From the author of GREED,
By Julian Edney

Ayn Rand

"Ayn Rand carried the torch for laissez-faire capitalism in America from the 1930s to the 1980s. She published two books of essays, Capitalism and The Virtue of Selfishness. She roiled the public’s imagination with two novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged (30-33). Many American baby boomers have copies of her books on their bookshelves. Rand actually sold over three million books in America, more than any philosopher. One of her biographers estimates books written by her and her followers are still selling at 400,000 a year worldwide (34).

Rand was short, argumentative, vitriolic and charismatic. She was militantly capitalistic. Her works are saturated in Social Darwinism (35). She influenced some major government policy-makers (the Reagan Administration was largely Randian). Alan Greenspan, ex-Chief of the Federal Treasury, was one of her followers (he contributed three essays to Capitalism). Over the years Rand’s books have influenced in the life, and faith, of millions of readers. Some of these books are now taught in schools and universities.

Rand excoriated communism, which deeply satisfied America of the ‘40s and ‘50s.

But some of her shouted-up public speeches were beyond antisocial, they were quite poisonous – in general, she urged against compromise, because it was a sign of weakness. With her public rhetoric she scrambled to establish herself as a philosopher with a work she called Objectivism. Philosophers have rejected her. Economists have not.

Her work endlessly promotes selfishness. “It is only on the basis of selfishness . . . that men can live together in. . . . society”(36). And it indefatigably puts down altruism as a vice.

Rand’s work is perniciously inegalitarian and profoundly undemocratic. It contradicts all major religions which hold selfishness to be evil, and which promote selflessness, charity and self sacrifice as the highest virtues.

Her biographer, Jeff Walker, researching her personal journals, found an entry written when she was 30. “ One puts oneself above all and crushes everything in one’s way to get the best for oneself. Fine!” (37).

All this toxicity in the pursuit of happiness."

"Some critics dismiss Rand as a historical footnote, since she was trained in film school and worked as a scriptwriter. But she was an effective demagogue (40). The damage Rand has done to this society, I argue, may be enormous. Following her demolitions, we have in fact witnessed, over the last 30 years, the disappearance of the concept of the common good. Nobody talks about it any more. Modern Libertarians embrace her (41). Modern Americans now care less about morality, more about strength. And many young readers still find her message inspiring.

I believe we can throw Objectivism under the bus."

No comments: