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Well, the news has come out that apparently Sgt. Bergdahl is yet another isolated, unhappy young man who turned to the writings of Ayn Rand for solace and direction. It made me think about the reasons some young men turn to Objectivism and others do not.

You see one spring, many years ago when I was only sixteen,  I spent ninety minutes every Saturday for nine successive weeks being indocrinated in Objectivism.  It didn't take.  Follow me over the doodle to find out why.

It was in a high school enrichment program, and I had signed up to take a ten week class in philosophy.   The volunteer teacher's supply of knowledge on the subject began to falter before the first class was up, so in the second week he brought in a guest lecturer, a mechanical engineering graduate student named Charles.

Charles immediately took over the class and set about proselytizing. There was no better word for it.   He even handed out tracts.  He brought stacks of slim little books with essays by Ayn Rand  and Nathaniel Branden.  I duly took these tracts home, read them, thought about them, then argued about them in next week's class. And there were audiotapes (this was the 70s), and guests of the guest lecturer -- the full court press.

And in many ways I was impressed. I learned a lot in that class, although not much about any of the major schools of philosophical thought.  But I wasn't tempted to join, for three reasons.

First, Charles couldn't explain to my satisfaction why, if we accepted the axioms of Objectivism, we should restrain our actions at all whenever we thought we could get away with it. It was like he was posing as this bold, transgressive thinker but when you pressed him he'd suddenly get all prim and conventional. There were lots of argument about starving people stealing loaves of bread, which Charles considered categorically wrong.  His position was that not stealing was actually more selfish than stealing, because in a society where nobody stole things the person in question would be wealthy.

"Yeah," I objected, "But the guy doesn't live in a society where nobody steals.  He lives in a society where he's starving."

"But he wouldn't be starving if people like him didn't steal.  A society where people respect private property is in everyone's self-interest."

"Yeah," I objected again, "But wouldn't the most selfish thing be to convince everyone else to be honest and respect property, then go around their backs and cheat and steal?"

Charles treated this suggestion as contemptible, which it was, but he had the wrong kind of contempt for it.  He had intellectual contempt, which means he wasn't willing to field the question.

And this gets to the second reason I wasn't tempted.  It was obvious to me from reading the tracts and listening to Charles and his colleagues that the Objectivists weren't nearly so intellectually rigorous as they believed themselves to be.  Quibbling their way out of dilemmas was their favorite tactic.  "Selfishness is a virtue," they'd say, and when you challenged them they'd stipulate they meant selfishness in a very specific way used by Objectivists (i.e., the one in which a starving man refraining from stealing bread is being "selfish"), then carry on as if that stipulation had never been made. It was ridiculous. I could do a better job defending their ideas than they did, and I thought those ideas were rubbish.

And then they had this hand-waving trick they'd use. They'd leap from one wildly unsupported conclusion to another, and if you didn't follow uncritically they'd act as if you were just being obtusely self-deluded.  "He's denying his own existence," one of them would say to another, and the other would nod as if that were a profound observation rather than a meaninglessly vague evasion. And they'd both walk away feeling very clever and sounding very stupid.

And this brings me to the third reason I was never tempted to buy Charles's philosophy. I didn't want to end up like him.  

He was an imposing, strikingly handsome young man, with a strong features, piercing blue eyes and thick, and blond hair that fell to broad, square shoulders.  He looked like a young, fair-haired Lord Byron.  Yet as physically attractive as he was, Charles's manner was cold, pedantic, and high-handed. He was highly intelligent, but seldom have I met a man who projected less warmth or humanity.  

I realized even back then that disliking an adherent to a philosophy is no grounds for dismissing that philosophy, but what Charles was promising something more than than dry intellectual satisfaction.  Objectivism was supposed to be a transformative way of thinking, one that would free me from the petty, conventional restrictions small minded people burdened me with. It would release my creativity, and bring joy and personal fulfillment into my life.  But when I looked at Charles and saw none of those things.  What I saw was a rigid, narrow-minded fanatic.

As for myself, at the time I had a girlfriend; and a whole posse of friends I did things with. I loved books and went to science fiction conventions and made even more friends there.  I had a large family at home that loved me and I got along well with.  I knew what real happiness is: it's a connection to other people.

And the thing was, even though his philosophy was all about finding personal happiness, Charles just didn't look happy -- not to me.  Charles insisted he'd found happiness in Objectivism, but to me he looked like a man who was smug rather than happy and who for some reason couldn't tell the difference.

So what does Objectivism offer the deeply unhappy young man? Well, primarily something that looks like a reasonable facsimile of happiness, but is a lot simpler to attain and maintain. And it's an opportunity to skip the arduous lifelong quest the truth and settle down right now with your preconceptions. It's a chance to hang out your metaphorical shingle as a sage at the ripe age of twenty-five and never have another upsetting epiphany in your life.

And it even offers a few truths that an unhappy young man can latch onto. Truths about self-respect and Emersonian self-reliance.   But one of the advantages of choosing the arduous, lifelong struggle with truth is that you eventually realize that truth isn't such a rare commodity after all. It's practically everywhere you look, provided you do look for it.  So having a few overlooked truths in your world view really isn't all that impressive.  It's certainly no reason for anyone to adopt that view wholesale.  The trick is to find enough truth, and enough kinds of truth, so you can transcend your preconceptions. It's self-transcendence that's the path to creativity, joy and fulfillment.

Originally posted to grumpynerd on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 01:25 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Funny that you should mention that. (16+ / 0-)

      Science fiction author David Brin actually made the case that Rand is actually a kind of crypto-Marxist.

      Oh, she rejects where Marx hopes and believes the world is heading, but her ideas are actually derived from how Marx thinks the world works,  including the "labor theory of value".

      I've lost my faith in nihilism

      by grumpynerd on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 01:57:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, indeed. (9+ / 0-)

          But you should take the time to read the Brin article.  I don't always agree with him (I think he has a realism bee in his bonnet when it comes to stories like Star Wars), but he hits Rand right on the head with this one.

          I've lost my faith in nihilism

          by grumpynerd on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 02:11:04 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Got it marked and will read it soon. Thanks. nt (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            linkage

            nt

          •  one of the high points of the Brin article (7+ / 0-)

            (many thanks for the link)

            is the part about how none of Rand's heroes seem to have or want children (and they have a twisted view toward sex as well, but that's a whole 'nother diary)

            children complicate this philosophy in two ways

            first, as Brin says, they become inheritors of wealth who get/take something they did not work for or build for themselves, which is anathema in Objectivist philosophy

            but I would add, children start out as helpless and need nurturance for a very long time.  a parent must invest in them for years before they are capable of any tangible return.  often the parent must put the needs of the child ahead of his/her own.  there is no way to reconcile this with Randian thought.

            how these Roman Catholics and Mormons and other evangelical fundamentalists with their "quiverfull" of children take Ayn Rand seriously for more than three seconds is proof they have never read her and do not understand her

            Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D.
            DEMAND CREATES JOBS!!!
            Drop by The Grieving Room on Monday nights to talk about grief.

            by TrueBlueMajority on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 07:28:13 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Cognitive dissonance is required for following (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Oregon Expat, CyberLady1

              objectivism, as it is required for religious belief systems. It's a self-serving justification for sociopathy, not an internally consistent nor logical ethical philosophy.

            •  I had this argument (0+ / 0-)

              Thursday with a person who claimed individual freedom was utopia and collectivism was oppression.

              @arrest_bankers
              @redpilleconomic @1whoknu Imagine a libertarian America. A baby is born onto a libertarian's land. She's effectively a citizen of a tyranny.

              @redpilleconomic
              @arrest_bankers @1whoknu 2 part  1. She would work and accumulate wealth via savings 2. measure of economic health isn't owning land

              @1whoknu
              @redpilleconomic Does she begin work to earn her wealth at birth or is she perhaps nurtured by the collective first? @arrest_bankers

              @redpilleconomic
               @1whoknu @arrest_bankers You say nurtured, I say indoctrinated.  Usually by both flanks, theocracy & political ideology

              It degenerated into misdirection and many hurumph! after that...

              Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul in this world--and never will. Mark Twain

              by whoknu on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 08:05:10 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  Marx couldn't stand the utopians, and said so. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          chrisculpepper, Kevskos

          His form of socialism was in opposition to socialism from above. Utopians fall under that category.

          Read Hal Draper's article for more about this.

          The Two Souls of Socialism

          Marx wanted socialism from below, based on the real world, everyday lives of people on the ground. And it's because he understood what they really went through and how humans typically lived that he didn't believe in "human perfectibility."

          Real socialism is designed with reality in mind, unlike Capitalism. Capitalism is the utopian system, not socialism, because it assumes that if you just leave business owners alone to do as they please, we all benefit. Magically. It has an incredibly naive view of the supposed goodness of business owners, and actually assumes a certain kind of altruism is in place. And its original pushers, political economists like Smith, had a very biased and elitist view of the masses, while assuming lofty ethics and motives for the new class of capitalists in general.

          Read Michael Perelman's seminal The Invention of Capitalism for a comprehensive history of that and much, much more.

      •  Interesting read, as usual for Brin. (3+ / 0-)

        Thanks for the link!

        This comment is a natural product. The slight variations in spelling and grammar enhance its individual character and beauty and in no way are to be considered flaws or defects.

        by blue muon on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 06:35:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Hardly suprising for a Petrograd University (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FarWestGirl, JerryNA, chrisculpepper

        almost-graduate -- class of 1925

        After the Russian Revolution, universities were opened to women, allowing Rand to be in the first group of women to enroll at Petrograd State University,[18] where, at the age of only 16, she began her studies in the department of social pedagogy,
        It might be worth considering that what the Leninist commissars called social pedagogy ... WE called "teacher training"   And that Alisa Rosenbaum did not flunk out, or drop out -- she was purged along with a great many other students with  "bourgeois" backgrounds or opinions.

        So yeah ... Rand WAS a very much a Marxist, in the way, and for the same reasons DeSade was a Catholic.

        (Take what you know ... do a simple inversion and/or denial  of its core values  -- and pass yourself off as Very Clever Indeed)

    •  A Formal Program of the Rightwing Revolution (5+ / 0-)

      probably going back to the early 70's. Merging them was the whole point, if the then-apolitical movement was to be mobilized as the populist base for the libertarians.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 02:24:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I am an Anglican Christian and do not find (19+ / 0-)

      all of Marx repugnant. I find evangelical Christianity and traditional Fundamentalism and Biblical literalism far more repugnant, and frankly, far more dangerous.

