Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

On Wealthcare from The New Republic

One of the better articles on Ayn Rand and her implications to the development of the ideology over ideas set…  

I have had a problem with the defense of Rand for some time. The Nietzschean idealism of selfishness coupled with an absolution for greed and the added fun of making it a moral exercise to be wealthy.

That Objectivism was grasped on to by those who had wealth was no real surprise.  That Rand herself essentially shoehorned her way into the halls of the wealthy by giving them a “philosophy” that essentially patted them on the back, that’s not much of a surprise. Much like the The Fellowship has done with more religious elements in the party.

Apologists to power usually borrow power, and often for its own sake, and lend to them a sort of moral authority to continue doing what they normally do, but to give that a shine and polish, to make it even an act of worship or in Rand’s case, an ethical responsibility. And it is no real surprise that these movements tend to excuse lapses in what would by most folks’ standards be ethical doldrums at the least, or gross breaches in conduct, civility, and even laws, as being not just moral, but often imperative to the survival of class and creed.

I don’t want to natter on though. Chalt’s article is one of the better dissections of Rand and why she turned out to be so influential over a sector that desperately needed to either find some ethical center, or clamber onto the raft that Objectivism gave them to justify the behavior that they were already engaged in.

It is no different than a lot of cults–and perhaps one day I’ll do a deconstruction of the reasons I pronounce Newage with sewage–but this one, sadly, involves folks who have money, and really like to keep a hold of it, and had a pet philosopher to give them excuses to separate themselves from their humanity.



  1. NavyBlueWife

    I’ve avoided her works for a long time because of everything tangential to them that I have read.  But I think I will read her just so I can rant with everyone else.  I love the cartoon though.  Where was Rand on religion?

    And I’m definitely interested in the deconstruction of New Age.

  2. a philosopher for sociopaths. It seems strange that adults actually read this novelist and raise her on a philosopher’s pedestal. I read her when I was fairly young. I had no problem recognizing that what I read was fiction and fantasy no more related to reality than a Tolkien novel.

    Lengthy novels are one of my guilty pleasures. The longer, the better. It’s one of the reasons why I enjoy Clavell, Michener, and even Robert Jordan. Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead both fit that mold.

    After reading her two longer novels, I sought out Anthem and We the Living. I then took the plunge and read The Virtue of Selfishness. That was an interesting, if painful experience.

    Luckily, for my intellectual development, I had already read several philosophical works before I read Rand. That allowed me to see the sloppiness and incoherency evident in her work. Reviewers who describe her writing as sophomoric are using the right term.

    Rand gives a thin veneer of cover for people who are selfish by nature and aren’t willing to face the antisocial nature of their selfishness. That Galbraith quote I posted the other day fits her perfectly. I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that he had her in mind when he wrote it.

    The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.

  3. 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.

    When I first read Rand’s books in my teens it was an epiphany moment, I realized that what I had believed to date about all of the workers being victims of all of the evil rich people was less than accurate.  That did not mean that I suddenly believed that all of the rich people were now victims of all of the workers.  That sort of binary ethical flip-flopping is precisely the kind of weak-minded sycophantism that is the hallmark of the perpetual lackey, seeking someone (anyone) to ditto-head at.  For my part her books were part of realizing that the world is not as simple as I thought it was, and that there weren’t necessarily a group of Evil Actors out there somewhere who were responsible for my happiness or lack thereof.

    Based on her own life story it is not surprising that she arrived at the worldview that she did, and by summing it up succinctly and in a format that has obviously been highly consumable she did a public service (man, I bet that irked her).  That doesn’t make her any more specifically and entirely correct than any other person who pondered philosophy (none of whom managed to encapsulate the perfect society in their words): it just means that she famously framed a philisophical argument.  Marx had some points, too, but I’m not about to suggest anyone base a society entirely on the most simplistic and extreme of them.

    Rand’s own life, ironically, supports the very idea that the real world is more complicated than monochromatic philosophies imply:

    Rand found relatives to support her temporarily in Chicago,

    Before she had the chance to find a career that would support her monetary needs she received help from more successful people who, it can be guessed, she provided no value in return.

  4. dtox

    There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

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