Friday, March 21, 2008

Ayn Rand and fascism

***Look, to people who are just finding this post: I am not going to comment on this anymore. If you want a full reckoning of my thoughts on the subject search for "Ayn Rand II" in the toolbar. I will not respond to anything that anyone posts here***

In the interest of finding out just what opponents say instead of just taking it on faith I went out about two months ago and bought a couple cheap Ayn Rand books, specifically "For the New Intellectuals" and "The Virtue of Selfishness", both of which are collections of essays plus extracts from her fiction work, with the much celebrated speeches given by her characters included.
I was prepared for her to be extraordinarily pro-capitalism, with some anti-Soviet stuff mixed in, but what shocked me was that her writings aren't for capitalism in a Libertarian sense but in a sense that goes into the territory of social darwinism and fascism. Libertarians, right libertarians , like those associated with the magazine "Liberty" can be interesting when they're talking about social issues that don't directly have to do with economics, and sometimes interesting in criticizing government waste. They usually don't veer into far right wing territory except in economic issues.

Ayn Rand's philosophy is based on creative people and their rights. She starts out "The Virtue of Selfishness" on a good note by suggesting that doing acts that people in society consider selfish in the sense of personal gratification and self advancement are actually positive. This can be very true in certain respects. But then she goes on to outline her theory of productive individuals, saying that people who do something to advance the world materially and culturally should be allowed to do whatever they want, should really be in charge of society, and should be able to keep whatever comes to them with no sense of greater societal obligation whatsoever. By productive people who contribute to material advancement she means people who do some sort of competitive innovation, in this case businessmen, bankers, inventors, engineers, her famous architects. Productive people and productive work conspicuously and explicitly excludes workers. Her societal ideal is based on the world being about individual survival, with the competitive capitalist business world being a modern incarnation of survival of the fittest. Since corporations make stuff and sell stuff in the market, and therefore have satisfaction of some sort theoretically as their standard of success and failure, this selfishness has positive social implications, meaning that forgetting about social responsibility in her view doesn't lead to absolutely nothing. Of course she's right, it leads to just a little bit above nothing.

The language of "Productive Work", which is the phrase she uses, combined with her characterization of workers as being lazy and stupid, with no initiative and ready to suck the life blood out of the worthwhile individuals of the community through strikes and legislation for social benefits recalls both fascist and racist theories about the same. According to the racist theorist the Count Gobineau white people are the creators of civilization, asians are uncreative and just capable of sustaining civilization, and blacks and others are the destroyers of civilization, people who are constitutionally inferior and will never be equal to white people in their capabilities. It's easy to see racial parallels with her theory of productive and unproductive work, and with the notion of the Slavic Soviets as taking property away from people because they were lazy, greedy, and incapable of creating that which they took. Gobineau was translated by Hitler into an anti-semitic form, with the caricature of the banker Jew getting fat off of society while contributing nothing creative or productive to it. Rand, for her part, included bankers as productive workers and seems only to have been racist to blacks in Africa, who she describes in "For the new intellectuals" as being exploited by "Witch doctors" and living in a world of superstition. Capitalists in her scheme don't necessarily belong to any race, which means she buys into something like the idea of a "natural aristocracy" that Thomas Jefferson, in one of his less equalitarian moments, described.

The creative people should be allowed to rise to the top and should prevent the Üntermenschen from instituting Statist programs and legislation that would restrain them, because these would sabotage the progress of society itself, leading to a sort of stagnation as the stupid, uncreative, workers take over. The collectivist ethic, as she calls it, must be resisted, as well as the influence of religious authority and, interestingly enough, pure warrior force. So she isn't a total social darwinist then, Genghis Khan wouldn't be welcome. But then racist apologists for Hitler contrasted his version of a strong man with that of Genghis Khan by saying that he represented civilization against degeneration. I'm thinking of Savitri Devi here. I digress though.

To kind of summarize I'll let Ms. Rand explain some of her thought via Atlas Shrugged. The idea behind Atlas Shrugged is that Rand's beloved creative and productive class goes on strike, these Atlases who are thought to hold up society, shrugging and letting society fall into disrepair, as the blacks take over. Whoops, she doesn't say that last part, that was Birth of a Nation, where the white slave masters are prohibited from exercising their authority over blacks anymore.

