without being disingenuous.

                1. “But what if it does encompass everything?”

                  Then it’s essentially a meaningless term

                  1. “Then it’s essentially a meaningless term”

                    No it isn’t. Is the phrase “all-encompassing” meaningless? No. And something can be all-encompassing in fact while still being distinguished from alternatives, which is what give a term meaning.

                    1. If its all-encompassing how can it be “distinguished from alternatives?”

                    2. Except that if you’re saying that the term “selfish” is all-encompassing, then it really can never be used as a descriptor or any individual person or action. In which case we’d need to invent a new word to describe what we deem “selfish”

          2. An evolutionary psychologist would find it perfectly rational. We evolved to protect our genes — not just the sets we carry in ourselves, but those carried in close relatives, in more distantly related “tribesmen”, and even in incredibly distantly related members of the same species, who still share huge chunks of our DNA.

      2. At the very minimum you have this, sacrificing my life for my children is rational. I will inevitably die but they will live on past me and their lives are my legacy and the propagation of my genetic code my immortality, ergo any action taken which improves the chances of my children’s survival and thriving is in my rational self interest even if it leads to my death

        1. I’m not even sure about this. Why is it in my ‘rational self interest’ to sacrifice my actual life for my ‘legacy’ or my ‘genetic code?’ I’m not sure sacrificing yourself for your ‘genetic code’ makes any more sense than sacrificing yourself for your nation.

          1. But the point is that (presumably) you’re choosing the former freely, so that it’s a reflection of your ego…your self. Nothing wrong with sacrificing yourself for your nation, either, so long as you’re not doing it because somebody else has told you it’s a moral imperative. See the difference?

            1. This boils Rand down to “as long as you choose the value, it’s being done out of selfishness.” By that reasoning a person that freely chooses the uber-altruistic lifestyle she hated would actually be selfish, and therefore she should think they are great.

              1. That’s always true though…

                Think of it this way – beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

                Or for us, selflessness is in the eye of the beholder as society is what defines terms such as selfishness, selflessness, altruism, etc.

                More specifically, these ideas are based mostly upon the idea of “sacrifice”. Where truly “altruistic” acts are those where both the degree of sacrifice “given” and the reason the sacrifice was made were great.

                IE – if a billionaire “sacrificed” to buy everyone in his neighborhood a new car, even if it truly truly hurt him, this would never be seen as altruistic – take the same buy who gives all him money to charity even to the point they live in near poverty…

                It’s just that as a society and a race with common beliefs, some “acts” are already assumed to be altruistic based upon this idea of sacrificing oneself – like dying in war or dying to protect others in general.

                Stupid limits… and sorry for the book, but a few more things…

                1. Beyond that and separate from Rand, I think history shows humans operate on incentives. IE – given the correct incentives, we’ve seen humans do the most vile and evil things while believing they are operating on the most moral high ground.

                  It shouldn’t be hard to imagine the other way around – that given the correct incentives other societies can end with people who appear to be fully sacrificing themselves only for the benefit of others.

                  Also note that people tend to feel “good” when being charitable – which I think points to an evolutionary adaptation that being charitable has been advantageous to survival (likely being others are more likely to help helpers).

                  But for many reasons, I think logic and reason says humans operate on incentive and that basic fact sort of invalidates the idea of truly altruistic acts.

                  Note – I don’t think this means we ignore was we believe as a society are “noble” sacrifices, that’s likely part of the enforcement mechanism for such behavior’s existence. But recognizing them doesn’t mean we have to elevate their nobility above that which is.

  10. You can really fasten onto corpses to push your political message.

  11. Someone’s gotta wave those bloody shirts!

    1. Burnt shirts?

  12. “to be part of something larger than themselves”

    In Reich’s world, that’s damn near everything and everyone

    1. If the Borg are real, but only take volunteers, I think they’ll find a large number of candidates here.

      1. indeed, in Reich’s world the only self interest is having no self interest!

  13. Reich is actually one of the few readable liberals, at least in terms of economic policy. However, he is way off base to call Ayn Rand
    “the philosophical guru of the modern Republican Party.” Most of the Republican party base rejects her ideology.

    1. I am going to disagree with this — respectfully, of course. Reich is well-informed in economic methodology, terminology, etc., but his method of argumentation is appallingly bad, to the point of being fertile ground for logic instructors teaching about the major fallacies. Moreover, he simply ignores the most basic of economic principles when they conflict with his own understanding (or agenda).

