Self-interest determines behavior People act through self-interest



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OBJECTIVISM


Related or contrasting ideas may be found in the following sections: Altruism, Freedom, Individualism, Nietzsche, Self-Actualization, and The State.



Self-interest determines behavior


People act through self-interest

Peter A. Facione (prof. of philosophy, Calif. State Univ. at Fullerton), The Student’s Guide to Philosophy 1988, p. 13

“An advocate of ethical egoism might begin by observing that people do act as if motivated by self-interest; indeed, that self-interest is the only motive upon which people can act. Since ethical positions would be based on what people actually do, acting out of one’s own self-interest is the wise and morally proper thing to do.”
Ethical theories must acknowledge people act according to self-interest

Peter A. Facione (prof. of philosophy, Calif. State Univ. at Fullerton), The Student’s Guide to Philosophy 1988, p. 13

“People always do what they want to do. Any ethical theory that ignores this ignores human nature.”
Acting in one’s enlightened self-interest need not mean willful selfishness

Peter A. Facione (prof. of philosophy, Calif. State Univ. at Fullerton), The Student’s Guide to Philosophy 1988, p. 14

“Self-interest need not be unenlightened. A thoughtful person can, with foresight, discover her or his self-interest in more subtle and refined ways of acting, including practicing such virtues as self-control and temperance. One’s enlightened self-interest may also include building friendships and achieving self-respect. Obviously it isn’t wise to do whatever you please, nor is it in your self-interest.”
Rational self-interest, not altruism, is the norm for human action

Loren E. Lomasky (prof. of philosophy, Bowling Green State Univ.), “Locke Mess,” Reason, January 1996, p. 53

“Rational self-interest may be far from ubiquitous, may suffer frequent and drastic lapses, but is nonetheless privileged among the springs of human action. It is the norm from which deviations are judged to be deficiencies. In this regard reason is like health. Even if all of us almost all the time fall short of exemplifying perfect health, that does not in any way impugn models of adequate human physiology.”
Self-interest is a legitimate ground for action

Kurt Baier (1917-; American philosopher and ethicist; philosophy dept. chair, Univ. of Pittsburgh), in Great Traditions in Ethics, 3rd edition, edited by E.M. Albert, T.C. Denise, and S.P. Peterfreund, 1975, p. 378

“Of course, interests need not conflict, and then I need not choose. I can do what is both our interests. But sometimes interests conflict, and then it is in accordance with reason (prima facie) to prefer my own interest to someone else’s .That my making an application for a job is in my interest is a reason for me to apply, which is better than the reason for not applying, which I have in the fact that my not applying is in your interest.”
Self-interest is a better reason for action than looking after others’ interests

Kurt Baier (1917-; American philosopher and ethicist; philosophy dept. chair, Univ. of Pittsburgh), in Great Traditions in Ethics, 3rd edition, edited by E.M. Albert, T.C. Denise, and S.P. Peterfreund, 1975, p. 378-379

“It is obviously better that everyone should look after his own interest than everyone should neglect it in favor of someone else’s. For whose interest should have precedence? It must be remembered that we are considering a case in which there are no special reasons for preferring a particular person’s interests to one’s own, as when there are no special moral obligations or emotional ties. Surely, in the absence of any special reasons for preferring someone else’s interests, everyone’s interests are best served if everyone puts his own interests first. For, by and large, everyone is himself the best judge of what is in his own best interest, since everyone usually knows best what his plans, aims, ambitions, or aspirations are. Moreover, everyone is more diligent in the promotion of his own interests than that of others.”
Enlightened egoism is better than altruism

Kurt Baier (1917-; American philosopher and ethicist; philosophy dept. chair, Univ. of Pittsburgh), in Great Traditions in Ethics, 3rd edition, edited by E.M. Albert, T.C. Denise, and S.P. Peterfreund, 1975, p. 379

“Enlightened egoism is a possible, rational, orderly system of running things; enlightened altruism is not. Everyone can look after himself; no one can look after everyone else. Even if everyone had to look after only two others, he could not do it as well as looking after himself alone. And if he has to look after only one person, there is no advantage to making that person some one other himself. On the contrary, he is less likely to know as well what that person’s interest is or to be as zealous in its promotion as in that of his own self-interest.”
Objectivism makes a strong argument against wealth redistribution