      SPES MEA IN DEO EST.

      by commonmass on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 06:54:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  "Ayn Rand Christian" (10+ / 0-)

        .... belongs in the same place as "dry water", "evangelically atheist bishop", or "Nazi Rabbi".

        Or, as Isaiah put it so very well:

        Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that count darkness as light, and light as darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
            -- Hebrew (Jewish) Bible, Isaiah 5:20

        Ayn Rand's poor, deluded followers have a rather nasty comeuppance, well, coming up. They're all going to have to learn that Objectivism and Humanitarianism are absolutely, diametrically, mutually discompatible. They can't exist in the same space at the same time.

        And if these people actually try and live by Objectivist ideas?

        They're going to find out, sooner or later, that Karma can be a real bitch!

        "It's high time (and then some) that we put an end to the exceptionalistic nonsense floating around in our culture and face the fact that either the economy works for all, or it doesn't work AT all." -- Sean McCullough (DailyKos user thanatokephaloides)

        by thanatokephaloides on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 10:35:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  commonmass, much of what Christ taught, (7+ / 0-)

        according to what I've read in the New Testament, is exactly what Marx is saying, at least in part.

        It's also what Buddha taught, and Mohammed taught, and what Hindus believe afaict, and I think there's some Confucianism in there too.

        Basically, all the major religions agree on giving to the poor and not being greedy: basically the OPPOSITE of what the GOP says.

        English usage is sometimes more than mere taste, judgment and education - sometimes it's sheer luck, like getting across the street. E. B. White

        by Youffraita on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 12:58:11 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The key difference between Marx and Christian (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Julia Grey

          thought on these matters is that Marx wants this enforced by government force, even against the will of others who do not comply, while the Christian thought is that individuals are to act voluntarily, without the threat or actual use of government force.

          The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

          by nextstep on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 08:35:35 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Wrong. Marx was decidedly anti-State. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            FarWestGirl, JerryNA

            One could say he was a left-libertarian. His end goal, remember, was communism, which followed real socialism, and meant to withering away of the state.

            His end goal was that real socialism, which means full democracy, including the economy, with the people owning the means of production themselves -- not the state -- would become so second nature, so natural, so internalized, that the state would be unnecessary.

            Marx was always opposed to Big Government. Waaay opposed. He saw Big Government as standing in the way of democracy, preventing it from happening, as it protected and defending the ruling class.

            Again, he is among the most misunderstood of philosophers, and too many people attribute the perversions done in his name back to him.

            Kind of like organized Christianity and the actual Jesus.

            •  How do you have "the People" own all the means (0+ / 0-)

              of production, controlled through "democracy" without having big government in an industrialized society?  The 'democracy" that controls those things is the government, regardless of what label you apply.

              The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

              by nextstep on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 10:20:52 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  You put it in the Constitution. You make it (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                FarWestGirl, Galtisalie

                beyond the state apparatus.

                You take the power to control the commons out of the hands of any political party, and make the commons beyond the state apparatus.

                To go further, with some of my own thoughts on how it could be set up:

                You take political parties off the map altogether, and have truly direct, participatory democracy. One person, one vote. Local assemblies, regional and national assemblies. Citizens join them via lottery as facilitators. But everyone can give input. No one "runs" for elections. Elections aren't necessary. You do your allotted civil service and then go back home. We hash things out, debate, work toward consensus. If we can't reach that, majority votes decide.

                The Constitution sets up economic arrangements, with prices and wages made permanent. No capitalism. Not one iota of it. No profits. No money. No classes. There are four levels of compensation to get as close as possible to a true egalitarian society. No massive gap between various trades. We set things up more along the lines of master craftsmen and apprentices, though we use different language.

                We produce what we need (use value) not what we can sell based on exchange value. We go to C-M-C models and eliminate M-C-M. We make what we need for ourselves, our communities, our regions and nation all in accord with the Constitution and in harmony with the planet. The latter being a paramount concern. All organic farming. No factory farms. No profits, etc. etc.

                For starters . . . .

                •  No reality as well. (0+ / 0-)

                  Sounds like an architect designing buildings assuming gravity does not exist.

                  The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

                  by nextstep on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 10:38:03 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  No. It takes those laws into account. Fully. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Galtisalie

                    It's an attempt to democratize society, including the economy, which can never happen as long as we have capitalism. Capitalism is inherently anti-democratic and in direct conflict with it and the best interests of "the people."

                    Mine is an attempt to end that conflict, and equalize power and disperse power. It is also an attempt to end the madness of production based on exchange value, making it about use value instead.

                    We throw away half of our food, for instance, primarily because we don't produce to fill needs. We produce to make our stores look bountiful and offer major "choices" for consumers who never actually utilize those choices. And we're destroying the planet in the process.

                    My suggestions would be a major start in the process needed to reverse this.

                •  I like the idea of a Constitutional approach to (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  diomedes77

                  socialism. I'm doing some research on the importance of having a recognized humane social contract. I'm of the belief that there needs to be a global constitution of sorts, where all citizens of the world get recognized economic, social, and cultural rights. We may be closer than we realize.

                  Like the lottery idea too. And the participatory democracy. Imperialism as an adjunct to capitalism tore down indigenous societies, many with communal property arrangements.

                  Thanks.

                  garden variety democratic socialist: accepting life's complexity|striving for global stewardship of our soil and other resources to meet everyone's basic needs|being a friend to the weak

                  by Galtisalie on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 07:15:35 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  It does need to be international. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Galtisalie

                    One thing a lot of people forget, when it comes to the collapse of alternative systems. They didn't have each other's back. They were isolated. They didn't bail each other out. There was no synergy, etc. etc.

                    Capitalism, OTOH, has a massive network, put together put together primarily by America (and growing all the time), which does just that. One nation goes into crisis, that network kicks into gear. They make sure the whole thing doesn't collapse, though they often get that wrong and impose austerities which lead to new crises. But without their constant, endless firefighting, from one crisis fire to the next, capitalism would have burned itself out long ago.

                    So we need a worldwide socialism with that human rights contract. National constitutions and a worldwide constitution. Full democracy for all citizens. Full human rights. Full civil rights. Full access to all the goods produced by society and for society, in harmony with nature. A complete and absolute break from the past where we produced goods and services so a few rich people could live like kings and queens, and the middle fooled themselves into believing they had a fair piece of the action too. While the top 20% basically ignore the fact that billions of people had no piece at all.

                    85 humans hold as much wealth as the bottom 3.5 billion today. That kind of obscene inequality would make the folks at Versailles in the 18th century blush. And it would be illegal and impossible under true socialism, true democracy.

    •  Please explain what about Marx's ideas (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TrueBlueMajority, diomedes77, JerryNA

      you find repugnant. He got some things wrong, a whole lot right, and the "ideals" that motivated his ideas were highly humane. I'm no scholar and don't claim to be a Marxist, but I'd be honored to be given that label.

      One major area of disagreement I believe you were alluding to was his dogmatic atheism. So let's reject that idea of his. What else? Critical thinking is good for us, Christians, atheists, or whatever our views on religion.

      You make a good point about the Randian-right wing Christian fundamentalist collusion. But then, Marx was ahead of us on that one too. Too much of religion is indeed an opiate of the masses serving the status quo and other interests of the wealthy. And the English "Christian" missionaries were happy to support England's literal opium wars and all other manner of imperialism.  

      garden variety democratic socialist: accepting life's complexity|striving for global stewardship of our soil and other resources to meet everyone's basic needs|being a friend to the weak

      by Galtisalie on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 06:55:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  i can (and do) work w/atheists happily and proudly (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Galtisalie, duhban

        in many areas where we agree on how to make the world a better place

        Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D.
        DEMAND CREATES JOBS!!!
        Drop by The Grieving Room on Monday nights to talk about grief.

        by TrueBlueMajority on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 07:29:44 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  In short (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        duhban

        I think Marx was a good critic of society, but his economic and social ideas have at their root the idea that humans can be perfected.  I believe they fail to take into account basic human nature.  I also think using the dialectic as a tool to analyze social problems is very limited.

        But I am not a liberal social democrat per se.  While I believe equality is an important value, I see it in tension with many other values, and almost always secondary to liberty and justice.  

        I am a moderate; I voted for Obama in 2012, but am hoping that the GOP will come back to its more moderate/liberal views someday.

        •  So where's the "repugnance"? (0+ / 0-)

          Thanks for responding, but you didn't really address that.

          I get that you're a moderate but that doesn't make Marx morally repugnant. Had it not been for those leftist Marx-following workers in England who stood in solidarity with the slaves in the South and put their own jobs on the line, England probably sides with the South in the Civil War and maybe the North loses. Lincoln himself thanked them. Sounds pretty moral. Equality prevailed, thank goodness. And liberty and justice for all became a little more possible. These values are complimentary.  

          Reinhold Niebuhr, who advocated realism and appropriately criticized Stalinism, also pointed out the need to "coerce" the powerful and the inadequacy of modern "democracy" to give justice. Moderates who are praying for the GOP to come to Jesus have far more delusions than Marxists. The cozy warmth of capital to those who do what they are told and avoid alleviating other people's pain beckons and they follow. Nothing moral about that.

          garden variety democratic socialist: accepting life's complexity|striving for global stewardship of our soil and other resources to meet everyone's basic needs|being a friend to the weak

          by Galtisalie on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 09:15:35 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Repugnant in implementation (0+ / 0-)

            Dictatorship of the proletariat and all.

            •  He never got to implement anything. I don't (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Kevskos

              idolize him. He could have botched it like Stalin but I don't believe he would have and if he did that would have been inconsistent with many of his ideals, including the need to end alienation. He would have needed to show room for growth in his views. Scarred by the brutal suppression of the Paris Commune, it was tough for him to believe parliamentary democracy could bring justice everywhere, but he did feel it could work in some places, including potentially the U.S. and the U.K. With the male RC majority at the SCOTUS on the warpath against democracy in the U.S. and legislation to promote the general welfare, it's easy to be pessimistic about so-called democracy's capability to democratize economic matters as required for justice--something the anti-Stalin pro-democracy theologian Niebuhr was willing to admit.