      I don’t particularly feel like going on a hunt for examples, but I certainly can if it is necessary…

  14. what he’s saying is that paying government workers is unnecessary, they are not motivated by self interest. which is a 4′ 8″ fucking lie.

    1. That was my first thought.

      These were guys doing a job for pay, whether they liked the job or not is irrelevant.

      The job had dangers. In this case, the dangers of the job killed them. That makes them no different than a truck driver killed when his rig goes off the road.

  15. When you’re Robert Reich, EVERYBODY LOOMS LARGE!

  16. Ayn Rand, the philosophical guru of the modern Republican Party

    [citation needed]

    WTF??? And might I add, what a punchable fucking face that douche nozzle has.

  17. It’s worth pondering that the 19 firefighters who died Sunday battling a huge wildfire near Prescott, Arizona, presumably were motivated by something other than rational self-interest. Like the first-responders to 9/11 and other emergencies, and members of the armed forces, they put themselves in harm’s way (or chose a job that did so) because they wanted to serve

    Deutschland, Deutschland ?ber alles!!

    Leftists love Dead People. All Dead People are clearly noble sacrifices to the STATE. And We Who Live must ensure to make that state LARGER AND MORE CONTROLLING out of honor for the fallen dead… WHY DO YOU HATE DEAD PEOPLE!?

  18. If Rand misses the point (and I think she does) Reich does even worse.

    No one forced those firefighters to give their lives, to do what they did.

    And that’s all a libertarian needs to know. No one is stopping Reich from volunteering to be a firefighter, or raise money to pay people to be ones. We just don’t think anyone should be forced to be one or pay for one.

    1. Beyond that.

      Those firefighters did not give their lives … for any reason.

      The were doing a job that entailed certain risks, they were not participating in a suicide pact. I have no doubt that given omniscience they would have chosen to not be in the situation that killed them, ie on that exact ridge at that exact time.

  19. “As I wrote above, I didn’t know any of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, but the hotshots I’ve known (and they play an important role in tinder-dry Arizona) are motivated at least as much by love of the job ? its thrill and challenges ? as by a desire to serve the community.”

    A Buddy of mine is a wildlife biologist at the Organ Pipe National Monument. Last year he went and qualified for his red (fire fighting) card. 2 weeks ago he got called to supervise a fire crew on a New Mexico fire. His reaction? “Cha-Ching” .

    Different people have different motivations…

    1. organ pipe? srsly?

      1. Is there a question?

    2. His reaction? “Cha-Ching” .

      I worked a hotshot crew just after graduating high school for 3 seasons.

      He’s not fucking kidding. I was able to live all year on the money I made during a few summer months if I was willing to travel (which I was). Getting jump certified and becoming a smokejumper can make some real money, plus they usually aren’t seasonal employees, thus they get federal benefits (which, as I’m sure everyone knows, are pretty substantial).

      The $13-16/hour doesn’t seem like a pile, and it seems concerning when you figure it’s only a 4 to 5 month job, but it’s not at all uncommon to average 80 hours of overtime a week during the season. That plus hazard pay on uncontrolled fires and the always ridiculously lavish per diem can mean you take home $40,000+. Then you just get yourself a 9-5er that’ll keep you in shape (like I did throwing boxes at a Target warehouse, which itself paid something like 15-16 a hour).

      I paid cash for my first house, the life was pretty good. But it is definitely a young man’s game.

      1. like I did throwing boxes at a Target warehouse

        How accurate were you? Did you get bullseyes very often?

        1. Yuk yuk.

          Though accuracy was pretty important because we had a quota and boxes that missed the belt (or hit too hard and had to be taped up) cost time.

  20. Facing death helps some people feel alive. Adrenalin is very powerful. Extreme sports is one arena where people risk death merely to feel that powerful state. Become a wildfire fighter and you get to be seen as a hero as well.

    They’re not being lauded for fighting fires, they’re being lauded for dying in a fire.

  21. “Like the first-responders to 9/11 and other emergencies, and members of the armed forces, they put themselves in harm’s way (or chose a job that did so) because they wanted to serve.”

    So Robert Reich is not a first responder or soldier because he’s a selfish prick? Is that what he was saying.