Cathy Young (staff contributing editor; columnist, The Boston Globe), “Ayn Rand at 100,” Reason, March 2005, p. 24

“Politically, Rand wanted to provide liberal capitalism with a moral foundation, to take on the prevalent notion that communism was a noble if unworkable idea while the free market was a necessary evil best suited to flawed human nature. In this she succeeded brilliantly (even if the notion that socialism failed because it has never been properly tried is still alive and well among the intelligentsia). Her arguments against ‘compassionate’ redistribution — and persecution — of wealth have lost none of their power in the decades after they were made.”
Rand has been and will be a strong defender of individualism and capitalism

Cathy Young (staff contributing editor; columnist, The Boston Globe), “Ayn Rand at 100,” Reason, March 2005, p. 28-29

“Rand zealots, and even moderate fans such as the Brandens, are often prone to credit her with almost single-handedly rolling back the tide of socialist ideology in the 20th century. That’s quite an exaggeration, as is the notion that her philosophy sprang whole from her mind like Athena from the skull of Zeus. Still, Rand was the most successful and widely read popularizer of the ideas of individual liberty and the free market of her day. In the 21st century, as we face Islamist terrorism abroad and when public discourse at home often seems dominated by religious conservatism on the right and politically correct pieties on the left, Rand’s message of reason and liberty, if it’s stripped of its odder features, could be a rallying point for what the neo-Objectivist philosopher David Kelley, who runs the Objectivist Center, calls ‘Enlightenment-based values.’”

Self-interest ought not determine behavior


People ought not act only out of self-interest

Peter A. Facione (prof. of philosophy, Calif. State Univ. at Fullerton), The Student’s Guide to Philosophy 1988, p. 15

“Even if psychological egoism were true — which it isn’t — that people do act only out of self-interest does not imply that people ought to act that way. Normative claims about what ought to be cannot be inferred from claims about what is.”
Objectivism is based on a faulty application of rationalism

Michael Shermer (adjunct prof. of history of science, Occidental College), “The Unlikeliest Cult in History,” Skeptic, Vol. 2 Number 2 (1993), p. 76

“The fallacy in Objectivism is the belief that absolute knowledge and final Truths are attainable through reason, and therefore there can be right and wrong knowledge, and absolute moral and immoral thought and action. For Objectivists, once a principle has been discovered through reason to be True, that is the end of the discussion. If you disagree with the principle, then your reasoning is flawed. If your reasoning is flawed it can be corrected, but if it is not, you remain flawed and do not belong in the group. Excommunication is the final step for such unreformed heretics.”
Self-interest cannot be the foundation for moral action

Kurt Baier (1917-; American philosopher and ethicist; philosophy dept. chair, Univ. of Pittsburgh), in Great Traditions in Ethics, 3rd edition, edited by E.M. Albert, T.C. Denise, and S.P. Peterfreund, 1975, p. 373

“On the other hand, it seems equally obvious that morality and self-interest are very frequently opposed. Morality often requires us to refrain from doing what self-interest recommends, or to do what self-interest forbids. Hence morality and self-interest cannot be the same points of view.”
The pursuit of selfish goals breeds misery for both the self and for others

John F. Kavanaugh, “The Triumph of Ayn Rand,” America, July 3, 1999, p.13

“In a culture where Rand’s ‘enlightened self-interest’ and ‘the virtue of selfishness’ reign, how could a public figure even dare to ask whether there is something wrong with the fact that (as the U.N. Human Development Report reveals) 20 percent of people living in high-income countries consume 86 percent of the world’s goods and services, while the poorest 20 percent, by contrast, consume just 1.3 percent? We can say, with Ayn Rand’s heroes, ‘that’s the poor’s problem, and they make no moral claim on us.’ But our pursuit of affluence may ultimately damage us as much as it damages the world. As A. Kohn wrote in the Science section of The New York Times earlier this year, a rash of recent studies has shown that people who pursue ‘extrinsic goals’ like money and power are more distressed and anxious than others. The cost of unbridled capitalism is paid not only by the poor; it is paid by the spiritual lives of any rich person who ignores the cry of the poor. Perhaps, too, that is a teaching of Ayn Rand. She seems to have been one of the unhappiest persons who ever lived.”
Moral rules preside over conflicts of interest, thus ruling out self-interest as a moral principle