              Speaking of implementation, Rosa Luxemburg was a pro-democracy Marxist who strongly opposed Lenin's interpretation. I'm with her on democracy amd many other issues, including internationalism. Then Stalin chose outright totalitarianism. Bengeldorf's book on the problem of democracy in Cuba gives some blame to Marx, but this was based on his gaps and imperfect reasoning and not moral repugnance. She did not dispute the morality of his vision.

              Socialism will get a do-over, this time not stopping at national borders, because capitalism is no alternative for a just and sustainable world. The dialectic of global neoliberalism has created the conditions for its own collapse, but socialists do need to be open to new ideas and, yes, politically democratic to assure that the socialist alternative is humane in practice and not just ideals. Reactionaries never make that easy. You and other moderates will have to decide which side you are on in individual elections, but I think system change must come soon, this time deeply democratic, with enough democratic control over the global economy to meet everyone's basic needs while respecting our social and cultural differences. It will feel like a dictatorship to the 1%, but it will actually be democratic and they will get truly "just" compensation.

              100 years ago this month, with WW1, Franz Ferdinand was murdered by a Serbian nationalist. Luxemburg was imprisoned in Germany and Debs in the U.S. for being against the war. In the embers of the war Luxemburg was murdered. She would have been a voice of an equal stature to Lenin to avoid many of the Soviet Union's mistakes.

              Thank you for engaging in a worthwhile discussion. Your comment, so you get the last word.

              garden variety democratic socialist: accepting life's complexity|striving for global stewardship of our soil and other resources to meet everyone's basic needs|being a friend to the weak

              by Galtisalie on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 05:20:02 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  Again, no he didn't. He didn't see them as (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Galtisalie

          perfectible. He saw a system which oppressed them, crushed them, and at best, held them back. His ideas were about replacing that system with one that gave humans a better chance to reach their fullest potential.

          "Human perfectibility" had absolutely nothing to do with it.

          As mentioned already in this thread, it is capitalism, not socialism or communism, which has that belief. It assumes that business owners are just naturally awesome and will do what is best for all of us. It's naive beyond belief, and, yes, "utopian."

          •  If I remember correctly (0+ / 0-)

            He admitted to being Utopian, and forsaw a time that the changes would user us into a time of very little work and social problems.

            Pure capitalism is utopian, but the idea that well regulated markets is not.

            •  Nope. He never considered himself a utopian. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Galtisalie

              And he foresaw a time when we would have far more leisure hours because that's the logical outcome of democratized production.

              If we're not producing things for profit, we can radically slash our work hours. That's just self-evident, not utopian.

              For instance, a typical car-parts worker on an assembly line produces his or her day's pay in roughly the first hour. For the rest of their day, they're working for the boss's profit and compensation.

              Not all industries have that large a gap -- some more, some less. But in the aggregate, we could all slash our hours if we produced what we needed (use-value) instead of what the boss wanted for their own profit (exchange value).

      •  About that "opiate of the people" thing .... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Galtisalie

        Marx was writing that in the "pre-antibiotics" era -- about the end of the American Civil War ...

        Consider the state of medical practice at that time ...  Louis Pasteur and his "germ" theories were obscure at best ... they wouldn't become known widely enough to be controversial until five years later.

        Aspirin wouldn't be available for another FIFTY years ... antibiotics: another CENTURY.

        In Marx's time, physicians could do a pretty competent amputation ... had some crude and dangerous anesthetics -- and a rudimentary sense that hands and instruments ought to be washed occasionally.  Some, no doubt, still believed in the "balance of Humors" theory of disease.

        So ... when Marx spoke of "opiates" he was referring to one of the very few medications that actually performed reliably -- particularly as a sleep aid and cough suppressant.

        The irony of course, was that The Poor/Workers who NEEDED cough suppression  ( tuberculosis, silicosis, and other lung diseases)  and a good night's sleep -- THEY had to rely on prayer (and maybe gin) for whatever comfort they were going to receive.

        "Opiates" ... like everything else ...  belonged to the bourgeois.

        Which is precisely what Marx was writing about.

      •  I actually am a Marxist, and proudly so. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Galtisalie

        And you are largely correct. Well done.

    •  I'm especially amused by that (0+ / 0-)

      because Rand was an  avowed atheist and of the type that had only scorn for religion.

      Der Weg ist das Ziel

      by duhban on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 09:12:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Why do you find Marx repugnant? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JerryNA

      I honestly can't see how anyone who has actually read him does.

      He was brilliant, and intensely devoted and concerned with human emancipation and liberation, with individual human beings being liberated from chains that prevent them from reaching their full human potential.

      On the macro and micro levels.

      And no one had better insight into the horrors of capitalism in his day. His work also made it possible for subsequent scholars, philosophers, writers, artists, etc. etc. to add profound new works to economics, the social sciences and the humanities in general.

      Marx is perhaps the most misunderstood of all philosophers, and all too few read him. They read about him instead, and apply what was done in his name to his own thoughts, writings, beliefs, etc. etc.

      Very few philosophers look good in that light, in the light of perversions of their thinking decades or centuries later.

  •  Didn't answer poll because (12+ / 0-)

    I'm not that knowledgeable about philosophy, but I was taken aback at seeing Ayn Rand listed as an "ethical" philosopher ;)

    "I don't love writing, but I love having written" ~ Dorothy Parker // Visit my Handmade Gallery on Zibbet

    by jan4insight on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 02:13:43 PM PDT

    •  An "ethical philosopher" (18+ / 0-)

      is one who writes about ethics. Can't vouch for any of them as people.

      True story of the biggest unexpected "hit out of the park" interview question response ever:

      I was being interviewed by this lady who asked me to talk a little bit about what I'd done in my career as a software designer. I mentioned that I found Rawls' 'veil of ignorance' idea very useful when thinking about how each person involved with the system would pay a different price and receive a different reward (if any).   It was a silly thing to say, because in that context the chance was almost nil that anyone would know what I was talking about.

      "Oh my God!" she said. "He was my adviser at Harvard!"

      I've lost my faith in nihilism

      by grumpynerd on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 02:23:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I didn't answer the poll because "what is ethical" (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Amber6541, jan4insight

      My taste runs to Plato, the Marxists and Martin Heidegger. "From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs" works for me,

      I'm not a believer in free markets, selfishness, greed, Those things don't make your life better let alone the lives of those around you. Its not the vanishing point or focus of objectivism, or existentialism either.

      The point of self actualization is that "what you know is what you do". You don't need to build consensus first before acting, you don't need a group to act with you, you can lead even if you have no followers.

      I suppose at the margins that results in a lot of people with bad plans that haven't been properly thought through thinking they are statesman. The ethical concern is where do we go for the reality check?

      There are people "living their fantasies and making them real".  That's fine. The danger in having initial success with a venture into fantasy land is it provides followers.

      One example that comes to mind pertains to people whose healthy bodies have expanded their situational consciousness into healthy minds that are established and nurtured by challenging themselves to excel.

      For some the combination of physical and mental ability requires constant pushing at the limits into an area where lives are committed to the proof.

      One such challenge is rock climbing, free soloing Yosemite. Ordinary people shrink from the thought.

      "From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs" leads us there.

      In that rarefied air we have a recent Daily Kos Sunday supplement picture extravaganza of people slack wire walking between cliffs with a safety harness.

      Fantasies of crossing the Grand Canyon without one may no longer be the sole province of Evil Knievel and the Wallenda family...

      People experiencing the rush of almost but not quite killing themselves working their way up from  bungee jumping to base jumping, to throwing their hat in the ring for political office makes most of us on the sidelines wonder "what are they thinking?"

      If your self actualization includes fantasies of getting attention by emailing photos of yourself, that may be embarrassingly bad judgement.

      If your social PTSD fantasies have escalated to  shooting up an elementary  school that's  the corner where the plan that was speeding along goes off the rails.

      Consensus building provides some necessary checks and balances. One model of checks and balances is Wikipedia.

      It has successfully emboldened people to make a lot of interesting and informative data accessible.

      Wikipedia shuts down a lot of fantasies ideas people are trying to make real, develop a testable hypothesis for. Some, strange as it might sound, are correct in every way except that they are not peer reviewed, they remain original research.

      The ethical question is how do we substitute mentors; editors with standards, diplomats, negotiators, for police with tanks or troops in social situations.

      "la vida no vale nada un lugar solita" "The Limits of Control Jim Jarmusch

      by rktect on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 03:14:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Some BACTERIA Exhibit Altruism Because of the (18+ / 0-)

    adaptive advantages it can give.

    Rand had no clue how a human being operates.

    Let alone 2 or more of them.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 02:25:38 PM PDT

  •  Rand's laissez-faire economics was refuted (21+ / 0-)

    by 2008.  Even Greenspan, an acolyte of hers, is probably still stumbling in the dark wondering what the fuck happened.

    Best Scientist Ever Predicts Bacon Will Be Element 119 On The Periodic Table

    by dov12348 on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 02:36:26 PM PDT

    •  Well that depends. (17+ / 0-)

      You might destroy an economic theory espoused by many of Rand's followers, although I doubt you'll ever get them to admit it.  But even if you could, that would leave Rand untouched.

      Her ideas don't really fit into a modern economic framework; they aren't about the efficient distribution of resources and employment of factors of production. They're about the just distribution of rewards for effort.  Particularly the rewarding of exceptional individuals.  Her thining actually has very little to do with economics and more to do about ethics.

      So if a particular idea results in inefficient distribution of resources, but a just (under her rules) reward of participants, it's not a problem.   If an idea retards economic growth, but rewards genius, it's not a problem.  If people starve but individual enterprises maximize their profit, it's not a problem.

      Yes, she did believe that in the long term "progress" (as she would define it) benefited most by leaving the geniuses of the economy unfettered, but that's bound up in so many presumptions about what progress is and where it comes from, it's more of an article of faith than anything else.

      So trying to refute Rand's followers on economic grounds is like showing up to play baseball and having the other team suited up for lawn bowling. You can't beat them because they're playing a different game. It's possible that you can get them to abandon some of their ideas that are couched in modern economic terms, but down in the bedrock we're dealing with stuff that's not economics at all.

