Tag Archives: Ayn Rand

Gotta Love the Ayn Rand Crowd

lens1521675_resizejohngaltThe so-called “Objectivists” are easy to manipulate. All you need to do is post a story with the slightest dig at Ayn Rand, and they mobilize online, rewarding your rudeness with plenty of traffic and comments. Whenever one of my sites needs a little surge, I write about Ayn Rand (as I’m doing now). So, when I had the chance to cover a private equity fund named for Howard Roark for DailyFinance, I jumped at the opportunity.

It didn’t take long for me to pick up a few Ayn Rand-related followers on Twitter, and several comments materialized on the website almost immediately. Fun stuff.

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The Best Take on Ayn Rand Yet

lens1521675_resizejohngaltI tip my hat to Timothy McSweeney. This blogger can take a VERY tired concept — such as Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged — and make it very funny … and very appropriate today. On his site, he has updated a snippet of Rand’s famous rant to reflect the financial crisis that is shaking capital markets around the world.

I’ve lifted a bit of the “new” version for you to read after the jump.

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Objectivists, listen up!

I told you I’d reply to your earlier comments, and finally, I can. My day gig and freelance work have finally slowed down a bit. Now, I can have some fun.

First, I’m not unsympathetic to Ayn Rand or her views. I’d love nothing more than a world in which merit matters and talent profits. I work my ass off every day, and it does bug me that I have to carry along those unwilling to do the same. But, let’s be realistic. This is a political issue, not a cohesive philosophical position.

To the commenter who suggested I review Ayn Rand’s epistemology, here’s some advice: (i) look up “espistemology;” based on your comment, you don’t know what it means; (ii) read Aristotle’s Metaphysics (Rand just ripped it off) and (3) try to figure out how Rand would address perception.

Pardon the digression, but it was necessary. Ayn Rand does not present a philosophical system. Instead, she offers sentiments– clearly based on her experiences in a communist country– to make the wealthy, intelligent and ambitious (as well as those who believe they are) feel superior. They may very well be, but Rand’s objective is to say to those who feel wronged by a society that takes, “It’s okay to be pissed; they don’t deserve it.” This statement is true, but, again, it is not a philosphical platform.

Rand does a great job of conveying her ethic, but here’s the problem: ethics, metaphysics and epistemology are interrelated. Take the philosophical discipline of ethics, which can be summarized with an answer to the question, “What is good/just?” It dosn’t take long to see the implications, particularly as “What is real?” (i.e. metaphysics) must be addressed if we are to determine what is good. If we can’t show how good exists, how can we define it? And, how do we know any of this? How can people know “good”? This is how epistemology comes into the picture. Rand addresses neither metaphysics nor epistemology satisfactorily. So, she is left with an ethical roof that has no house beneath it.

Also, Rand is a shitty novelist. It’s brutal, but true. Her characters are two-dimensional and do not deal with the complex moral issues that people face in the real world. She contrives situations through which it is easy to deliver her moral message. In Atlas Shrugged, We the Living, The Fountainhead and Anthem, there is no shortage of outrage, but a dearth of subtlety. Further, have you ever read an 60-page monologue/rant? It’s not terribly effective. Revealing her shortcomings as a novelist, the introduction of the “Who is John Galt?” catch-phrase is labored and never really gained credibility. John Travolta was more convincing with “up your nose with a rubber hose!”

Rand does fail to follow her own advice at times. She should “check her premises.” Rand has Ragnar Danneskjold say that he doesn’t interfere with the military, because they defend freedom. But, weren’t they defending the “looters”? Also, in a truly Rand-ian society, wouldn’t military protection be secured privately, as education (or any other public service) would be? Ayn, check your premises …

But, I keep reading this stuff. There are several reasons. First, part of her message does resonate with me; I admit it freely. Her two-dimensional characters are easy to follow because they have all the depth of an Evan Stone character in a softcore porn flick. Finally, there is an element of Rand’s storytelling that is like bad reality television. Remember Joe Millionaire? Yeah, I watched it.

What really bugs me about Objectivism, though, is Objectivists. The commenters on my blog appear to be completely incapable of original thinking. They parrot key lines from Rand’s novels, but they don’t explain why they believe it. Such people probably run around the streets of their suburbs asking people, “Who is John Galt?” I have never met an Objectivist who was more than an Ayn Rand parrot or a Howard Roark wannabe. So, I invite intelligent discussion on my blog. Those who foolishly repeat the words of their “prophet” will be mocked mercilessly and publicly.

What I’m Reading: Atlas Shrugged

I’m rereading Atlas Shrugged, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. For me, Ayn Rand is like crack. I know her stuff isn’t good for me, but I just can’t get enough of it! I think her brand of libertarian thinking is ideal but unattainable. On the other hand, the philosophy underlying her novels is weak and underdeveloped. But, I still love this stuff.

Ayn Rand fanatic? Check out >>

Voting Public Makes John Galt #2

Gawker blog Lifehacker.com conducted a poll of its readers most influential books. Which changed your life? While there are some familar faces on the list, the first two tickled the shit out of me. Of 250 responses, the Bible won with 25. It’s the best seller of all time, so that shouldn’t surprise anyone. The next one, though, blew me away. Taken collectively, the works of Ayn Rand nabbed the #2 spot– with 23 votes. Think about it. Can you imagine two books (or, more accurately, bodies of work) that could be further apart than the Bible and Ayn Rand? Priceless! The fact that the votes were so close is somewhat surprising, but remember that zealots tend to vote (even in presidential elections), so neither choice probably represents the masses.

Other names on the list were not surprising: George Orwell, Sun Tzu, Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (great read) and Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray. To check out the full list, click here >>

Oh, I actually did find out who John Galt is. I found out by accident. I was in a used book store on State St (I think it was State) in Newburyport, MA and found an old book consisting of the sermons of … you guessed it, John Galt. He was some kind of (probably) psycho-strict protestant preacher in 17th century Massachusetts. I imagine him cut from the cloth of Jonathan Edwards (“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God). After all, what other kind of minister practiced in Massachusetts at that time?

So, I was tickled to hell about the whole  John-Galt-being-a-minister situation that I’ve never forgotten it. But, the one mistake I made was not buying that book. I really wish now that I had picked it up. It would have been a cool addition to the collection. That being said, I think I’m going to finish reading Atlas Shrugged (for the fourth time?). I started to reread it back in January but got distracted. So, I might just pick it back up today.

Interested in John Galt gifts? Click here >>