Kurt Baier (1917-; American philosopher and ethicist; philosophy dept. chair, Univ. of Pittsburgh), in Great Traditions in Ethics, 3rd edition, edited by E.M. Albert, T.C. Denise, and S.P. Peterfreund, 1975, p. 375-376

“For morality is designed to apply in just such cases, namely, those where interests conflict. But if the point of view of morality were that of self-interest, there could never be moral solutions of conflicts of interest. However, when there are conflicts of interest, we always look for a ‘higher’ point of view, one from which such conflicts can be settled. Consistent egoism makes everyone’s private interest the ‘highest court of appeal.’ But by the ‘moral point of view’ we mean a point of view which is a court of appeal for conflicts of interest. Hence it cannot (logically) be identical with the point of view of self-interest.”
The political right holds that wealth is a sign of virtue

Jonathan Chait (senior staff editor; former assistant editor, The American Prospect; occasional columnist, Los Angeles Times), “Wealthcare,” The New Republic, September 23, 2009, p. 50

“Let us begin with the premise that wealth represents a sign of personal virtue — thrift, hard work, and the rest — and poverty the lack thereof. Many Republicans consider the link between income and the work ethic so self-evident that they use the terms ‘rich’ and ‘hard-working’ interchangeably, and likewise ‘poor’ and ‘lazy.’ The conservative pundit Dick Morris accuses Obama of ‘rewarding failure and penalizing hard work’ through his tax plan. His comrade Bill O’Reilly complains that progressive taxation benefits ‘folks who dropped out of school, who are too lazy to hold a job, who smoke reefers 24/7.’”
It is self-evident that income is not a yardstick of social worth

Jonathan Chait (senior staff editor; former assistant editor, The American Prospect; occasional columnist, Los Angeles Times), “Wealthcare,” The New Republic, September 23, 2009, p. 51

“The assumption here is that one’s income level reflects one’s productivity or contribution to the economy. Is income really a measure of productivity? Of course not. Consider your own profession. Do your colleagues who demonstrate the greatest skill unfailingly earn the most money, and those with the most meager skill the least money? I certainly cannot say that of my profession. Nor do I know anybody who would say that of his own line of work. Most of us perceive a world with its share of overpaid incompetents and underpaid talents. Which is to say, we rightly reject the notion of the market as the perfect gauge of social value. Now assume that this principle were to apply not only within a profession — that a dentist earning $200,000 a year must be contributing exactly twice as much to society as a dentist earning $100,000 a year — but also between professions. Then you are left with the assertion that Donald Trump contributes more to society than a thousand teachers, nurses, or police officers. It is Wall Street, of course, that offers the ultimate rebuttal of the assumption that the market determines social value. An enormous proportion of upper-income growth over the last twenty-five years accrued to an industry that created massive negative social value — enriching itself through the creation of a massive bubble, the deflation of which has brought about worldwide suffering.”

Ayn Rand’s Objectivism is a valid philosophical position


A growing consensus says a gulf is opening between the productive class and the drones

Jonathan Chait (senior staff editor; former assistant editor, The American Prospect; occasional columnist, Los Angeles Times), “Wealthcare,” The New Republic, September 23, 2009, p. 46

“Amid this cacophony of rage and dread, there has emerged one anxiety that is an actual idea, and not a mere slogan or factual misapprehension. The idea is that the United States is divided into two classes — the hard-working productive elite, and the indolent masses leeching off their labor by means of confiscatory taxes and transfer programs. You can find iterations of this worldview and this moral judgment everywhere on the right. Consider a few samples of the rhetoric. In an op-ed piece last spring, Arthur Brooks, the president of the American Enterprise Institute, called for conservatives to wage a ‘culture war’ over capitalism. ‘Social Democrats are working to create a society where the majority are net recipients of the “sharing economy,"’ he wrote. ‘Advocates of free enterprise ... have to declare that it is a moral issue to confiscate more income from the minority simply because the government can.’ Brooks identified the constituency for his beliefs as ‘the people who were doing the important things right — and who are now watching elected politicians reward those who did the important things wrong.’ Senator Jim DeMint echoed this analysis when he lamented that ‘there are two Americas but not the kind John Edwards was talking about. It’s not so much the haves and the have-nots. It’s those who are paying for government and those who are getting government.’”
Objectivism has reached new popularity recently