In any case, here she is on socialized medicine:

"That a doctor should have any right, desire or choice in the matter was regarded as irrelevant selfishness; his is not to choose, they said, only 'to serve.' That a man who's willing to work under compulsion is too dangerous a brute to entrust with a job in the stockyards--never occurred to those who proposed to help the sick by making life impossible for the healthy. I have often wondered at the smugness with which people assert their right to enslave me, to control my work, to force my will, to violate my conscience, to stifle my mind--yet what is it that they expect to depend on, when they lie on an operating table under my hands? Their moral code has taught them to believe that it is safe to rely on the virtue of their victims. Well, that is the virtue I have withdrawn. Let them discover the kind of doctors that their system will now produce. Let them discover, in their operating rooms and hospital wards, that it is not safe to place their lives in the hands of a man whose life they have throttled. It is not safe, if he is the sort of man who resents it--and still less safe, if he is the sort who doesn't."

The doctor in question has gone a strike with John Galt, but the meaning is clear: give us a six figure salary or we'll cut you in your sleep.

No more will the sickly victim class control the rights of doctors.

Heil bis die Sieg über die Sklaven! Hail the victory over the slaves.


Warm Tunes said...

I came across this post from Infoshop. Thanks so much for this. I'll be back.

robert574 said...

Wow, if I read only this explanation of Ayn Rand's views I'd think she was a fascist. But I have read much of Ayn Rand and I don't think it serves the advancement of understanding to totally mis-represent what Rand stands for. Rand does not kind of like seem to be sort of like fascism or racist. In fact, Rand wrote and spoke extensively against both fascism and racism.

It is easy to take an element of an author's work and discuss it out of context from the corpus of the author's ideas and then to assume that they lead to something that the author did not advocate. Your assumptions that Rand is for social darwinism, fascism and racism is ludicrous. That's kind of like saying that Martin Luther King's view that we should judge people by the content of their character really, kind of like meant that he was for a dictatorship of people with high character. Really, is that a proper method of thinking?

In fact, Rand was not a "social Darwinist" and never advocated the theory...ever. She disagreed with the idea and never felt that economics was tied in any way to "survival of the fittest." In the very book this poster says he read, she wrote: "Herbert Spencer, another champion of capitalism, chose to decide that the theory of evolution and of adaptation to environment was the key to man's morality—and declared that the moral justification of capitalism was the survival of the species, of the human race; that whoever was of no value to the race, had to perish; that man's morality consisted of adapting oneself to one's social environment, and seeking one's own happiness in the welfare of society; and that the automatic processes of evolution would eventually obliterate the distinction between selfishness and unselfishness." And in her book, Capitalism, the Unknown Ideal, she writes of social Darwinism: "This "defense" of laissez-faire has been incomparably more harmful than anything uttered by Marx. The wrong arguments for a position are always more costly than plain silence, which at least allows a better voice to be heard if such should ever speak out.
There is no clash in a free society among any groups who choose life as their standard. The welfare of all alike depends on the same social condition. When men's rights are respected, all men are equal before the law and, therefore, equal before nature and equal before the marketplace. They are "equal" in the sense of each being free."

Regarding Fascism, she wrote in her "Moritorium on Brains": "There is a name for a system of "socialism for big business": it is called fascism. I have stated repeatedly that the trend in this country is toward a fascist system with communist slogans. But what all of today's pressure groups are busy evading is the fact that neither business nor labor nor anyone else, except the ruling clique, gains anything under fascism or communism or any form of statism—that all become victims of an impartial, egalitarian destruction." and (in "The Dead End") "[Fascism] leaves to individual men the responsibility of production and of struggling for existence, but lets the government assume the power to dispose of anything they produce." These are hardly ringing endorsements of fascism. In fact, Ayn Rand advocated capitalism which is not fascism, which does not lead to fascism (socialism leads to fascism). In fact, the argument of communists and socialists that capitalism leads to fascism was intended to obscure the fact that fascists during the last century actually came from the ranks of socialists such as Mussolini.

Beware of those who tell you that they are going to educate you about the writings of another author.

Richard said...

