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Goddess Of The Market: Ayn Rand And The American Right


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I recently finished this book by Jennifer Burns, a historian. It is a nice historical review of Ayn Rand, her philosophy and her life. It is neither an apology nor a hit job. The person that comes through is brilliant but not a nice person. Ayn Rand was imperious, egotistical, vengeful and petty. I suppose this is appropriate for someone whose philosophy is so extremely individualistic.

 

I read a couple of her books “Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged” many years ago in another millennium, but have forgotten much except for the general libertarian philosophy (which I do not embrace). Given the recent emergence of the Tea Party and Paul Ryan who cite Rand as an inspiration, I thought it would be worthwhile to read more about Rand. (FWIW, Mitt Romney's 47% comment was very Randian.)

 

Several things, relevant to PC, came out of the book. Rand was not just an atheist but she despised altruism, which she described as “evil.” And, she held general disdain for “Christian ethics” and “charity.” To her, it is all about the self, the individual. As an example, one of the characters in one of her books says, “The only good which men can do to one another and the statement of their proper relationship is – Hands off!” Actually, reading her denunciations makes me feel better about identifying as a Christian. She saw Christianity as basically altruistic. Where she sees this as a negative, I see it as a positive.

 

If anyone is interested in learning more about Ayn Rand and her philosophy, this book is an objective, scholarly examination meticulously researched (it was an 8-year project). I would not hesitate to recommend it.

 

George

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hi George, your post jogged my memory that I watched a slightly wacky documentary a while ago that featured her heavily. i found it online, it's called 'All watched over by machines of loving grace'

 

here'd the link:

http://vimeo.com/25966415

 

it's a fascinating documentary, but it's quite difficult to agree with everything she says!

 

Jonny

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it's a fascinating documentary, but it's quite difficult to agree with everything she says!

 

I found it difficult to agree with much that she says. One of her favorite sayings to her disciples was "check your premises." I found myself, while reading the book, often saying to her, 'Ayn, check your premises.'

 

FWIW, had someone written Haidt's book during her lifetime and she had read it (although she didn't read material contrary to her philosophy), her premises would have been completely refuted. She would never accept the idea that humans are social animals. In her view, we are stickily autonomous individuals and reason is the only basis of action.

 

George

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I've read some of Ayn Rand's Altas Shrugged and I find it ironic that Ayn Rand rails against the evils of government regulations and hand outs and helping other people out yet Ayn Rand herself received social security and Medicare benefits in her retirement years.

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I've read some of Ayn Rand's Altas Shrugged and I find it ironic that Ayn Rand rails against the evils of government regulations and hand outs and helping other people out yet Ayn Rand herself received social security and Medicare benefits in her retirement years.

 

Also, Rand received her education at a public university in the USSR. In fact, it was the liberalized policies under communism (which she detested) that allowed her as a Jew and a woman to be admitted to the university. She was in the first group of women admitted.

 

George

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Ayn Rand also railed against the evils of religions yet her Objectivist philosophy was little more than a cult of personality and many former members of her cult came forward during that time to testify about Ayn Rand's dogmatic methods and how she wouldn't allow any diversity of opinion. When you think about it, Ayn Rand's "philosophy" was little more than just a secularized version of the Puritan work ethics. It was the Puritans centuries before Ayn Rand who believed that success was a sign of salvation and that you were blessed by God and deserved all the riches that you got and that if you were poor and didn't have a lot of material wealth, this was somehow a sign you were a sinner and deserved punishment from God. While Ms. Rand claimed to be against religion, all she really did was take this predestination mentality of the Puritan work ethic and baptized it in secular anti-religious terms.

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