      I've lost my faith in nihilism

      by grumpynerd on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 03:08:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Absolutely true. (10+ / 0-)

        Rand's argument was that capitalism was the system that best enshrined the value of the individual.  The fact (as she believed) that it was the BEST economic system was just further confirmation, but not really necessary.  It could be an awful system but still the best one if it allowed John Galt to invent his static electrity machine.

        What gets me, as an adult, today, thinking back to my period as a Randite, is just how little Ayn Rand seemed to understand the go-getters of capitalism.  They aren't John Galts.  They aren't genius individualists.  They are 30 something stock brokers who don't know what an interest rate is, sucking up multi-million dollar bonuses while the corporation itself and its investor's assets is going bankrupt, along with most of the world's economy, all of this so they'll have more money for upscale whores and cocaine.

      •  Yes, her economics is a natural outgrowth (6+ / 0-)

        of her ethics which itself depends on her metaphysics and epistemology.  If that's a point of yours.

        The irony is that her unfettered capitalism is ultimately destructive of all, including those geniuses who were to be rewarded by their unfettered efforts.

        So her philosophy is in that sense internally contradictory, because those geniuses and entrepreneurs Rand thought were acting in their self-interest and thus so rewarded...were unbeknownst to them in fact part of capitalism's self-destruction, including their own.

        Two examples are the mortgage derivatives being sold off by banks who had no incentive to do due diligence as well as credit-ratings agencies making up grades.  Those are both products of a less regulated system.

        Best Scientist Ever Predicts Bacon Will Be Element 119 On The Periodic Table

        by dov12348 on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 04:51:58 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  There is nothing inherently "good" about (4+ / 0-)

      the proceedings of a "free" market.  Rather the contrary. We found that out in 2008.

      An illusion can never be destroyed directly... SK.

      by Thomas Twinnings on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 07:29:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I disagree (10+ / 0-)

        The free market is a highly flexible and efficient distributor of resources.

        The thing is that people use "free market" as a glittering generality, for example to mean little no regulation.  But they don't really mean it. They don't mean, for example, that government shouldn't interfere in the trade in heroin, but rather let the market decide how much heroin to produce. For that matter they don't even believe that about contraception.

        They don't believe that a vendor can decide to redefine how many ounces in a pound, or sell sawdust in a bag labeled 'flour'. Not most of them at least.

        What a free market is, is a system whereby individual participants in the market decide on the prices they will pay or offer for things, and how many things they should produce.

        This doesn't preclude the government saying certain goods (cocaine) or services (prostitution) can't be sold.  It doesn't preclude the government outlawing the sale of goods that don't meet certain criteria, such as limited contamination in food, or functional brakes in cars.

        Using "free market" in anything other than its literal sense is deception.

        I've lost my faith in nihilism

        by grumpynerd on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 08:13:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I knew free market, f. m. was a friend of mine (8+ / 0-)

          And laissez faire, you're no free market.

          These blowhards extolling the "free market" exemplified by our "Pick one of five unregulated megabanks and one of one broadband suppliers, and you have to meet the licensing criteria laid down by the guild with the best lobbyists before you can open your shop" economy have read their Hyatt, perhaps, but not their Adam Smith.

          The Invisible Hand does indeed work many wonders. It must however be distinguished from the hand of the .1 percent visibly rammed up the rear ends of all the muppets on Capitol Hill.

          The real USA Patriot Act was written in 1789. It's called the Bill of Rights.

          by nicteis on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 08:38:41 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  See my reply to commonmass.... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dov12348, Galtisalie
      Rand's laissez-faire economics was refuted by 2008.  Even Greenspan, an acolyte of hers, is probably still stumbling in the dark wondering what the fuck happened.
      As I said to commonmass, you try to live according to Ayn Rand's effed up ideas -- and far worse, if you try to get an entire nation to do so -- you'll find out that Karma can be a real bitch!

      "It's high time (and then some) that we put an end to the exceptionalistic nonsense floating around in our culture and face the fact that either the economy works for all, or it doesn't work AT all." -- Sean McCullough (DailyKos user thanatokephaloides)

      by thanatokephaloides on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 10:40:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  regarding what you saw in Charles - (14+ / 0-)

    "What I saw was a rigid, narrow-minded fanatic." I think what you saw was a sociopath. There are so many more around than many people realize. They don't all regularly perform acts of evil, but they never can understand what anyone else feels and can never really feel anything themselves. And, apparently, they are frequently drawn to the work of Ayn Rand.

    •  Well, it's been a long time, but the vibe is right (14+ / 0-)

      Which actually increase my mystification.

      Why did't he go full monty?   Why didn't he say "do whatever you can get away with."

      That solves the bread stealing man neatly.  The decision to steal or not boils down to the pros and cons.  The pro for the starving man is he lives. Case closed.  

      For you or I, it makes no sense even to attempt to steal a loaf of bread, even if we can, because of marginal value and cost.  The cost of the bread itself is negligible to us, but the cost of being caught, even if the chance is slim, is very high.

      You could work this approach through in detail, and arrive at something that doesn't look very much different from the world as it actually is.   People who steal bread are thieves; people who steal companies are entrepreneurs. Or at least a kind of one.

      It's the prim devotion to the notion "Thou shalt not steal" that seems peculiar to me, once you've professed that greed and selfishness is good.

      I think the real appeal of Rand is romanticism.  Her books invite readers to imagine themselves mental and creative giants being hobbled by lesser men.  Then they put down the books and discover this is a "philosophy" where they can continue that story, with themselves in the starring role.  They're play acting at adopting transgressive ideas, but actually quite conventional otherwise.  They like the shock that saying the words causes, but are too timid to go much farther.

      I've lost my faith in nihilism

      by grumpynerd on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 03:29:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think some with sociopathic tendencies (5+ / 0-)

        still can recognize to some degree that their unfeeling nature can get them into trouble. They don't understand how other people feel, but they can at least recognize the angry words yelled at them, and that they may face punishment from others.

        •  I'll tell you one thing. (10+ / 0-)

          "I wouldn't want to be one," stands.

          I've never seen an Objectivist I'd want to trade places with.

          That may sound like an ad hominem, but it gets to a point which the Greeks understood: one goal of ethics is to tell us how to lead an objectively desirable life.  They called the state of living such a life "eudaimonia" ( εὐδαιμονία ) which is often mistranslated as happiness.

          It's depressing; as they fall deeper under the spell the more puny they become and the more magnificent they imagine themselves.  

          I've lost my faith in nihilism

          by grumpynerd on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 05:52:19 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  εὐδαιμονία (7+ / 0-)
            They called the state of living such a life "eudaimonia" ( εὐδαιμονία ) which is often mistranslated as happiness.
            No mistranslation there, grumpynerd. εὐδαιμονία is one of the the Greek word for happiness. (ευτυχία is another one.)

            Etymologically translated, it means "a good (εὐ-) spirit (δαιμον) state of being (-ία)".

            In English, if it can be said of you that "(s)he's in good spirits", that means "(s)he's happy". εὐδαιμονία is where that comes from.

            snark:
            Or (s)he's located a stash of Irish whiskey!
            /snark

            ;-)

            εὐδαιμονία is considered to be more intensive happiness than ευτυχία; almost in the sense of "bliss" or "blessedness".

            it gets to a point which the Greeks understood: one goal of ethics is to tell us how to lead an objectively desirable life.
            Here, you're spot-on, of course. And the means to that objectively desirable life is the love of wisdom, or φίλοσοφία (philosophia). This is where the name of the whole discipline comes from......

            [WOW! This Daily Kos thing is forcing me to finish learning Greek! It must be run by some guy named Μάρκος Μελιτζος or some such!  :-)  ]

            "It's high time (and then some) that we put an end to the exceptionalistic nonsense floating around in our culture and face the fact that either the economy works for all, or it doesn't work AT all." -- Sean McCullough (DailyKos user thanatokephaloides)

            by thanatokephaloides on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 11:12:23 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Fascinating. (4+ / 0-)

              I've always maintained that most people do not understand  'Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."

              Despite the fact that the only thing more precious to humans than learning, are our bonds to other humans.

              "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone. " Audrey Hepburn "A Beautiful Woman"

              by Ginny in CO on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 12:41:12 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  And thanatokephaloides, of course, (3+ / 0-)

              θανατοκεφλοιδησ is just a Markos Melitsos way of saying "deadhead".

              My one semester of Greek has gotten mighty rusty. Too rusty to properly emplace the accent on the penult, but not too rusty to pick up on the obvious.

              The real USA Patriot Act was written in 1789. It's called the Bill of Rights.

              by nicteis on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 08:11:36 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  obvious (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Nowhere Man, Galtisalie
                And thanatokephaloides, of course,

                θανατοκεφλοιδησ is just a Markos Melitsos way of saying "deadhead"..

                Are you aware that, barring me, you're the first Kossack to understand that under hir own power?

                (see this comment for an example)

                My one semester of Greek has gotten mighty rusty. Too rusty to properly emplace the accent on the penult, but not too rusty to pick up on the obvious.
                Well, it did seem obvious to me......

                ;-)

                "It's high time (and then some) that we put an end to the exceptionalistic nonsense floating around in our culture and face the fact that either the economy works for all, or it doesn't work AT all." -- Sean McCullough (DailyKos user thanatokephaloides)

                by thanatokephaloides on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 09:23:30 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

      •  romanticism (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        duhban, grumpynerd
        I think the real appeal of Rand is romanticism.  Her books invite readers to imagine themselves mental and creative giants being hobbled by lesser men.
        Aah (or should I say "Ach!"), 1930 Germany!

        We all know how well that worked out!!

        :-(

        "It's high time (and then some) that we put an end to the exceptionalistic nonsense floating around in our culture and face the fact that either the economy works for all, or it doesn't work AT all." -- Sean McCullough (DailyKos user thanatokephaloides)

        by thanatokephaloides on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 10:45:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I can tell you why: (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JerryNA
        Why did't he go full monty?   Why didn't he say "do whatever you can get away with."

        That solves the bread stealing man neatly.  The decision to steal or not boils down to the pros and cons.  The pro for the starving man is he lives. Case closed.  

        Because deep down he had to realize that if that really is what was meant, it would mean that people could steal or do whatever they can get away with to him, too.

