Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Rand Illusion

I sometimes post on a blog where a few libertarians and Republicans hang out. It's really amusing when I see them referring to Ayn Rand as if she were some sort of prophetess and not the horribly bad fiction writer that she really was. Last night, The Colbert Report mentioned Rand in a hilarious feature called "The Rand Illusion". Here's the clip:


Anonymous said...


Sarah J said...

Helloooooooo there, awesomeness. :)

Renegade Evolution said...

im a lib, and think ayn was far, far, far, anything icon like. pfft.

libhom said...

Ayn Rand's "philosophy" of objectivism was a rationalization and glorification of her narcissistic personality disorder.

Sarah J said...

Here....more Rand humor for you from my favorite comics artist.

Godwhacker said...

I'm a libertarian (small l) and I have almost nothing in common with that blog you go to. I visit myself sometimes, when I feel like getting angry or making fun of the fake libertarians.

That said, I think you have Rand totally wrong. I don't think of her as a profit, but I do find her books quite enjoyable. 'Bad' writing or 'good' writing is really an aesthetic judgment, open to personal tastes. But a lot of people enjoy her books and they are some of the most successful novels of the 20th century.

No writer has been more misunderstood and vilified then Ayn Rand. She is demonized widely throughout academia -- described as a narcissist and even a 'cult leader'.

I think that's hogwash.

Rand's books were about the defense of the ultimate minority -- the individual. Her world view was shaped by the Russian revolution, when her family was forced to flee under the threat of communist violence and waves of Antisemitism. This is the same revolution that lead to an estimated 20 million murders, so I have to forgive Rand for her rabid anti-collectivist stance, given the backdrop of her life experiences.

She did have an overly-romanticized view of America and capitalism.

So what were her other crimes? Well, she was an atheist. Being an atheist is hard today, and it was much harder in the 1950's at the height of her popularity.

Also, Rand was promiscuous, taking a lover openly, in spite of her marriage.

Rand fancied herself a philosopher in an age dominated by sexism and a field dominated by men.

None of those 'flaws' diminishes my respect for her. I've read her works extensively, and what I take from them is the self-confidence to make my own judgments -- a skill which is the exact opposite of belonging to a cult.

One of my favorite quotes is from Buddha; "Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense." Ayn Rand said the exact same thing -- spread out over novels so large you could take out a mugger with one.

Commenting on The Fountain Head, architect Frank Lloyd Wright said, 'I've read every word... Your thesis is the great one. Especially at this time, so I suppose you will be set up in the market place and burned as a witch.'

Indeed she was, and I feel like I'm attending such a burning here and now.

H├ęctor said...

I'm not a big Rand fan. I find her writings particularly bitter. Besides, her claim about the "virtue of selfishness" is ridiculous, since research has shown that altruism is selfish.

That being said, if you want a true Libertarian author, I'd reccomend Robert Nozick. Funnier to read and with a more solid philosophy (ironically, Dondero refuses to quote him or talk about him).

Battybattybats said...

While I haven't read her work yet it seems to me that Ayn has failed to read about and address the notion of the Social Contract. her extreme version of self-interest makes me wonder how she justifies the existence of society beyond a useful tool from which to take a greater share of resources because you can, if you can.

It seems she fails to address the state-of-nature idea, or rather positively revels in making society into the state-of-nature.

It does help convince me further that, no matter the validity of the state-of-nature idea that Rawls Veil Of Ignorance is an essential tool for determining the justness of any social system notion.

If Ayn Rand knew her prospect was at the impoverished bottom of the heap without the natural talents, good fortune, psychological resiliance etc that would enable her to climb up any distance then I doubt she'd be so in favour of such a philosophy.