Gayle M.B. Hanson (staff writer), “Ayn Rand inspired high-tech capitalism,” Insight on the News, September 22, 1997, p. 16

“Since its publication in 1957, Atlas Shrugged has become the centerpiece in development of Rand’s philosophy of objectivism — an ideology that centers around the idea that the individual is paramount in society. That greed actually is good. And that those who make money should be celebrated and not condemned. Today, more than 50 years after its publication, it is more popular then ever, and Ayn Rand clubs are springing up on college campuses nationwide, including Harvard’s.”
Rand’s core message as an invigorating emotional and intellectual appeal

Cathy Young (staff contributing editor; columnist, The Boston Globe), “Ayn Rand at 100,” Reason, March 2005, p. 24

“Rand’s rejection of the moral code that condemns selfishness as the ultimate evil and holds up self-sacrifice as the ultimate good is a radical challenge to received wisdom, an invitation to a startlingly new way to see the world. While Rand was hardly the first philosopher to advocate an ethos of individualism, reason, and self-interest, no one formulated it as accessibly or persuasively as she did — or as passionately. In Rand’s hands, the ‘virtue of selfishness’ was not a dry, abstract rationalist construct with a bloodless ‘economic man’ at its center. It became a bold, ardent vision of defiance, struggle, creative achievement, joy, and romantic love. That vibrancy, more than anything else, accounts for her extraordinary appeal.”

Ayn Rand’s Objectivism is not credible


Rand’s life and work are profoundly inconsistent

Cathy Young (staff contributing editor; columnist, The Boston Globe), “Ayn Rand at 100,” Reason, March 2005, p. 29

“Rand herself was a creature of paradox. She was a prophet of freedom and individualism who tolerated no disobedience or independent thought in her acolytes, a rationalist who refused to debate her views. She was an atheist whose worship of Man led her to see the human mind as a godlike entity, impervious to the failings of the body or to environmental influences. (Nathaniel Branden reports that she even disliked the idea of evolution.) She was a strong woman who created independent heroines yet saw sexual submission as the essence of femininity and argued that no healthy woman would want to be president of the United States because it would put her above all men.”
Ayn Rand was an outrageously unpleasant person

Johann Hari (journalist and playwright; columnist for the Independent [U.K.] and the Huffington Post; 2008 winner of the George Orwell Prize for political writing; winner, 2007 Newspaper Journalist of the Year by Amnesty International), “How Ayn Rand Became an American Icon: The Perverse Allure of a Lunatic,” Slate, November 2, 2009. Online: www.slate.com/id/2233966, accessed November 3, 2009

“Ayn Rand is one of America’s great mysteries. She was an amphetamine-addicted author of sub-Dan Brown potboilers, who in her spare time wrote lavish torrents of praise for serial killers and the Bernie Madoff-style embezzlers of her day. She opposed democracy on the grounds that ‘the masses’ — her readers — were ‘lice’ and “parasites” who scarcely deserved to live. Yet she remains one of the most popular writers in the United States, still selling 800,000 books a year from beyond the grave. She regularly tops any list of books that Americans say have most influenced them. Since the great crash of 2008, her writing has had another Benzedrine rush, as Rush Limbaugh hails her as a prophetess. With her assertions that government is ‘evil’ and selfishness is ‘the only virtue,’ she is the patron saint of the tea-partiers and the death panel doomsters.”
Rand is a rebel from all mainstream positions

Cathy Young (staff contributing editor; columnist, The Boston Globe), “Ayn Rand at 100,” Reason, March 2005, p. 23-24