Great comment robert574. John Madziarczyk is clueless, and has not done due diligence on the topic he spouts. A look at his profile explains why.

John Madziarczyk said...

Because I'm a meany collectivist. Oooh, scary.

She's distorting Herbert Spencer to suit her own needs. Most people define social darwinism as having to do with strong individuals winning out over weak individuals, with whatever end product being the consequent of this competition. While that is indeed defined as being good for the species it's just about as concrete as the idea that individual competition ultimately leads to the best for society. If Spencer is a collectivist because of this than so is Ayn Rand.

Ayn Rand's definition of Fascism is idiosyncratic. Hitler's Germany was largely free market oriented. Not purely, but it wasn't anywhere near as planned as Mussolini's Italy, and part of that was because of Hitler's view that life was a struggle for survival and that if the state interfered too much that it would prevent superior individuals from rising to the top.

Hitler, Primo de Rivera, Charles Maurras, Doriot, Codrescu, Tiso, Pavelic, covering Germany/Austria, Spain, France, France, Romania, Slovkia, and Croatia, all fascist leaders, none were socialists.

Laissez-Faire capitalism as being bad because it distorts individual rights if not coupled with legal protections is a laudable thought, but the line between rightful corporate takings and corporate behavior seems much more lenient in her writings than in other folks, so I don't really know how that's sort of a refutation.

I'd like to see the anti-corporate writings from Ayn Rand.

I explicitly said that Ayn Rand was not a racist but had thought that drew on the same sources as racist material, stuff that was in the air, as it were.

John Madziarczyk said...

Hold that thought, Doriot was in fact a socialist.

Richard said...

What planet would one have to be from to argue that Hitler wasn't a Socialist?

Basically, other Socialists did not want to be identified with Hitler's socialism, just like Communists who swear 'real' Communism has never really been tried. In a mixed economy (some capitalism, some socialism) fascism invariably creeps in too. Both systems sacrifice the individual to the collective. Of course the socialists blame all the bad stuff on the fascist or capitalist elements. "No, no," they argue, "that's not socialism."

The NAZI's full name was, after all, "National Socialist German Workers' Party". But you knew that, didn't you.

John Madziarczyk said...

Hitler was a socialist in that he believed in a sort of commonwealth based on ultra-nationalist principles, with some social programs. I think a better label would be populist. There was actually a break away movement from the Nazi party known as the Black Front that was attempting to be both Fascist and Socialist and was actually disenchanted with the Nazi party because it felt it had went far away from socialism.

You know, people cite the name all the time, but if National Socialist Germany invalidates the name of socialism, the People's Democracies of Eastern Europe and elsewhere would have to invalidate the name of democracy.

North Korea is actually called the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and no one is suggesting that North Korea is actually democratic.

Could it just be possible that the Nazis adopted the name and adopted some pretty minimal features of socialism in order to win over the people who had previously supported the Social Democratic Party in Germany?

Another thing, and this goes to the relationship between Rand and social darwinism, has to do with the two essays in "Virtue of Selfishness" dealing with "Nature of Government" and "Government Financing in a Free Society".

The two essays, which are located one after other, are divided like this: the first one is sort of a classic recounting of Lockean social contract theory, with the government's job being the guaranteeing of the basic rights that allow this sort of society to exist.

So far so good. The second essay, about the financing of things like the police force and by implication the justice system that goes along with it is really off the wall though.

What Rand says is that although people may have democratically agreed to have a police force to protect individual rights from infringement through random violence, they should have no obligation to contribute money to finance either the police force or, by implication, the legal system that goes along with it.

Instead, rich individuals should contribute money voluntarily for that cause because it's in their best interest.

So in other words not even the sort of democracy approved of by Lockean libertarians is enough to avoid the label of collectivism, since for a government to actually do anything it needs money financed by taxes.

Individual rights and even the existence of the very system of fair play she advocates take a second place to insuring that producers aren't coerced to parting with any of their product.

Richard said...

Having read Ayn Rand pretty thoroughly, it is very plain that your interpretations of her ideas are way 'off the mark'. You might discover that, by reading more and then revisiting what you have already read. CDs of lectures and other material are available too. Such extra study would be a major prerequisite to any continuance of this discussion.

