Ayn Rand’s Objectivism – philosophy for psychopaths

4 September, 2012 at 08:23 | Posted in Politics & Society | 17 Comments

It has a fair claim to be the ugliest philosophy the postwar world has produced. Selfishness, it contends, is good, altruism evil, empathy and compassion are irrational and destructive. The poor deserve to die; the rich deserve unmediated power. It has already been tested, and has failed spectacularly and catastrophically. Yet the belief system constructed by Ayn Rand, who died 30 years ago today, has never been more popular or influential.

Rand was a Russian from a prosperous family who emigrated to the United States. Through her novels (such as Atlas Shrugged) and her nonfiction (such as The Virtue of Selfishness) she explained a philosophy she called Objectivism. This holds that the only moral course is pure self-interest. We owe nothing, she insists, to anyone, even to members of our own families. She described the poor and weak as “refuse” and “parasites”, and excoriated anyone seeking to assist them …

Atlas Shrugged, published in 1957, depicts a United States crippled by government intervention in which heroic millionaires struggle against a nation of spongers. The millionaires, whom she portrays as Atlas holding the world aloft, withdraw their labour, with the result that the nation collapses. It is rescued, through unregulated greed and selfishness, by one of the heroic plutocrats, John Galt …

Rand’s is the philosophy of the psychopath, a misanthropic fantasy of cruelty, revenge and greed … Ignoring Rand’s evangelical atheism, the Tea Party movement has taken her to its heart. No rally of theirs is complete without placards reading “Who is John Galt?” and “Rand was right” …

As Adam Curtis’s BBC documentary showed last year, the most devoted member of her inner circle was Alan Greenspan, former head of the US Federal Reserve … Once in government, Greenspan applied his guru’s philosophy to the letter, cutting taxes for the rich, repealing the laws constraining banks, refusing to regulate the predatory lending and the derivatives trading which eventually brought the system down …

Saturated in her philosophy, the new right on both sides of the Atlantic continues to demand the rollback of the state, even as the wreckage of that policy lies all around. The poor go down, the ultra-rich survive and prosper. Ayn Rand would have approved.

George Monbiot

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17 Comments »

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  1. Sounds like the Superman ideology subscribed to by many nazis. I suppose this has been pointed out already, by somebody.

  2. This article completely misrepresents the cause of the financial crisis and Objectivism, which was characterized by Ms. Rand as “a philosophy for living on Earth.” For presentations (and applications) of Ms. Rand’s philosophy that don’t obscure its true nature one should examine the writings of Rand herself and the writings found on the websites of 1) The Ayn Rand Institute and 2) The Objective Standard, a quarterly journal of ideas.

    Furthermore, adding, later this month, to the already existing abundance of books written by Objectivists are the following two books, which address the cause of the financial crisis among other issues:
    1)Free Market Revolution: How Ayn Rand’s Ideas Can End Big Government by Yaron Brook and Don Watkins

    2)The Financial Crisis and the Free Market Cure: Why Pure Capitalism is the World Economy’s Only Hope by John Allison

  3. There are two other interesting things about Rand:

    (1) What little she passed off as “economics” was simply taken from Mises and other Austrians.

    (2) Even Murray Rothbard could not stand her, and thought she was (to put it rather bluntly) stark, raving mad.

    See his short play “Mozart Was a Red”, a satirical treatment of his unhappy experience with the Randians:

    http://www.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/mozart.html

    Regards

    • Thanks!
      Interesting reading indeed, even though I doubt Ibsen or Bergman would havr been impressed :)

  4. No. Far from being a ‘pathologic’ philosophy Objectivism is a reasonable system of philosophic principles (on the nature of reality in general; on standards for man’s capacity of concept-formation and use; on standards for living life optimally; on standards for interacting with other sovereign individuals in a social context; and an explaination of esthetic creation) derived logically from observable facts.

    A comprehensive statement of the philosphy can be found in Dr. Peikoff’s treatise:
    Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand.

    However, A good place to begin for neophytes is the free online article by Craig Biddle: ‘What is Objectivism?’
    @ http://www.theobjectivestandard.com/ayn-rand/objectivism.asp

    • It is not. And it’s very clear that Objectivism doesn’t work.

  5. I will leave it to your readers to decide whether there is truly a “philosophy” there or if Rand’s writings are the incoherent babble of an itinerant hobo; my personal bias is toward the latter and most students of philosophy do not take her seriously.

    Notwithstanding my views, there are powerful vested interests who will ensure that we will discussing her ‘ideas’ for many years: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-05-05/schools-find-ayn-rand-can-t-be-shrugged-as-donors-build-courses.html

    • Ms. Rand taught that the veracity of an idea does not follow from the number of its adherants, rather it depends on consistency with the demonstrable facts of reality. It is true that Ayn Rand’s system is not taken seriously by the majority of philosophy students. However, some certainly do take it seriously.

      See for example: The Ayn Rand Society, an affiliate of the American Philosophical Association @ http://www.aynrandsociety.org/

  6. “Vested interests” are helpful. However, Ayn Rand has been discussed for over 50 years and will be discussed forever because her books and philosophy inspire young people — and those who hold onto their youthful vision — to love life, prosperity and freedom.

    P.S. In the US we do not consider private businessmen “vested interests.”

  7. Actually, the reference to psychopathy, which at first might sound like pure hyperbole, may be closer to the mark than one might suspect:

    “Romancing the Stone-Cold Killer: Ayn Rand and William Hickman”, by Michael Prescott. http://michaelprescott.freeservers.com/romancing-the-stone-cold.html

  8. Hilarious. More regurgitation.

    The “Hickman” smear has been smashed a thousand times, not to mention the counter vulnerabilities it opens for charges against the world-wide academic/postmodern/decadentHollywood penchant for adoring murderers, thieves, slackers and its general anti-Bourgeois projects. Here’s your counter post to the smear just now linked…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1KGfnn3cbc

  9. Comment included in response to the video above:

    “The character trait she used was Hickman’s psychopathy. Specifically, she admired Hicman’s [sic] ‘absolute lack of social instinct or herd feeling. He does not understand, because he has no organ for understanding, the necessity, meaning, or importance of other people … Other people do not exist for him and he does not understand why they should.’

    “Today we have a word for people who do not understand the ‘necessity, meaning, or importance of other people’. That word is ‘psychopath’.”

    MrBaz744 in reply to rogerz42892 2 weeks ago 5

  10. I would like to read more about the exciting potentials in combining objectivism with scientology. These theories have much to offer eachother – an opportunity that must be seized upon by the true followers of Hubbard and Rand.

    • Yes, wouldn’t that be great. Maybe something for a Ph.D. Thesis!

  11. […] “…It has a fair claim to be the ugliest philosophy the postwar world has produced. Selfishness, it contends, is good, altruism evil, empathy and compassion are irrational and destructive. The poor deserve to die; the rich deserve unmediated power. It has already been tested, and has failed spectacularly and catastrophically. Yet the belief system constructed by Ayn Rand, who died 30 years ago today, has never been more popular or influential. […]

  12. […] “..Rand was a Russian from a prosperous family who emigrated to the United States. Through her novels (such as Atlas Shrugged) and her nonfiction (such as The Virtue of Selfishness) she explained a philosophy she called Objectivism. This holds that the only moral course is pure self-interest. We owe nothing, she insists, to anyone, even to members of our own families. She described the poor and weak as “refuse” and “parasites”, and excoriated anyone seeking to assist them … […]


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