“Yet in many ways Rand remains an outlier and an oddity on the cultural scene, a cult figure with plenty of worshippers and plenty of desecrators. No other modern author has had such extravagant claims of greatness made on her behalf: followers of her philosophy, Objectivism, regard her as the greatest thinker to have graced this earth since Aristotle and the greatest writer of all time. Mainstream intellectuals tend to dismiss her as a writer of glorified pulp fiction and a pseudo-philosophical quack with an appeal for impressionable teens. Politically, too, Rand is an outsider: Liberals shrink from her defiant pro-capitalist stance, conservatives from her militant atheism, and conservatives and liberals alike from her individualism. Libertarianism, the movement most closely connected to Rand’s ideas, is less an offspring than a rebel stepchild. In her insistence that political philosophy must be based on a proper epistemology, she rejected the libertarian movement, which embraced a wide variety of reasons for advocating free markets and free minds, as among her enemies.”
Rand’s was laboring under a misunderstanding of philosophy

Bryan Register (graduate student in philosophy at the University of Texas-Austin), “Ayn Rand, Objectivists, and the History of Philosophy,” Utopian Studies, Winter 2004, p. 153

“One of the many reasons for the near-total disregard among academics for the philosophy of Ayn Rand, known as Objectivism, is the near-total disregard, by Rand and her followers, for every other philosopher but Aristotle. Rand and her followers labor under a series of bizarre delusions about the history of philosophy.”
Rand taps into some key — but false — myths about American life

Johann Hari (journalist and playwright; columnist for the Independent [U.K.] and the Huffington Post; 2008 winner of the George Orwell Prize for political writing; winner, 2007 Newspaper Journalist of the Year by Amnesty International), “How Ayn Rand Became an American Icon: The Perverse Allure of a Lunatic,” Slate, November 2, 2009. Online: www.slate.com/id/2233966, accessed November 3, 2009

“Rand expresses, with a certain pithy crudeness, an instinct that courses through us all sometimes: I’m the only one who matters! I’m not going to care about any of you any more! She then absolutizes it in an amphetamine Benzedrine-charged reductio ad absurdum by insisting it is the only feeling worth entertaining, ever. This urge exists everywhere, but why is it supercharged on the American right, where Rand is regarded as something more than a bad, bizarre joke? In a country where almost everyone believes — wrongly, on the whole — that they are self-made, perhaps it is easier to have contempt for people who didn’t make much of themselves. And Rand taps into something deeper still. The founding myth of America is that the nation was built out of nothing, using only reason and willpower. Rand applies this myth to the individual American: You made yourself. You need nobody and nothing except your reason to rise and dominate. You can be America, in one body, in one mind. She said the United States should be a ‘democracy of superiors only,’ with superiority defined by being rich. Well, we got it. As the health care crisis has shown, today, the rich have the real power: The vote that matters is expressed with a checkbook and a lobbyist. We get to vote only for the candidates they have pre-funded and receive the legislation they have preapproved. It’s useful — if daunting — to know that there is a substantial slice of the American public who believe this is not a problem to be put right, but morally admirable. We all live every day with the victory of this fifth-rate Nietzsche of the mini-malls. Alan Greenspan was one of her strongest cult followers and even invited her to the Oval Office to witness his swearing-in when he joined the Ford administration. You can see how he carried this philosophy into the 1990s: Why should the Supermen of Wall Street be regulated to protected the lice of Main Street?”
Objectivism stands in opposition to modern science

Jonathan Chait (senior staff editor; former assistant editor, The American Prospect; occasional columnist, Los Angeles Times), “Wealthcare,” The New Republic, September 23, 2009, p. 48

“Rand called her doctrine ‘Objectivism,’ and it eventually expanded well beyond politics and economics to psychology, culture, science (she considered the entire field of physics ‘corrupt’), and sundry other fields. Objectivism was premised on the absolute centrality of logic to all human endeavors. Emotion and taste had no place.”
Objectivism rejects values that clearly would complement capitalism

Cathy Young (staff contributing editor; columnist, The Boston Globe), “Ayn Rand at 100,” Reason, March 2005, p. 25

“Politically, too, Rand’s insistence on de-emphasizing, or even denigrating, family, community, and private charity is not a particularly clever tactic for capitalism’s defenders. These are the very institutions that can be expected, in the absence of a massive welfare state, to meet those human needs that people prove unable to satisfy through the market. Rand did claim to be in favor of ‘benevolence,’ in contrast to altruism; but it would be fruitless to look for providers of private charitable aid among her ‘good guys,’ except for those who lend a helping hand to a friend. When charity is mentioned in Rand’s fiction, it is nearly always in a negative context.”
Because Objectivism rejects religion, it failed to win popular acceptance