John Madziarczyk said...

I'm curious about that because the two essays in her book "The Virtue of Selfishness" that I cite are pretty straightforward, as well as being quite brief. These, by the way, like the other essays in the book, are presented as a good introduction into her thought.

First off she says in "The Nature of Government" that:

"Observe the basic principle governing justice in all these cases: it is the principle that no man may obtain any values from others without the owners consent--and that as a corollary, that a man's rights may not be left at the mercy of the unilateral decision, the arbitrary choice, the irrationality, the whim of another man.

Such, in essence, is the proper nature of government: to make social existence possible to men, by protecting the benefits and combatting the evils which men can cause to one another"

That was in reference to enforcing contracts but can be applied to government in general.

In the next chapter, "Government financing in a free society", after noting that voluntary financing of government would be a last step in a free society and proposing a small tax on transactions for insurance of them, she says:

"It is in their own interests that the men of greater ability have to pay for the maintenance of armed forces, for the protection of their country against invasion; their expenses are not increased by the fact that a marginal part of the population is unable to contribute to these costs. Economically, the marginal group is nonexistent as far as the costs of war are concerned. The same is true of the costs of maintaining a police force: it is in their own interests that the abler men have to pay for the apprehension of criminals, regardless of whether the specific victim of a given crime is rich or poor

It is important to note that this type of free protection from the noncontributers represents an indirect benefit and is merely a marginal consequence of the contributors' own interests and expenses. This type of bonus cannot be stretched to cover direct benefits, or to claim--as the welfare statists are claiming--that direct handouts to the nonproducers are in the producers' own interests."

It's sort of clear that if the maintenance of a police force depends on the donations of contributers for their own protection that people are dependent on the whims of other people for their basic rights. Which is why we have taxes, which are non-voluntary.

In the second paragraph she downgrades the very fair play that she established as being essential for a free society to something that would be an equivalent of a welfare state hand out and therefore undesirable if people had to provide for it directly.

It's not clear to me why she seems to think that the maintenance of a police force to stop people from using violence against each other is a "direct" and therefore suspect benefit for non-contributers, and why protection from violence should only be a 'bonus' gotten as a side effect from voluntary contributions by people.

Richard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richard said...

(ok, I find I am back :-) There is some use in your)

The wealthiest (say) 10% of the nation have the most to lose to those who are initiating force against them and their nation.

Keep in mind that their government has a legal monopoly (the only kind) on the use of retaliatory force. They have determined that the threat to their nation is real.

In my own interpretation of what you have quoted, the government would not coerce that top 10% to support a war effort. The top 10% knows that if they don't their government cannot protect their interests.

"Have to", in that sense, is metaphysical & an acceptance of reality (i.e. the nature of the enemy), I do not take it to be political coercion.

Note that Rand identifies this as the last step in the move to a free society. At such a point the top 10% are emphatically not as stupid as Ken Lay (criminal) or Bill Gates (brilliant dupe). Nor would there be large numbers of bureaucrats and politicians promoting antithetical steps to individual rights.

The top 10% in an established free society would make the sensible choice in funding military, police or courts. They would also be free to disagree and not fund such things, at their peril. Sometimes they might be right.

Read "Atlas Shrugged" with care (many people miss 80% of the ideas in Ch1 "The Theme", and then miss all sorts of abstractions from there on). "The Fountainhead" has considerable value. The big step is to 1) read "Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand" by Leonard Peikoff, and to then 2) re-read it while answering the questions provided in Gary Hull's Study Guide. Take a break at the appropriate point to study "An Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology" at the appropriate point. Setting your own questions for ITOE, and then returning later to answer them, can be very helpful. PhD's read OPAR or ITOE and are too lost to stick to it, yet when understood they offer hundreds of "Eureka" moments (as opposed to religious "revelation").

Anonymous said...

OMG, you did not just write, "Hitler's Germany was largely free market oriented." Why is that, John? Because Hitler had a sign that said, "Work makes you free" over the entrance to the concentration camps?

And to compare the pre-eminent defender of individual rights, Ayn Rand, to a dictator who believed in throwing people into ovens for the good of the Volk. Um um. You are an evil man, John.

John Madziarczyk said...

