Ayn Rand — one of history’s biggest psychopaths

18 May, 2021 at 17:00 | Posted in Politics & Society | 7 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.


  1. The moral claims ignore the Lockean Proviso. You cannot morally coerce everyone into following your system. Ethically, capitalism requires leaving an out for those who choose not to participate. “Enough and as good” land must be left in common, according to Locke; otherwise, private property rights are unjustified. Since nearly all land has been enclosed, private property rights are just might makes right. No higher morality for private property can exist when capitalists enclose everything.
    Basic income is a way of compensating us for loss of commons.
    Ayn Rand was a troll. Y’all have been trolled …

  2. I wouldn’t call her a psychopath even if she provided psychopaths with an excuse. I would rather use a term from the Swedish psychiatrist Pehr Henrik Törngren and call her a counter-moralist. Some people, according to Törngren, have been so thoroughly moralized as a child that they develop a distaste for it but are unable to discard the moralist language. So they turn the moral on its head, change all the values but go on moralizing.

    Törngren, who was active in the 30s and 40s, used Nazis as examples. But there are others.

  3. Here on Donahue, Rand refers to Palestinians as almost primitive savages. Donahue gives her a good rebuke.

    Ayn Rand on Israel and the Middle East

  4. The really amazing fact is that she is wrong even by her own standards. For on average, justness pays better than cheating. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Evolution_of_Cooperation. This is why social animals on the whole do better than lone wolfs, in an evolutionary sense.

  5. First, you are right to fight Ayn Rand. Broad acceptance of her philosophy will mean the end of your moral code. Of course, the problem you face is the very fact of discussing her at all only increases her visibility.

    Once someone is aware of her existence, they can check on things like the notes she made on Hickman when she was in her 20s. She condemns him morally in the harshest terms, but identifies a seed of the idea she was trying to grasp at the time. It is not unusual for authors to do this and, at the time, she was only an author and not yet a philosopher.

    As for the gobbledygook your preferred philosopher wrote about her, I will say the two best things it does are, again to bring attention to AR and, then, illustrate how impenetrably obtuse most philosophic writings are and have been since Kant provided the example. It is not lost on Objectivist intellectuals that the main reason other philosophers hate her so much is that she has violated the norm of making philosophy unavailable to the common man. She wrote with clarity and thus shames the merchants of confusion that most philosophers are (and which they bear as a badge of honor).

    But please, continue. You must fight her, you know. That’s always how these things go. Good ideas are first ignored, then ridiculed, then fought and then they are accepted as the norm. It’s exciting to be at the current phase. I had to discover AR on my own because she was so carefully hidden by my “teachers.” Then, when I did, I got made fun of a lot. Which was ok, because it sparked a lot of good conversations. Now I am just sitting back watching people like you rage at her. It’s very relaxing.

    • What does “Good Ideas” have to with Rand’s thinking? You are pretty much confirming that Rand’s ideas leads one to psychopathy. Every criticism just convinces you, that you know more than any one else. You don’t, but you do you

    • Please address the Lockean Proviso …

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