Jonathan Chait (senior staff editor; former assistant editor, The American Prospect; occasional columnist, Los Angeles Times), “Wealthcare,” The New Republic, September 23, 2009, p. 49

“Ultimately the Objectivist movement failed for the same reason that communism failed: it tried to make its people live by the dictates of a totalizing ideology that failed to honor the realities of human existence. Rand’s movement devolved into a corrupt and cruel parody of itself. She herself never won sustained personal influence within mainstream conservatism or the Republican Party. Her ideological purity and her unstable personality prevented her from forming lasting coalitions with anybody who disagreed with any element of her catechism. Moreover, her fierce attacks on religion — she derided Christianity, again in a Nietzschean manner, as a religion celebrating victimhood — made her politically radioactive on the right. The Goldwater campaign in 1964 echoed distinctly Randian themes — ‘profits,’ the candidate proclaimed, ‘are the surest sign of responsible behavior’ — but he ignored Rand’s overtures to serve as his intellectual guru. He was troubled by her atheism. In an essay in National Review ten years after the publication of Atlas Shrugged, M. Stanton Evans summarized the conservative view on Rand. She ‘has an excellent grasp of the way capitalism is supposed to work, the efficiencies of free enterprise, the central role of private property and the profit motive, the social and political costs of welfare schemes which seek to compel a false benevolence,’ he wrote, but unfortunately she rejects ‘the Christian culture which has given birth to all our freedoms.’”
Objectivism is too limited by restricting moral rules to economic rules

Cathy Young (staff contributing editor; columnist, The Boston Globe), “Ayn Rand at 100,” Reason, March 2005, p. 25

“Perhaps Rand’s biggest error was the totalism of her philosophy. Having rightly concluded that the values of the free market were moral, she went on to make the sweeping assertion that those values were the only moral ones, and that all human relations must be based on the principles of ‘trade.’ Yet there is nothing unreasonable and nothing anti-market or anti-individualist to the belief that individualistic and market-based values need something to complement them.”
Objectivism is a fantasy for adolescents

Cathy Young (staff contributing editor; columnist, The Boston Globe), “Ayn Rand at 100,” Reason, March 2005, p. 26

“In its pure form, Rand’s philosophy would work very well indeed if human beings were never helpless and dependent through no fault of their own. Thus, it’s hardly surprising that so many people become infatuated with Objectivism as teenagers and ‘grow out of it’ later, when concerns of family, children, and old age — their own and their families’ — make that fantasy seem more and more impossible.”
Rand has a special appeal for adolescent boys

Jonathan Chait (senior staff editor; former assistant editor, The American Prospect; occasional columnist, Los Angeles Times), “Wealthcare,” The New Republic, September 23, 2009, p. 47

“The young, especially young men, thrill to Rand’s black-and-white ethics and her veneration of the alienated outsider, shunned by a world that does not understand his gifts. (It is one of the ironies, and the attractions, of Rand’s capitalists that they are depicted as heroes of alienation.) Her novels tend to strike their readers with the power of revelation, and they are read less like fiction and more like self-help literature, like spiritual guidance. Again and again, readers would write Rand to tell her that their encounter with her work felt like having their eyes open for the first time in their lives. ‘For over half a century,’ writes Jennifer Burns in her new biography of this strange and rather sinister figure, ‘Rand has been the ultimate gateway drug to life on the right.’”
Rand’s positions are influenced by Nietzsche

Jonathan Chait (senior staff editor; former assistant editor, The American Prospect; occasional columnist, Los Angeles Times), “Wealthcare,” The New Republic, September 23, 2009, p. 48

“Rand’s political philosophy remained amorphous in her early years. Aside from a revulsion at communism, her primary influence was Nietzsche, whose exaltation of the superior individual spoke to her personally. She wrote of one of the protagonists of her stories that ‘he does not understand, because he has no organ for understanding, the necessity, meaning, or importance of other people’; and she meant this as praise.”
Rand makes income the primary criterion of personal worth