Thanks for the comments, I want to make a correction. Nazi Germany doesn't appear to have been a "largely free market" economy but one that was rooted in something close to a Social Democratic program, combined with non-economic policies veering way off into the normal areas associated with it, but still favoring a semi-social darwinistic attitude towards things.

Not socialism as I would define it, but not unregulated capitalism either.

I still stand by the attitudes of the previous comments and the post itself, although I have to note that in anarchist and other circles there's an idea that in a perfect society there would have to be the least government coercion possible, so it's perhaps a little unfair to come down so hard on Rand for coming up with an equivalent of that for her philosophy.

jesterpr said...

germany had concentration camps, filled with social "degenerates" like Jews, communists and gypsies. This doesn't mean it wasn't largely a free market economy. In fact it was a free market economy through its main programs, illegalizing all political parties, unions left wing political activity. The church, stock market and the big business trusts, e.g. Krupp, were all left intact and in fact were given enormous government subsidies. The whole reason to be of fascists was the elimination of left-wing parties, all Euro thought stemming from the French revolution. No one at the time of fascism had any illusions to this.
The idea that it is some kind of twisted twin of communism is a thought contrived in think tanks and right-wing funded university departments in the 1980s.

Richard said...

jesterpr is the classic stupid blog lurker. He argues

"it was a free market economy through its main programs, illegalizing all political parties, unions [sic] left wing political activity.]

Yah, sure bud, it is free a market (culturally) when political parties are "illegalized [sic]". That's so free I think I'll organize a political party! Duh!

It is a free market, he says, when "The church, stock market and the big business trusts, e.g. Krupp, were all left intact and in fact were given enormous government subsidies." Where is the freedom of the citizens who paid for those subsidies, because if they did not they would be charged with tax evasion? And what is your premise that such large organisms were "left intact"? Very plainly that leaving a large corp intact is a bad thing, that political freedom should not allow. So... even though millions of customers voted with their money for what the corporations produced, their judgment is to be ignored by the government. The government should NOT leave them "intact". So economic success, regardless of the approval of millions of customers, is a reason to cut off a corporation at the knees!

If you think that means political freedom, U R SEVERE IDIOT. You should be cut off at the knees.

HemlockMan said...

Ayn Rand was a filthy fascist. She took the worst of those ideas and removed hatred of the Jews and had her "new" political ideology. It reeks.

Richard said...

Nice Fail Hemlock.

To other readers, I write the following as an exposé of the irrationalism used by Rand's would be critics, —not so much as a personal attack.

When ignorance and emotion are substituted for 'cogent' arguments, something is seriously wrong with the character, thinking and psychology of the critic (e.g. Hemlock & Madziarczyk)

Hemlock could look up "fascism" to see what it actually means. But his comment demonstrates an egregious intellectual sloth so, by pasting from this link, I'll help the intellectually lazy, and save other readers the time:

Fascism is
"A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.".

(Hemlock & Madziarczyk, for goodness' sake, re-examine the portion I bolded, please)

That bolded portion shows that under Fascism, property ownership occurs in name only —the property may be yours, but you WILL be told what you may or may not do with it.

Once you have understood that, examine what Rand says on fascism, since you also have no idea what her position is.

Yes, this one you would do yourself, were you honest. Too lazy: great! It is better that the dishonesty of Rand's detractors continue to stand out.

Readers, if Hemlock, a man of 52, has not learned intellectual honesty by that age, don't expect him to learn it any time soon.

Such honesty is a hallmark of maturity, as you might hope to see in someone over 18 (many are younger) who has sincere intentions.

It is shameful to see a woodsy, older, man, almost thrice that age, acting like a vacant-eyed, 17 year old, Leftist, activist who never grew up.

It is all the more disturbing that a man, who considers himself an author, cares so little for due diligence in a realm where he claims he has significant aspirations. Of course, that is the same intellectual failure committed in the original post, as I already indicated.

Sadly, Hemlock reflects the intellectual depths of nearly all reviewers and academics dealing with Rand's ideas: curse, swear, smear, & even lie, in the hope that enough ad hominem will create the impression that actual understanding is not required.