    1. Veteran here, and I can tell you without reservation that altruism did not play a part in my joining the military. It was a combination of the ability to get paid to go to college and not being afraid to go fight (which I eventually was ordered to do). Taken together, those two things meant that the military didn’t sound like a bad option back in the misty days of 2004.

      It’s always amusing, though, to see dweeby little shits like Reich use people like me as their shining examples of the virtues of selflessness.

  22. When can you we stop fellating first responders, particularly the police? Yes, firemen have dangerous jobs (compared to, say, an office worker). But they are not the only people with dangerous jobs. Fishermen, farmers, and roofers all have far more dangerous occupations and, unlike most police activity, they actually produce things that people need (you know, food and shelter). You need a fireman maybe once or twice in your life. But you need food and shelter every fucking day. If farmers and roofers aren’t heroes, cops and firemen sure as fuck aren’t.

    1. Sorry, but most firemen do NOT have dangerous jobs.

      The vast majority today get a decent pay check and good benes and will NEVER see a fire in which they will be asked to put themselves in direct danger.

      This is because most fires are building/home fires where everyone alive is already out long before firefighters show up.

      & in all of those cases – firefighters do not risk their lives to protect property (which they shouldn’t) so they don’t go inside the structure on fire – they put it out from the outside and make sure it doesn’t spread.

      Additionally, in many places, fires are exceedingly rare these days due to fire suppression systems along with gas leak detectors, better technologies in heating, etc, etc, etc…

      Exceptions not only wild fires, but gas leaks, chemical plants, fireworks facilities… but most lifelong firefighters, like most cops, will never have to contemplate dying while at work.

  23. The people who cry most loudly for others to sacrifice for the greater good usually have a vested interest in defining the greater good. The good for which they ask you to sacrifice often is, at best, a well-intentioned but unrealistic cause or, at worst, their personal benefit in disguise. This is probably Ayn Rand’s most important observation in Atlas Shrugged.

    1. What I was thinking.

      Robert Reich reads like a Rand villain and is apparently completely oblivious to that fact.

  24. I think it’s the case that the GOP has taken on a bastardized form of Rand as its core philosophy. Rand, of course, has been called a bastardized Nietzsche. I think the point is Republicans are incredibly, incredibly stupid, and their politics psychopathic.

    1. You’re reaching. Seriously, if you’re gonna stretch it that far, you could call virtually any group’s ideology a bastardization of anyone’s ideology. The modern Republican Party is far closer ideologically to the modern Democratic Party than it is to Ayn Rand. Not even close.

      1. Only from the perspective of a radical who thinks, perhaps, any deviation toward statism is a departure from you. In terms of real-world politics, the difference between the parties is crucial. One believes in mainstream rationality, the other on a combination of religious fervor and discredited self-serving economic ideology. The latter is the Rand bit.

        1. No – the difference between the parties in reality is negligible.

          It’s only that your world point of view makes is a requirement. As without great and meaningful differences, how could you ever claim the moral high ground while painting your opponents and evil and stupid.

          But note… just because your world view requires such a belief – does not mean your belief is correct.

          Instead of trying to play the college psychology major by impressing everyone with your diagnosis of people you know nothing about, your time may be more productive if you pondered why your world view requires large differences.

          My guess is you will not.

        2. Except Rand’s ideas on capitalism weren’t anything new. She simply agreed that capitalism was a proper system of economics for free people because it fit with her philosophy.

          You might as well say that Republicans have taken on the ideals of Ricardo, Hazlitt, Mises, etc. You’d still be wrong, though, since they don’t practice capitalism; they practice a form of mixed economy.

          Then again, you did just say that Democrats believe in mainstream rationality… by which I have to assume you mean they attempt to regulate based on whatever pop science crisis comes up each month, regardless of the validity of the claim on which the crisis is based.

  25. People become firemen for a variety of reasons, but I guarantee that “helping others” is very low on the list.

    1. Really?

      1. I tend to agree with that statement… though I cannot be certain, but based upon my military experience (which matches others above), no one I know joined with helping others as a primary or even very high reason on their list of reasons.

        & of the one or two I know who come close to fitting any definition of joining to “help” others – it wasn’t really about helping others as it was about following in the family footsteps, where prior generations of cops, firefighters, military, etc, did “sacrifice” themselves.

        But I could be wrong… and there’s likely some who do these things primarily to help others, I think those numbers are low.

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