Jonathan Chait (senior staff editor; former assistant editor, The American Prospect; occasional columnist, Los Angeles Times), “Wealthcare,” The New Republic, September 23, 2009, p. 48

“It was Atlas Shrugged that Rand deemed the apogee of her life’s work and the definitive statement of her philosophy. She believed that the principle of trade governed all human relationships — that in a free market one earned money only by creating value for others. Hence, one’s value to society could be measured by his income. History largely consisted of ‘looters and moochers’ stealing from society’s productive elements. In essence, Rand advocated an inverted Marxism. In the Marxist analysis, workers produce all value, and capitalists merely leech off their labor. Rand posited the opposite. In Atlas Shrugged, her hero, John Galt, leads a capitalist strike, in which the brilliant business leaders who drive all progress decide that they will no longer tolerate the parasitic workers exploiting their talent, and so they withdraw from society to create their own capitalistic paradise free of the ungrateful, incompetent masses. Galt articulates Rand’s philosophy: ‘The man at the top of the intellectual pyramid contributes the most to all those below him, but gets nothing except his material payment, receiving no intellectual bonus from others to add to the value of his time. The man at the bottom who, left to himself, would starve in his hopeless ineptitude, contributes nothing to those above him, but receives the bonus of all of their brains. Such is the nature of the “competition” between the strong and the weak of the intellect. Such is the pattern of “exploitation” for which you have damned the strong.’”
Rand defends capitalism as a system of morality

Jonathan Chait (senior staff editor; former assistant editor, The American Prospect; occasional columnist, Los Angeles Times), “Wealthcare,” The New Republic, September 23, 2009, p. 50

“Prior to Rand’s time, two theories undergirded economic conservatism. The first was Social Darwinism, the notion that the advancement of the human race, like other natural species, relied on the propagation of successful traits from one generation to the next, and that the free market served as the equivalent of natural selection, in which government interference would retard progress. The second was neoclassical economics, which, in its most simplistic form, described the marketplace as a perfectly self-correcting instrument. These two theories had in common a practical quality. They described a laissez-faire system that worked to the benefit of all, and warned that intervention would bring harmful consequences. But Rand, by contrast, argued for laissez-faire capitalism as an ethical system. She did believe that the rich pulled forward society for the benefit of one and all, but beyond that, she portrayed the act of taxing the rich to aid the poor as a moral offense.”
Rand demands pity be given for the victimization of the rich

Jonathan Chait (senior staff editor; former assistant editor, The American Prospect; occasional columnist, Los Angeles Times), “Wealthcare,” The New Republic, September 23, 2009, p. 49

“A long and deep strand of classical liberal thought, stretching back to Locke, placed the individual in sole possession of his own economic destiny. The political scientist C. B. MacPherson called this idea ‘possessive individualism,’ or ‘making the individual the sole proprietor of his own person and capacities, owing nothing to society for them.’ The theory of possessive individualism came under attack in the Marxist tradition, but until the era of the New Deal it was generally accepted as a more or less accurate depiction of the actual social and economic order. But beginning in the mid-1930s, and continuing into the postwar years, American society saw widespread transfers of wealth from the rich to the poor and the middle class. In this context, the theory of possessive individualism could easily evolve into a complaint against the exploitation of the rich. Rand pioneered this leap of logic — the ideological pity of the rich for the oppression that they suffer as a class.”
Rand is best seen as a charlatan

Johann Hari (journalist and playwright; columnist for the Independent [U.K.] and the Huffington Post; 2008 winner of the George Orwell Prize for political writing; winner, 2007 Newspaper Journalist of the Year by Amnesty International), “How Ayn Rand Became an American Icon: The Perverse Allure of a Lunatic,” Slate, November 2, 2009. Online: www.slate.com/id/2233966, accessed November 3, 2009



“The figure Ayn Rand most resembles in American life is L. Ron Hubbard, another crazed, pitiable charlatan who used trashy potboilers to whip up a cult. Unfortunately, Rand’s cult isn’t confined to Tom Cruise and a rash of Hollywood dimwits. No, its ideas and its impulses have, by drilling into the basest human instincts, captured one of America’s major political parties.”


Prager’s LD Vault: Objectivism · Revised July 2010 · © 2010 John R. Prager



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