        By telling you it's not ok to steal bread, he's making sure no one gets it in their head to steal his bread.

    •  Real sociopaths don't have complicated (4+ / 0-)

      philosophies of ethics and metaphysics.  Their understanding of what the world owes them and how they can get it is instinctive and not worth contemplating, if they could actually introspect, which they can't.  That's a real sociopath.  And sociopaths aren't nerds.  They're highly charismatic people.

      I understand you don't like these people, but realize, they're not that basically flawed as human beings.  Some of us went through our phases too.

      •  Flawed as human beings? Not more than normal. (6+ / 0-)

        Objectivism is just a crappy mechanism for coping with the human condition.

        MNGuitar's point isn't about Objectivists in general, but the creepy vibe Charles gave off.   It's quite possible that he had sociopathic tendencies.  It's possible that a magnitude of his creepiness has increased in my memory with age.

        What is true is that people who are deep into Objectivism give off a slightly cultish vibe.

        I've lost my faith in nihilism

        by grumpynerd on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 05:58:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The same thing (cultish) can be said of a number (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          thanatokephaloides

          of political movements of both the right and the left throughout history.  Especially on the left.  That's not unique.

          •  Never said it was. (3+ / 0-)

            Hooh, boy, I remember some discussions some Marxists. And not just pleasant, abstruse, incomprehensible Frankfurt school types, I'm taking guys who went Maoist because "Commie" wasn't hard core enuf, and always had the Red Book handy for settling arguments.

            But that was back in the 70s, in Cambridge MA to boot. I haven't talked to a bona fide Marxist in thirty years.   Or anyone who calls themselves a "Socialist".

            I don't think the cult thing is more left wing than right. There's a slightly different flavor on either side; the far right going with personality cults and mystical symbols and the far left tending to be idea fetishists.  You also have to allow for things like authoritarian governments with nominal left-wing ideologies, which accounts for the personality cult around Mao.

            I don't consider Objectivists "far right", at least not compared the the Nazis, Aryan Nation, KK etc.  But their style doesn't really run with the right wingers.  Talking to an Objectivist true believer is more like talking with Marxist true believers. Not the hard core slogan spouting Maoists, above but the more civil ones eager to bend your ear about how something in the recent news fit in with dialectical materialism.

            I've lost my faith in nihilism

            by grumpynerd on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 07:09:13 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Ayn Rand innoculation (6+ / 0-)

    I was resistant to Ayn Rand in high school because I had already been inoculated by Bertrand Russell. Rand loves Aristotle, which was a major red flag for me. She also detests A.J. Ayer (logical positivism) and I was reading and liking A.J. Ayer at the time -- Vienna Circle logical positivism seemed very cool to me because it was associated with quantum mechanics. In general, Rand doesn't like academic scientists, and I wanted to be an astronomer. So while others of my nerd-circle were infected by and came down with Objectivism, I decided it was anti-science garbage.

    American Presidents: 43 men, 0 women. Ready for Hillary

    by atana on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 03:42:27 PM PDT

  •  This was a wonderful post (7+ / 0-)

    I too had struggled a bit with this philosophy at about the same time of life.  I also struggled with many of the same questions.  What did it in for me was two things:

    1) Rand makes the statement that there is no such thing as "for the common good" because commonality in the sense of a collective doesnt exist.  This is not true.  I mean it is demonstratively not true.  I am not talking about philosophical altruism, I am talking about information theory.  And the information and actions of the collective can take upon itself a whole set of principles and properties that Rand never seemed to realize do mathematically exist.  Now you can argue that such a collective knowledge and collective wisdom should be ignored, it has no rights, etc. etc.  But the argument that it doesnt exist is wrong.

    2) Rand also makes the argument made above about cheating.  However, as game theorists know, there are solutions and strategies to games in which cheating wins!  The existence of such solutions is likely the reason for the social evolution of religions and moral codes - but I am hypothesizing here.  Never the less, the Utopian doesnt win out generally.  Cheating can be extremely effective.  Socialization has been down selected (in my way of thinking) as a way of dealing with this issue and for the long term survival of the species.  

    So if one can find solid evidence - such as the above (I know - I havent cited anything here - but it is just a comment) - for the basic suppositions of Objectivists - then it leaves the whole thing on shifting ground in my mind.

    It is one thing to make stuff up and pontificate - good on ya Rand - it is another to believe this stuff and ignore the math.  Though I will admit, she might have made a good GOP pollster!

    •  The core of Objectivism, what Calvin (3+ / 0-)

      would have called the "pinpoint hole of faith" (Rand would have hated that analogy) is the existence of the ego.  The ego is real.  The collective isn't.  

      And it's not that simple.  From a simplistic common sense point of view, we all have a sense of who we are, the boundaries that describe us as the guy who is typing this or the guy who is reading this, where we are setting, I'm me, you're not me.

      To young people trying to grapple with the idea of what it means to be an individual, therefore, this romanticized vision of hers is attractive, that vision of the individual as the rebel, superior by being different from the mob, like all those kids at school who sit at the same table and won't let you sit there.

      But this is a much fuzzier thing than it seems.  The commonsense idea of the self is very vulnerable.  If I duplicate my brain into a clone, are we both me?  That's not technologically feasible right now, but it's simple thought experiments like that that poke holes in the core of her philosophy.  Why should I only identify with me, rather than with my family or with my country or with the human race or with the whole universe?  

      Hinduism proposes that we are all the dream of a sleeping god.  That makes us as real as the characters in a virtual reality game like The Sims.  If we can't distinguish our existence from that of a character in a dream or a computer game, then how can we justify such a simplistic view of the ego as being real?

      •  Sorry didnt see this (0+ / 0-)

        Sorry I ddint see this "Dumbo."  Nice reply.  I do disagree with the point that the collective isnt real - it certainly is real from the point of view of information theory.  Indeed it is as real as the ego from a mathematical point of view.  But I agree with your sentiments exactly.  Nicely said.

  •  Anthem (13+ / 0-)

    A friend of mine in high school once recommended Atlas Shrugged.  There was a copy of it in the English study hall, and I had looked over the back cover blurb once or twice, but for some reason I never felt the urge to try tackling it.

    No, what turned me off Ayn Rand was Senior English.  We were told that at the end of the semester we would be reading a science fiction novel, which delighted me because I was a big science fiction geek.  I was less delighted when we actually got the book we were to be studying:  Ayn Rand's Anthem.

    A big part of my dislike of the book was a matter of expectations.  I was expecting wonder and other worlds; what I got was a heavy-handed political tract.  Although the story is set in a post-apocalyptic world, and the main character is something like a scientist, but that's as close to SF as the story gets.  

    The hero somehow re-invents the electric light bulb, but his hidebound elders reject it.  But Rand doesn't really care about light bulbs, or the technical problems of illuminating a primitive culture which has no sockets in which to screw the bulbs; the light bulb is only a metaphor for Genius.

    I regarded the whole story as a reworking of Galileo Before the Inquisition, and as far as I was concerned, Robert Heinlein had done that story much better in Orphans of the Sky.  (Heinlein had his Randian moments too, but he was much better at telling a story; and he also understood that the Rugged Individualist still has a responsibility to the greater Community of which he's a part).

    What I didn't realize at the time was that Rand didn't give a wet slap about science or invention or anything like that.  Her hero's really IMPORTANT discovery is what Sir Humphrey described as "The Perpendicular Pronoun."  Anthem is less a story involving science than it is a parable celebrating the Virtue of Egotism.

    As a sincere, devout and (at the time) conservative Lutheran, I found Rand's glorification of selfishness and her savage rejection of the whole idea of the good of the community to be highly repulsive.

    Now, I had been reading science fiction for several years by that time, so it's not like I had never been exposed to stories which challenged my religious beliefs.  But at least they were GOOD STORIES!  This was just pretentious drivel with a jerk of a protagonist.

    It gave me a dislike for all Ayn Rand's works and all her ways that has lasted my entire life.

    Read my webcomic, "Hannibal Tesla Adventure Magazine" at http://www.kurtoonsonline.com/

    by quarkstomper on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 04:31:01 PM PDT

    •  Rand had a longtime interest in (5+ / 0-)

      the tale of Prometheus, the Greek who stole fire from the Gods and gave it to man, and for this, was sentenced to die repeatedly, killed by having his liver eaten by a great bird every night.  Cool punishment.  Sucks to be Prometheus, though.

      From that perspective, the light bulb of Anthem is a metaphor for Promethean fire.

      Likewise, the heroes of Atlas Shrugged were Promethean in that they brought great things to the world (like Reardon Steel) but were then persecuted for their good deed.  Howard Roark in The Fountainhead, likewise.  (The Fountainhead, BTW, is a great novel, IMHO, no matter what we think of Rand and her other books).

      It's tempting to look at Rand's philosophy as a possible reflection of something in her own life, some deep grudge that has less to do with Aristotle and more to do with some personal grudge turned into a philosophy.

      •  Funny you should mention . . . (2+ / 0-)
        It's tempting to look at Rand's philosophy as a possible reflection of something in her own life, some deep grudge that has less to do with Aristotle and more to do with some personal grudge turned into a philosophy.
        In his autobiography, Palimpsest, Gore Vidal bravely admits that, as a young author living in NYC, he once "dated" Ayn Rand.  
        Since I read that I've wondered if Rand was one of those women who was continually attracted to gay men.  I won't use the derogatory term for that type of woman that most of us are aware of.  But if that were true, then it might account for her reported grudge-bearing, resentful nature.

        "Soylent Green is people too, my friend!" Guess Who

        by oldmaestro on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 06:37:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  The biography written by (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wasatch

        Nathaniel Brandon's first wife was very useful to me in understanding Rand. Her mother was a socialite that apparently had no interest in her children. Her father was a successful businessman who took interest in her when she was a teen and could talk intelligently with him. He struck me as her prototype for heroes - his persecution being by the Russian communists.  He was also very similar to my own, emotionally crippled father.

        Did you know that most Rand fans like Hank Reardon more than any of her other heroes? I sure did.

        "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone. " Audrey Hepburn "A Beautiful Woman"

        by Ginny in CO on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 12:58:28 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  She was a refugee from the USSR. Her father's (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JerryNA, Galtisalie

        pharmacy in Petrograd was nationalized by the Bolsheviks when she was 12 years old. She suffered through the Red vs. White civil war and escaped as soon as she could after graduating from college with a BA in philosophy. In America she became a Hollywood screenwriter. What she saw of America in the 1920s convinced her that unfettered capitalism was the best way.