Since truth and reason steadily win out, Rand is now represented by very well educated (often Ph. D Philos.) intellectual descendants in some 30 American Universities. These "Objectivists" appear on television debates & interviews, almost every day somewhere in the USA. Objectivist philosophical works are now seriously considered, and are published by stringent publishers. The American Philosophy Association supports an Ayn Rand sub-Association. Funding of the Ayn Rand Institute has grown, unremittingly, since its inception. Various 'Objectivists' arguments appear in the Letters or Op Ed sections of newspapers daily. Usually because their arguments are unassailable, and they write much more clearly than most.

The tide is once again moving from ignorance towards reason; the irrational clamorings of pseudo-intellectuals notwithstanding. The latter minds can discover what they are missing, or be left behind in the dregs of history.

Mikey Bakunin said...

Rand always seemed to me to have absorbed the Stalinist and Leninist rhetoric of the division of humanity into workers and parasites, and inverted the roles whilst retaining the invective...I can't shake the feeling that she developed her philosophy starting with her favourite masturbatory fantasy of a man to top her---that doesn't necessarily mean that they're wrong, but it helps to explain why she has an hard time appealing to this anti-Romantic interlocutor.

As for Nazism, it was anti-{Free Market}, but pro-capitalist. They're not the same: capitalism is a system in which the owners of capital are privileged above and beyond what their capital itself may do---rich people are seen as smarter, better, on the whole more worthy than other people; capitalist don't want a free market when it goes against their interests, but they are willing to pay it lip-service when it seems to be favouring them. The Nazis had no trouble treating the captains of industry as the most Herrisch of the Herrenvolk, it fit in with their bright-line Romantic conception of heroes and is in this wise that Ms Rand, them, the Sowiets, and most of humanity share something in common: the belief that some people are the ones who really count, and the others are at best neutral and at worst wastes of skin and impediments to progress. Some people are good ends to themselves (the architects, the warriors, the workers, the Elect or Saved) whilst others are at best means to an end (the people who work for the architects and captains of industry, the proles, the drawers of wood and hewers of water) and at worst blocks on the road upward (the capitalist parasites, the leech second-handers, the kulaks, those old favourites the Jews, the Preterite or Damned).

The belief that any given human being fits well into any of those categories for her entire life, or even into any given one for most of his life, is childish, and fully worthy of the scorn all decent people have for this sort of Calvinism-by-other-means.

No-one is worthless. No-one should be just a means to you...and you ill-consider their welfare at your peril, because there is nothing qualitatively different between you and the lowest dregs. Take away all that you have, be subject to the whims of the very real chance that can even the most secure of lives can be destroyed by unpreventable circumstance, and, well, as that old lefty Murrow used to say, '...and you are there.'

Leonard Peikoff once asked, 'Who will you believe, a scholar [of Ayn Rand, presumably] or a drunken bum on the street?' Well, if I needed to know how to survive on the street, the drunken, vomiting, filthy bum would probably be a better guide. He might be a nicer person (he might also be a total shite), he might have experienced things that neither Mr Peikoff nor I nor you have.

I guess what I'm saying is that I could listen to Ms Ayn a bit better if I didn't think that she divided humanity into two kinds of people, basically, and go on from there: I think it's a fatal first step on the road to saying 'to a gas chamber go' as that pro-capitalist Whittaker Chambers put it.

Richard said...

Mikey Bakunin, opens his comment by making the same ridiculous presumption made by most critics, including the ridiculous & equally dishonest Jennifer Burns: "Rand always seemed to me to have absorbed . . . rhetoric" Right. Rand wrote a fiction work that is still a best seller >25 yrs after her death. She wrote extensive non-fiction on philosophical principles —particularily in the field of Epistemology (how thinking & reason works). Most of her ideas were original or refined extensions of the more rational minds of history. All the forgoing is clearly independent of the rhetoric to which Bakunin refers, yet he suggests she did it all by absorbing that rhetoric as thoughtlessly as a cloth absorbs water. I suggest he is committing an act of projection, in that he absorbs and presumes she must too.

Then Bakunin simply stoops lower, echoing another writer who came up the "masturbatory" notion (I can't be bothered to find the source, but I know I've seen it elsewhere). Typical smearing, such as I mentioned in an earlier comment.

