The psychopathy of Ayn Rand

15 July, 2018 at 16:53 | Posted in Politics & Society | 6 Comments

Now, I don’t care to discuss the alleged complaints American Indians have against this country. I believe, with good reason, the most unsympathetic Hollywood portrayal of Indians and what they did to the white man. They had no right to a country merely because they were born here and then acted like savages. The white man did not conquer this country …

Since the Indians did not have the concept of property or property rights—they didn’t have a settled society, they had predominantly nomadic tribal “cultures”—they didn’t have rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights that they had not conceived of and were not using …

What were they fighting for, in opposing the white man on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence; for their “right” to keep part of the earth untouched—to keep everybody out so they could live like animals or cavemen. Any European who brought with him an element of civilization had the right to take over this continent, and it’s great that some of them did. The racist Indians today—those who condemn America—do not respect individual rights.

Ayn Rand,  Address To The Graduating Class Of The United States Military Academy at West Point, 1974

It’s sickening to read this gobsmacking trash. But it’s perhaps even more sickening that people like Alan Greenspan consider Rand some​ kind of intellectual hero.

Alan Greenspan isn’t just a bad economist. He’s a bad person. What else can one think of a person that considers Ayn Rand — with the ugliest psychopathic philosophy the postwar world has produced — one of the great thinkers of the 20th century? A person that even co-edited a book with her — maintaining that unregulated capitalism is a “superlatively moral system”. A person that in his memoirs tries to reduce his admiration for Rand to a youthful indiscretion — but who actually still today can’t be described as anything else than a loyal Randian disciple.

Ayn Rand and her objectivist philosophy have​ more disciples than Greenspan. But as Hilary Putnam rightfully noticed in The Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy (Harvard University Press, 2002) it’s doubtful if it even qualifies as a real philosophy:

It cannot be the case that the only universally valid norm refers solely to discourse. It is, after all, possible for someone to recognize truth-telling as a binding norm while otherwise being guided solely by ‘enlightened egoism.’ (This is, indeed, the way of life that was recommended by the influential if amateurish philosophizer – I cannot call her a philosopher – Ayn Rand.) But such a person can violate the spirit if not the letter of the principle of communicative action at every turn. After all, communicative action is contrasted with manipulation, and as such a person can manipulate people without violating the maxims of ‘sincerity, truth-telling, and saying only what one believes to be rationally warranted.’ Ayn Rand’s capitalist heroes manipulated people all the time (even if she didn’t consider it manipulation) via their control of capital, for example. Indeed, the person who says, ‘do what I want or I’ll shoot you,’ need not be violating any maxim concerned solely with discourse. But it would be a mistake to use such examples as objections to Habermasian ‘discourse ethics.’

In her diary from 1928, Ayn Rand approvingly quotes a statement made by a William Edward Hickman – “What is good for me is right.” Rand is enthusiastic and writes: “The best and strongest expression of a real man’s psychology I have heard.”

Later she models one of her heroes​  – Danny Renahan – after Hickman. Renahan is portrayed as

born with a wonderful, free, light consciousness — [resulting from] the 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.

Who was this  Hickman that so inspired Rand?

Hickman was a notorious bank robber, child kidnapper and mass murderer. One of the most hated and heinous criminals in U. S. history.

How people like Alan Greenspan and Paul Ryan — not to mention all modern day ‘objectivist’ disciples — can consider Ayn Rand “one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century” is really beyond comprehension. It’s sickening.

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6 Comments

  1. And such a witch is admired by libertarians and others! I think of our Johan Norberg, for example, who praises her every time he is on tv-radio etc!!! And Annie Lööf,and many more. ​What went wrong with them?

  2. I suppose even psychopaths need someone to look up to.

  3. Is this how you normally evaluate people and their work? An answer from a Q&A, who likes the person or the idea, a secondhand-dismissal, and a quote in a private journal never intended for publication written when she was 23? Just grab a handful of concretes details and it’s off to the races?

    That’s all you need to know and then you can make sweeping generalizations about her psychology and that of everyone who agrees with her (much less respects her)?

    In my book, this is not a reasoned judgement or even criticism—it’s a contemptuous (and contemptible) smear. You are looking for any reason to dismiss engaging with her, her ideas, or her adherents.

  4. Greenspan was also gobsmackingly naive – as he testified to congress after the crash:
    “Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholder’s equity – myself especially – are in a state of shocked disbelief.”

    “I found a flaw in the model that I perceived is the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works. That’s precisely the reason I was shocked… I still do not fully understand why it happened and obviously to the extent that I figure where it happened and why, I will change my views.”

    And really every bit as unfeeling as Rand:

    He explained before a Senate committee, what has been called the “Traumatized Worker Effect.” He said that workers are so deeply in debt that they’re afraid to strike. They’re afraid to complain about working conditions, because they could be walked out the door, and if they are fired, if they don’t have a job, then suddenly the interest rates they pay on their credit cards go up to 29 percent. They’re one month away from insolvency, one month away from homelessness.” So Greenspan said, in effect, “We’ve hooked them. We’ve got them.”

    [Michael Hudson: Economists’ Deadly but Innocuous-Seeming Proclamations
    Posted on December 10, 2016 by Yves Smith The Naked Economist]

  5. “What were they fighting for, in opposing the white man on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence; for their “right” to keep part of the earth untouched—to keep everybody out so they could live like animals or cavemen. Any European who brought with him an element of civilization had the right to take over this continent, and it’s great that some of them did.”
    .
    This violates the Lockean Proviso. Also, the Native Americans can be seen as not wanting to keep everybody out, but trying to keep their right to roam freely. What we have now in the western US is a Tragedy of Privatization. The air, land, and animals were all much better off before civilization got there.


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