        Once you know her backstory, you can easily see why she formed the opinions she did.

        Find out about my next big thing by reading my blog. Link is here: http://bettysrants.wordpress.com

        by Kimball Cross on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 06:41:38 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  i have ALWAYS felt that about her (0+ / 0-)

        even when I first read the book as a teenager

        It's tempting to look at Rand's philosophy as a possible reflection of something in her own life, some deep grudge that has less to do with Aristotle and more to do with some personal grudge turned into a philosophy.

        Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D.
        DEMAND CREATES JOBS!!!
        Drop by The Grieving Room on Monday nights to talk about grief.

        by TrueBlueMajority on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 07:36:27 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Applause, applause! (3+ / 0-)

      I'm a lifelong SF reader, and there's not enough time to read all the truly great books, so Rand;s work seems like a waste of time. No action, no adventure, just a dark drama set on this planet. I'd rather re-read a Wilson (Bob) Tucker story.

      This comment is a natural product. The slight variations in spelling and grammar enhance its individual character and beauty and in no way are to be considered flaws or defects.

      by blue muon on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 06:49:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Rec'd for "perpendicular pronoun" n/t (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      thanatokephaloides, quarkstomper

      The real USA Patriot Act was written in 1789. It's called the Bill of Rights.

      by nicteis on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 08:43:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Anthem (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      thanatokephaloides, quarkstomper

      I recently read Anthem. She did a fairly decent job of describing a society where individuality was utterly forbidden. But the book then goes on to make the fallacy of forbidding the word "WE". We are neither ants nor alligators. Just because the group taken to an extreme may not be a good thing doesn't mean the opposite extreme is a good thing.

      The wolfpack eats venison. The lone wolf eats mice.

      by A Citizen on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 08:47:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  pretentious drivel (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nicteis, quarkstomper
      Now, I had been reading science fiction for several years by that time, so it's not like I had never been exposed to stories which challenged my religious beliefs.  But at least they were GOOD STORIES!  This was just pretentious drivel with a jerk of a protagonist.
      Third-rate polemic drivel from a fourth-rate "author".

      Yeah, I've read some of that garbage; but it always made my skin crawl.

      And I'm selfish in one critical way: I need that skin. In good working order, please and thank you!

      ;-)

      "It's high time (and then some) that we put an end to the exceptionalistic nonsense floating around in our culture and face the fact that either the economy works for all, or it doesn't work AT all." -- Sean McCullough (DailyKos user thanatokephaloides)

      by thanatokephaloides on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 11:23:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well, (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JerryNA, quarkstomper

        speaking as a writer of fiction, I have to confess fiction is by it's very nature pretentious.  The trick is that it's not supposed to show.  

        "Pretentious" is one of those labels people put on a piece of fiction that doesn't work for them, but I never use it myself because it's a catch-all.  It's not specific enough to say why the piece hasn't worked for me.

        The opening of The Fountainhead put me off, because Rand was obviously so in love with her protagonist.   It's not being in love per se that's the problem, it's the kind of love she has for Roark.  It's childish bobby-soxer stuff, and if you're not hooked right away you're in for a bumpy ride.

        That's the kind of thing people perceive as "pretentious"; the author is obviously having some kind of peak experience, but the reader doesn't share in it.  A writer's task is to transform a pretentious scene into an experience the reader participates in.

        The kind of character love that works better, in my opinion, is a mature "warts and all" love where the author sees the character as complicated and flawed but still loves him. For a great example of this see Charles Portis' True Grit. Yes, that True Grit, the one that was made into two movies.  Mattie is really a dreadful girl, a bloodthirsty, bible-thumping pill. But she's genuinely heroic too.

        I've lost my faith in nihilism

        by grumpynerd on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 11:06:18 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I think Ham-fisted is a better word (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        grumpynerd

        Rand's opponents in her novels are straw men that don't match what real people think, and she wants you to think that she's really exposed her opponents by knocking down these straw men. I've read Atlas Shrugged, and I suppose I might even agree with her if reality was anything like the straw men she takes on. Then there are the interminable lectures - John Galt has a 60 page speech!

        The wolfpack eats venison. The lone wolf eats mice.

        by A Citizen on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 03:40:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Excellent point. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          A Citizen, quarkstomper

          Even if the opponents were straw men, it'd still be a mistake to treat a novel as if it proves something. Any novel.  Even a novel you love.

          In a novel the world works according to the writer's agenda.   You're not supposed to notice, but it does.  The characters are automatons which do the writer's bidding, but it's not supposed to be obvious.

          Novels never provide answers, because the author's always got his thumb on the scales.  But they can raise questions.  This is where people seduced into Objectivism by Atlas Shrugged go wrong.  They treat it like the Bible.

          It's also important to recognize that even very technically flawed novels can find an audience.  Artistry and technique broadens a story's audience, but point of view is what really connects with readers, what really fires them up.  A great book is for everyone.  A powerful book is sometimes only for a limited audience.

          So look at Twilight; read it objectively, rather than dwelling on the irritation it causes.  You can see why it connects. I also think that Meyer is a talented writer, although her technique is execrable.

          I am currently reading Voyage to Arcturus.  This was a book that was very important for Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.  In fact you can see the influence especially on Lewis. But I'd guess that most people would find this book all but unreadable. By modern canons of taste it is too loosely structured; the protagonist wanders through the plot without any discernible motivation. It's not that he's not believable, he's practically not a character at all. He's a cipher, or a symbol. Yet this is an immensely powerful book, for the right audience.

          I've lost my faith in nihilism

          by grumpynerd on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 04:01:33 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  The prudery of it all. (9+ / 0-)

    You've put your finger on something I quite like, and hadn't really considered.  There's a small-mindedness to the thing that is creepy.  Give me a real hedonist any day over these priggish self-satisfied pseudothinkers.  If you're gonna rail against rules and regulations, then by god, at least make a party out of it.  Greed?  Sure! Fill the senses! But grab the good stuff.  Why stop at material wealth? That's the barest seed-strewn shake.  The real stuff involves at least some kind of communion with others.  If you want to elevate the individual, make like Emmerson and do it alone.  Chop wood and carry water.  But enjoying the company of others only insofar as you can beat them in some twisted game? Ick.

  •  I took a philosophy course in high school too (4+ / 0-)

    We studied Plato's Republic which I did not care for. It might have gone better had we read the Symposium instead. I honestly don't remember what all else we read in the class (it was done as an English honors class). I graduated high school in the spring of 1968 in a liberal neighborhood in Queens. I can assure you Ayn Rand was not part of the curriculum.

    Despite my initial disappointment with the field I ultimately ended up with a BA in Philosophy and then did graduate school in philosophy as well. That's where I discovered Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics.  Now THAT is some ethical philosophy.

    •  Cool beans! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blue muon, thanatokephaloides, sfbob

      I took a seminar on the Nichomachean Ethics as an undergrad. That was, what, 27 or 28 years ago, and Aristotle's way of thinking about society by starting from the axiom that everybody strives for happiness is still with me.

      "I understand, Mr. Spock. The glory of creation is in its infinite diversity."

      by brainwave on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 05:44:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Aristotle's ethics are great. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      thanatokephaloides
    •  You got a BA in Philosophy w/o reading (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      thanatokephaloides, wasatch, sfbob

      Nichomachean ethics?

      That seems odd, because it's not like it's that long, and it's a pretty important book.  But anyhow, it's mended now!

      My daughter just graduated high school, and they require a senior paper.  For her topic she chose the application of Nichomachean Ethics to Shakespeare's Othello, demonstrating how the fate of the characters, even relatively minor ones, stems from excesses of qualities they thought virtuous.

      I've lost my faith in nihilism

      by grumpynerd on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 09:47:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Rand claimed an influence from Aristotle, but (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sfbob, grumpynerd, A Citizen

        she completely ignored the Golden Mean. Instead, she set up binary oppositions, eg, Collectivists in Black Hats, Geniuses in White Hats.

        Find out about my next big thing by reading my blog. Link is here: http://bettysrants.wordpress.com

        by Kimball Cross on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 06:45:26 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Rand's influences (0+ / 0-)

          Isaac Newton, one one of the greatest scientists ever to live, famously said "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." Even someone as great as Newton admits he didn't do it all himself. Rand on the other hand, admitted only grudgingly to being influenced by Aristotle, and only in limited areas at that.  That's what a hack does. (See the afterword of Atlas Shrugged).

          You're right, she ignores the Golden Mean, and tells us we must choose one of two extremes: total selfishness or total altruism. We award the Medal of Honor for conduct above and beyond the call of duty - we deeply admire sacrifice, but do not demand it.

          Yet the influences are pretty clear. Her attempt to base her system on A=A looks an awful lot like Descartes basing his system on "I think, therefore I am." You can't actually get anywhere from A=A, but that didn't stop her from trying.

          Her characters seem to be Nietzschean superman,  reminds me of Spencer's Social Darwinism.

          Her philosophy is really little more than a warmed over version of that of Ludwig von Mises, pop philosophy for the masses.

          The wolfpack eats venison. The lone wolf eats mice.

          by A Citizen on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 03:54:46 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  I'm sure the Nichomachean Ethics was covered (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        grumpynerd

        in some sort of survey course I took as an undergrad. I got my BA in 1973 so a certain amount of time has passed. I suppose I read excerpts in one class or another. But it wasn't until I was a grad student that I read the entire thing in detail. That one was a full-semester class on just one short book.

  •  Horrifying (4+ / 0-)

    I read The Fountainhead between my junior and senior year in high school. It struck me as being warmed over fascism with some Social Darwinism thrown in, so I never progressed to Atlas Shrugged.

    I didn't think about Ayn Rand much at all until we had the revelations about Paul Ryan, so I read a book about Rand and Objectivism and I reviewed it for Daily Kos here. To everybody's credit it piggybacked on another review of the same book.

    All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

    by Dave in Northridge on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 05:18:19 PM PDT

    •  Um... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      thanatokephaloides, VClib
      It struck me as being warmed over fascism with some Social Darwinism thrown in, so I never progressed to Atlas Shrugged.
      What in the world did you find in The Fountainhead to be "warmed over fascism"?