Then "Nazism. . . was anti-{free market}, but pro-capitalist". To make this absurd contradiction he has to redefine Capitalism. As a leftist Bakunin does not even grasp that the very term Capitalism was coined by the recent progenitor of the ideas he is using to make his comment: Karl Marx. Rand recognized that Marx grasped the distinction between communal collectivism and the market individualism, naming the former communism and the later capitalism. Bakunin, to make his absurd claim, commits the logical fallacy often referred to as Redefinition.

Miss Rand supported any who were honest, who thought for themselves, and rejected those who did not, independent of their social rank. Good grief, Bakunin, have you not read Atlas Shrugged: - her worst characters had more political and financial power than her heroes. There was a worker from the 20th Century Motor Company collective who had a place in Galt's Gulch.

Bakunin then collapses into a rant that shows his greatest fear: that he may not be able to achieve well enough in life to even care for himself. As with all rationalism, there is some deep emotional motivation to avoid even a search for reasoned truth if that truth contradicts or exposes the emotion. Yes, catastrophe happens. Americans are still the most charitable people in the World. How is that, if America is the pre-eminent capitalist nation in the world. How is it, that as the American government increasingly destroys the Individual Rights of its people, that charitability declines? These questions are easy to answer: when a man has enough money that he can continue to grow the business source of his money whilst being charitable, then he likely will. Indeed, having gone through the tribulations of making real money.

How appropriate that Bakunin concludes by quoting Whittaker Chambers, who clearly did not properly read "Atlas Shrugged". Perhaps an open mind would find the first, if not all, of these ten articles exposing Chambers's perfidy a worthwhile effort at using reason, instead of the nonsense written by several commenters and the author of the original post.

Mikey Baka-nin said...

Well, the masturbatory origins of the heroes of Ms Rand's philosophical romance-novels (the writing really is usually at that level---and romance-novels do sell well), and the extent to which she sounds like a mirror-reversed Leninist, were, as far as I knew, original to me---though not necessarily _with_ me, as minds think alike...people disagreeing with this me could say that, 'of course', all Leftists have been equally brain-washed, and so can 'independently' come up with different opinions.

It would be akin to argument ad hominem to think that just because Rand's ideas have their roots in romance that they are wrong---Newton appears to have been somewhat guided by silly mysticism, but the _Principia..._ still is good enough for N.A.S.A., if not for Nature as v~c. However it were born, an idea can be right.

But I think Ms Rand started with a particular person who turned her on, and worked backward from Him. It is to her credit that she started with a vital, creative, type, as opposed to a Blond Beast or a Doughty Toiler, either of whom is actually a Perfect Follower looking for a Perfect Master, but I think it created a retrospective philosophy that cherry-picks those parts of being human that fit, and exclude those that don't. More generally, I think she had very little rachmones---singular people are often deficient thereby---and so she failed at generalising to the more common run of humanity.

As for 'projection', that's the start of an infinite loop of non-argument...

I take issue with the claim for 'reason''s being in play at all time: rationality is mechanical, and no matter how many times you check your premises you will probably never decide they're wrong if you know the conclusions at which you're supposed to arrive. I prefer the scientific method, which includes both reason and the need for continuous and intense observation, _especially_ of evidence that might contradict your extant conclusions. To be blunt, I find in 'Objectiv'ist mouths the term 'reason' sounds very much like the term 'logic' as used by _Star Trek_ script-writers creating dialogue for Vulcans: something with some connexion to reason, but often more like 'ritually pure'.

When I say 'capitalism' I don't mean Marx's definition, nor Milton's, but my observation of capitalism-as-it-is, and it seems to me to be a different animal from a Free Market, which I would prefer to the current system (one, for example, free of Statist institutions like limited liability, intellectual 'property', and property-in-land from long-distance rentiers).

As to 'ranting', I think it comes with the territory: in this argument, each side believes that it is merely stating the obvious that any decent, reasonable, person would perceive and think, and the other side is ranting. It's this maximalist rhetoric---for my part, I've never made even a mild anti-'Objectiv'ism argument that were not met with an argument boiling down to 'You are an Enemy of everything that is Fine and Good in Humanity,' so the incentive structure tends away from the mild.