      Be specific please.  

      Dammit Jim, I'm a lawyer, not a grammarian. So sue me.

      by Pi Li on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 08:18:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  "Fascist" is squirrelly (5+ / 0-)

        For what it's worth, I don't think the Objectivists are very much like fascists.

        I associate fascists with a kind of ideological adaptability -- ideas are just tools to a fascist and he selects him to the needs of the moment. In the morning he's a socialist in the morning and free market capitalist in the afternoon, of course denying there's any conflict. This lack of coherence makes it easy to see fascism everywhere, e.g., in The Fountainhead, but those same elements may well all be in some other work that doesn't seem fascist at all.  So while someone can honestly perceive fascism in something he doesn't like, often it's not really there.

        The key thing is that fascists don't care about ideas.  They care about emotions, especially those associated with group identity and distrust of outsiders.  The Tea Party fits right in with fascists; the Objectivists don't.  They care about ideas. It's one of their better qualities.

        As I remark elsewhere, Objectivists are a right wing group with the style of radical Marxists.  They're both idea fetishists.  Where a fascist will twist and bend his ideology to suit the need of the moment, a Marxist will root through his bag of ideas and come up with something that will fit the occasion.

        Marxists and Objectivists try to build an ideology which meets all circumstances, and the result is something elaborate and painstaking internally consistent (although not necessarily sound). In comparison fascist ideologies are slovenly, slapdash things, intended for the consumption of people too drunk with emotion to think critically.

        I've lost my faith in nihilism

        by grumpynerd on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 09:29:49 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks (0+ / 0-)

          Excellent description of Fascism and its appeal to emotion and group identity.

          Great diary, too.

          The all knowing ... knows all

          by hypernaught on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 04:25:54 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  That's true, grumpynerd, and all the infamous (0+ / 0-)

          fascist regimes exemplify it. The Nazis were "National Socialist," in that they presented their politics as a convergence of the left and right, with racial supremacy theories (sometimes disguised as conventional German nationalism) as the reconciliation between the two wings.

          Mussolini did the same, with Italian nationalism as the glue. In the 1930s, he added anti-Semitism.

          Find out about my next big thing by reading my blog. Link is here: http://bettysrants.wordpress.com

          by Kimball Cross on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 07:17:19 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Pseudo-radicalism (4+ / 0-)

    I suspect another factor that makes Objectivism attractive to a certain type of people (and especially, but not exclusively, younger ones) is the pseudo-radicalism. The Objectivist doctrine allows them to feel like radicals speaking truth to power (and, depending on personal tastes, living dangerously and heroically on the edge of society) even as they are in reality being useful idiots and apologists for hypercapitalism and anybody profiting from it.

    "I understand, Mr. Spock. The glory of creation is in its infinite diversity."

    by brainwave on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 05:34:23 PM PDT

  •  Darwinist! (3+ / 0-)
    "Yeah," I objected again, "But wouldn't the most selfish thing be to convince everyone else to be honest and respect property, then go around their backs and cheat and steal?"
    In a lot of evolutionary and economic settings, there's a chaotic interplay among the competitors, the collaborators, and the cheaters.
    •  "Darwinist" is a nice way of putting it. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      thanatokephaloides

      I would have said I was being a teenaged smartass.

      Agreed on the complex interplay. Life eez complex, n'est-ce pas? Sometimes I think half the reason we need ethical theories is to get a handle on it as it rockets by.

      I've lost my faith in nihilism

      by grumpynerd on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 06:04:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  You were smarter than the teacher. (3+ / 0-)

    It sounds like he wasn't that great at representing Rand.  I don't doubt you could've done a better job.  For example, the Randian answer to "why shouldn't I steal" is basically that it makes you a second-hander, a moocher, unworthy of your own or anyone else's respect.  Like Libertarians, Rand saw prevention of such crimes as one of the few valid functions of government.  She wasn't an anarchist.

    It takes more than just reading Rand to get hooked.  I'd say my family had a low emotional IQ.  My parents were both pretty young, and my dad especially really liked simple answers.  He'd already read a little Rand and passed it on to me.  I caught the ball and RAN with it.

    Diaries like yours are really valuable, and I thank you for this one.  Libertarianism is so much more mainstream now than when I was a teenager.  In the long run, I think the right wing will have to give up on social issues.  I think in the future, the major philosophical dividing line will be between cooperators and non-cooperators.  People like yourself who know Objectivists and similar groups well and can explain their thinking to others provide a critical service.

    •  I still find the argument circular. (6+ / 0-)
      it makes you a second-hander, a moocher, unworthy of your own or anyone else's respect.
      You can't appeal to "worthiness" when you're trying to define what that word means.  It's as if you asked me, "Should smoking weed be illegal?" and I answered "Yes, because using illegal drugs is bad."
      Rand saw prevention of such crimes as one of the few valid functions of government.  She wasn't an anarchist.
      But the anarchists would raise a good point here: this is a circular justification.  Preventing crimes can't be used to justify the existence of government because governments define what "crime" is.  There must be something the government needs to achieve that justifies giving it the power to define and prevent crime.

      You can't engage in special pleading and expect others to credit that argument. Anything you can do, everyone else needs to be allowed. If you can introduce terms like "moocher" and "second-hander", then anyone can introduce terms they find opprobrious to rule out behavior they don't like, like letting a poor person go hungry, or even just having more money than the people around you.  The same mode of argument has to be open to everyone.

      All this says to me is that the Objectivist agument is not logically sound, although it may or may not each the right conclusion. If my selfish aims are paramount then there is nothing wrong with my mooching, in fact it is laudable. If there is something wrong with mooching, then there must be something else that trumps my selfish aims.  Simple as that.

      I think you're on the right track, though. How we like to conceive of ourselves should shape our behavior.  That, however, would not put morality on an objective basis.

      I've lost my faith in nihilism

      by grumpynerd on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 07:48:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well, I don't think (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JerryNA

        "second-hander" or "moocher" were circularly defined there.

        But honestly, I don't consider a detailed technical analysis of Objectivism to be worth the effort.  There are so many other things so obviously wrong with it, such as completely ignoring giant chunks of human nature.

        The whole thing was born out of Rand's childhood rage at the treatment of her upper-class Russian family by the newly formed communist government.  It was all rationalization, backwards reasoning.  Starting with her desired conclusions, which she actually had arrived at by emotion, she then came up with arguments that led to those conclusions.

        Ironically, she did the exact opposite of what she claimed to have done.  She derived "is" from "ought".

  •  OBLIGATORY (13+ / 0-)
    "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."
  •  The problem with objectivism isn't the 'Follow (4+ / 0-)

    your own interests' part.  Everyone should feel free to follow their own interest.  Except, problem #1 that objectivists never seem to acknowledge: Much of what can and will make you happy in life is mutually exclusive.  Should I sleep in or wake up early and go fishing?  Should I marry girl A or girl B, or both?  Any one path negates the opportunity to pursue another path.  Objectivists can't seem to wrap their little heads around this.  Which directly leads to problem number two: they have the chutzpah to tell other people the right way to pursue their self interest.
      I'm sorry, but I find objectivists to be pathetic little people.  Even the ones with alot of money are still pathetic.  I don't need lectures from sociopaths on how to be happy.  Anyone who needs to read a book on the right way to be selfish is just sad.  Why should I let someone else tell me it is not in my own self interest to live in a society that takes care of its sick and its poor, that doesn't let a few greedy individuals control all of its resources, and that doesn't let a small group of freaks run wild in the streets with automatic weapons?  Sorry, but I am following my own selfish interests by saying f^&k you to objectivists.

    "Wrong, Do it again!" "If you don't learn to compete, you can't have any pudding. How can you have any pudding if you don't learn to compete?" "You! Yes, you occupying the bikesheds, stand still laddy!"

    by ban48 on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 06:33:24 PM PDT

    •  Follow your own interests? (4+ / 0-)

      The ego (and its interests) is largely a psycho-social construct.  We like to think that we are individuals, with our own separate ideas and interests.  I have a couple of stories:  When I and my wife were expecting our first child, in 1995, I had the "individual" idea that I would name her after my paternal grandmother, that an "old fashioned" name would be cool and something different. So we named her "Alexandra".  A couple of years later I learned that "Alexandra" was one of the most popular names in 1996.  It turns out that there were many people in the country with similar thinking at the time.  The other story concerns my "personal" interest in Ecology, and selection of Forestry as a major in college.  I never did get a job in the field, largely because there was a huge oversupply of like-minded, environmentally conscious young people in my cohort in the 1970's and '80s.  Yet this was My interest!  It turns out that some of my deepest and most personal ideas and interests are largely a product of the times, of a "community mind" that we all partake in.

      An illusion can never be destroyed directly... SK.

      by Thomas Twinnings on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 07:12:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well yeah, I guess that is another fallacy: that (3+ / 0-)

        objectivists are being original.  They can't even admit their interests are shaped by their environment even as their movement devolved into a cult.

        "Wrong, Do it again!" "If you don't learn to compete, you can't have any pudding. How can you have any pudding if you don't learn to compete?" "You! Yes, you occupying the bikesheds, stand still laddy!"

        by ban48 on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 07:38:23 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Objectivism was invented (7+ / 0-)

    when someone thought "You know, libertarianism isn't quite crazy enough. What if we threw a personality cult into the mix?"

    If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

    by Major Kong on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 06:34:51 PM PDT

    •  Welll (3+ / 0-)

      It was written by somebody who was an exile from her country because of Stalin-style communism.

      I'm not by any means a fan of her philosophy or her fiction, but I see where the ideas came from.  Rand came by her philosophy honestly enough.

      She just really didn't understand anything about the society she'd moved to and how it worked and didn't care to learn.  She had her ideas and had her scars and somehow infected a lot of people with them, presumably because it made them feel good about themselves.

      Seriously.  Atlas Shrugged is BAD science fiction.  It sure as hell isn't her skill as a storyteller that hooked all those assholes that seem to have infinite money and way too many of the levers of power in this country.

  •  I had to vote for Jeremy Bentham partly (7+ / 0-)

    because of the Auto-icon.