Mikey Baku-Nin said...

(Note: it is obnoxious to post tl;dr posts in two parts to get around the 4096-char limit; however, these two posts, less this explanation, total to less than 4096 chars, and still was rejected---perhaps the system has a length/cogency/decency metric actually in use, with a Randroid bias....)

My fears: yes, I am afraid of not being able to support my spouse and myself---but this is in fact quite unlikely, as by a combination of hard work, lazy work, and luck I probably have enough to support us through our dotages. But because I can attempt to generalise this I see everyone else's vulnerability, and of the folly of those who think themselves invulnerable. This makes it seem a matter of _self-interest_ that some collectivist floor be set below which no-one, no matter how 'worthy' or not by any measure---the Bible-thumpers' or the Party's or the Market's---cannot fall. All opinions are born of personal experience, but if they are extended to more general human conditions and natures, as opposed to a creature solely tailored to one person's phantasies, they may be valid generally. Again, the origin is irrelevant, though criticism of how the idea is developed is perfectly reasonable, and dispute over its general validity expectable.

Richard said...

Rand wrote in layers, consciously & deliberately.

The shallow reader sees the plot & moral theme, and regards it as mildly abstract & does not introspect. The reader never observes how the author presents ideas, & frequently fails to understand any but the most blatant metaphors. He certainly does not question his own premises. Yet thinks he is smart in critiquing the only level his mind's eye chooses to 'see'. He adopts other opinions from others.

The less common, deeper reader sees that Rand shows necessary causes for events or actions, & even for the choices & motivations of the characters involved. He grasps that the elements of the plot develop from the ideas, or implicit (with some exceptions) philosophy, of the characters. The book & the author impress these readers. They may consider the book excellent even as they argue that the writing is somewhat stilted.

Still less common, is the reader that sees how the characters reflect the essentialized characters of real people of the last century (at least). Suddenly, the writing takes on a new level, & this reader starts to ask why each character in the story would hold such views. The reader starts to realize he knows people who hold those divers views.

More rare is the reader who asks himself why he holds his own views. E.g., he is not sure the first act of sex between Howard Roark & Dominique Francon was rape. A female author who puts that much thought into a character would surely not recommend rape! (It was not rape, & Rand never considered that scene as a recipe for all sexual behavior; such thinking is hopelessly concrete.)

On grasping that Rand's perspicacity, as shown in Atlas Shrugged, is truly extraordinary, serious minds re-read Atlas Shrugged & The Fountainhead, &/or pursue Rand’s non-fiction. Some re-read with different purposes & in pursuit of issues involving different degrees of abstraction, such as:

- what character best reflects which well known philosopher?
- what does "looter of spirit" really mean?
- why was Dagny rational in killing John Galt's guard?
- how does, "Some day Jim you should discover that words have exact meanings." apply to a) what characters say, b) how Rand uses words, & c) how the reader uses words as symbols for concepts?
- how does Rand interweave character and plot?

The obvious point here is, the less the reader engages in proper conceptual reading & thinking, the less he will understand about Rand, & the more likely he will grasp at disconnected, ideas, and pursue smears, so as to retain his emotional & irrational beliefs.

E.g., Mikey repeats the absorbency principle: "I think Ms Rand started with a particular person who turned her on". Some self-proclaimed Objectivists make the same absorbency mistake, adopting the opposite side of the same coin.

Mikey, refers to Rand as lacking in rachomenes (sympathy, mercy, pity). Once again, he had read Rand with any depth, Mikey would:
- know of the disappointment Roark felt for Keating when Keating wondered if he should not have pursued Fine Art, his first love;
- Hank Rearden sought to rescue the Wet Nurse, carried him, & kissed him as the boy died;
- how Dagny grasped Cheryl Taggart suicidal dismay & rushed to rescue her.
- how pity & forgiveness corrupt human relationships & appeal to altruism.

By observing a mixed economy, Mikey thinks he has seen Capitalism. The creation of a politico-economic system for human beings must first recognize what is proper for human beings, which requires the philosophical field of Ethics. One cannot establish correct Moral principles without a proper Epistemology, which in turn depends on a proper Metaphysics. Mikey’s approach is common, but concrete bound.