    SPES MEA IN DEO EST.

    by commonmass on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 06:52:07 PM PDT

  •  GrumpyNerd, I got here late, but this is (5+ / 0-)

    a great diary.

    I voted for Aristotle.

  •  Brilliant explanation (5+ / 0-)

    My sullen ex-brother-in-law succumbed to the allure of objectivism and I wasted far too much energy arguing my position of altruism with him.

    Far from the self-made man, he lived with his mom, totaled his car, then hers, lost every job he got, then lived off the largesse of his girlfriend. Ayn would have been so proud.

    If that's the fruit of objectivism, you can keep it ;-)

    featuring haiku & political tweets in rhyme

    by cassandracarolina on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 03:28:55 AM PDT

    •  No doubt all these misfortunes occurred because (0+ / 0-)

      the world didn't recognize his genius.

      Find out about my next big thing by reading my blog. Link is here: http://bettysrants.wordpress.com

      by Kimball Cross on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 08:19:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I feel sorry for him. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JerryNA

      People like that don't need a new personal philosophy. They need a social worker.

      Imagine this man as a baby.  We love babies because they're so much possibility tied up in a tiny bundle.  And then that baby grows up, and year by year that possibility drains away until he's a grown man and there's no potential left.

      Or so we assume.

      What is it like to be that person?  To be raised being told you can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it and find yourself with no path forward (that you can see)?  To be told you're special, and to end up living in your mom's basement?  To be taught you're special, and end up getting at best pity from others?

      If I were him I'd want to escape that world, into a world where I could imagine myself as the person I was taught I should be.

      And along comes a philosophy that offers that escape. I'd go for it in a heartbeat. But what I'd still really need is someone who can help me get and keep a job, move out of the house, and deal with whatever it is that is making me crash cars.

      I've lost my faith in nihilism

      by grumpynerd on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 10:35:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This diary is not merely smart. (3+ / 0-)

    It is also wise and deeply perceptive, much less common qualities.  Thank you.

  •  smug rather than happy (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    skod, grumpynerd, JerryNA, etbnc

    well said.

    glad this was rescued.  this is an important diary, grumpynerd

    when someone is trying to persude me to accept their life philosophy, my very first instinct is--do I want to change to be more like this person?

    if living by that philosophy has made them who they are, do I aspire to be the same kind of person?

    if not, then I can reject it as no better than the life philosophy I already follow.

    in 12 step they call this--"find someone who has what you want and do what they did."

    the older I get the harder it is for me to find someone who "has what I want" to inspire me to change myself to be more like them

    i'd rather be me, faults and all, than any of these Republicons, faux libertarians, fundamentalists, Objectivists, etc.

    Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D.
    DEMAND CREATES JOBS!!!
    Drop by The Grieving Room on Monday nights to talk about grief.

    by TrueBlueMajority on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 07:00:09 AM PDT

    •  and every progressive pundit needs to be (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JerryNA, A Citizen

      basically familiar with the ideas in Atlas Shrugged to understand what has been going on in Congress lately.

      They are trying to "stop the motor of the government"

      that's why they have no ideas of their own.  Their only goal is to destroy what we have now and then rebuild to their liking after the current system is destroyed.

      once you see that, everything they do starts to make twisted sense

      Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D.
      DEMAND CREATES JOBS!!!
      Drop by The Grieving Room on Monday nights to talk about grief.

      by TrueBlueMajority on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 07:12:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  We should endure Atlas Shrugged (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TrueBlueMajority

        It's a long, bloated book, and I believe it is propped up to make it appear more popular than it is, but if you read Atlas Shrugged, you will understand more about Republicans.

        The wolfpack eats venison. The lone wolf eats mice.

        by A Citizen on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 03:58:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  exactly my point, A Citizen (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          A Citizen

          once you relate "drown the government in a bathtub" to John Galt's "destroyer" and "stop the motor of the world" crap it all fits together and explains why they resist accomplishing anything

          Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D.
          DEMAND CREATES JOBS!!!
          Drop by The Grieving Room on Monday nights to talk about grief.

          by TrueBlueMajority on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 06:34:08 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Bureau of Sabatoge (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            A Citizen

            Frank Herbert wrote a series of stories featuring a government agency in a futuristic world called the BuSab, or the Bureau of Sabatoge.  The idea was that when government gets too efficient, it winds up grinding people in the gears; to this bureau was set up specifically to prevent this from happening.

            At least that's my vague recollection of how it was supposed to work.  The only BuSab story I've read is Whipping Star, and although it was an interesting enough story, I didn't really see much connection between the heroes' mission and their agency's purpose; unless it was that the crisis was a weird one that fell out of everybody else's jurisdictions.

            At the time I thought the BuSab was an amusing conceit, but I didn't really see how it would actually work.

            Read my webcomic, "Hannibal Tesla Adventure Magazine" at http://www.kurtoonsonline.com/

            by quarkstomper on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 05:44:00 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Something is missing here..... (0+ / 0-)


    Sorry, I couldn't resist!

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 07:33:42 AM PDT

  •  What Happened to Me (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JerryNA

    I borrowed a copy of The Fountainhead from a friend who'd finished reading it (and wasn't convinced by it). I spent weeks reading it, because another friend I was living with kept stealing it from me to read himself. I had to steal it back. I did read more Rand, including Atlas Shrugged (though I gave it up halfway through the long, tedious, pseudointellectual screed at the end of its kilopages that defines Objectivism). It was good fiction, but bad philosophy.

    The friend became an Ivy League lawyer, working for a company cutting down all the trees in Texas and later for an aircraft company that I think is the CIA. He was more influenced by Objectivism and "the Virtue of Selfishness" than I was.

    Partly it was that crudely contrived Objectivist mumbo jumbo that climaxes Atlas Shrugged. Partly it was reading 1960s Objectivist Alan Greenspan's absolute defense of the gold standard in the late 1960s when Nixon took us off it, right as 1980s Fed Chair Greenspan unleashed the kraken of bottomless deficit spending precisely opposite his Objectivist absolutism. Partly it was realizing that while selfishness is a virtue, it was not at all the only virtue, and that compassion and mutual interest were superior virtues, both in economic practice and in getting along with other people.

    In no small part it was watching my clever friend live Objectivist to the T.

    People are subjects, not objects. Ayn Rand lived Objectivism until she took Medicare's "looter socialism" to save her old age after a lucrative career. Objectivism is the same kind of scam as the Soviet "Marxism" (not the original) that just convinced people to steal and be stolen from - surely the inspiration for the power of a good economic philosophy scam.

    "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

    by DocGonzo on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 08:23:31 AM PDT

  •  I DEMAND (0+ / 0-)

    an entry for John Locke in the poll!

    My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right. -- Senator Carl Schurz(MO-1899)

    by Adam Blomeke on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 08:27:02 AM PDT

  •  It just seems to me that, to consider yourself a (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JerryNA

    Randian, you would have to: never have played team sports; never have been part of a functioning musical or performing arts effort, never closely observed any organism or system in nature; never completed military boot camp; never designed a functioning mechanical or electronic device more sophisticated than a door stop; never read a very good novel; and never really considered that the other beings who populate the world are actually animate beings.  Otherwise, I guess I can understand the attraction.

  •  I voted for Jeremy Bentham (0+ / 0-)

    At least he came in ahead of Ayn Rand.

    The Stars and Bars and the red swastika banner are both offerings to the same barbaric god.

    by amyzex on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 08:46:25 AM PDT

  •  sorry my favorite is Nietzsche (0+ / 0-)

    though Kant, Mill and Aristotle are up there. I also happen to like Machiavelli though I subscribe to the school of thought that The Prince was meant as satire.

    Nice story I've never had any personal dealing with "Objectivists" but the flaws in it and the reasons for why to this day it's not treated by most as a real philosophy  are as powerful now as they were when created by Rand.

    Der Weg ist das Ziel

    by duhban on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 09:11:00 AM PDT

  •  You should add Marx and Spinoza to your poll. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    grumpynerd, JerryNA

    I think Marx is among the greatest humanitarian philosophers in history, and Spinoza's ethics strike me as visionary and massively inspirational.

    Aside from that, very good diary.

    Boiled down, Objectivism brings to mind Galbraith's comment about conservativism:

    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.
    •  Don't just listen with your ears. (0+ / 0-)

      Look with your eyes.

      Yes, the Koch brothers fit the Galbraith quote to a T. But not your garden variety Objectivist. What is the doctrine of selfishness doing for him?  If the Kochs ever decide to go Galt, will he get the invitation to join them?

      Well I suppose someone will have to do the menial work in Galt's Gulch.

      I think a lot of the value of Objectivist doctrine for the average guy isn't as a guide or justification for behavior, but as something to espouse that makes him feel ennobled.

      I've lost my faith in nihilism

      by grumpynerd on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 11:19:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's really the same thing. (0+ / 0-)
        I think a lot of the value of Objectivist doctrine for the average guy isn't as a guide or justification for behavior, but as something to espouse that makes him feel ennobled.
        Feeling "ennobled" is just a heightened form of rationalization. It's yet another self-fiction in search of an explanation, another self-delusion in search of an elaborate, sophistic structure to make one feel it's not.

        As in, a ton of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Think of the wasted energy used in constructing this towering altar to selfishness. How many great things could they accomplish that would both make for a better world and make them happier in the process if they just dropped the sham?

        Our biology is set up to make that easy. We actually get a chemical rush from social interaction, seeing others smile, knowing we're the cause of this. In short, we're hard-wired for harmony and mutual support. We brighten up when others do. And we're also born with an "equality bias." We naturally desire fairness and equal distribution of the goods of society. Until that's beaten out of us.

        •  What great things would you expect? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          diomedes77

          I don't imagine the average Joe Objectivist would be much different, better or worse, without Objectivism. Objectivism doesn't transform their lives as far as I can see, it just gives them something with which to decorate the place their lives are stuck at.

          When you talk to them, it's like they're stuck in a box looking out at the world through a teeny, tiny hole.  I don't think Objectivism created the box.  I do think it may have created the hole.

          I've lost my faith in nihilism

          by grumpynerd on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 12:08:21 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for the lucidity, grumpynerd (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    grumpynerd

    Your comments are convincing and better yet, pleasant and sympathetic.   I needed a reboot in my consideration of sermonizing Randians.   They are around 50% less tiresome to me when I reframe them as romantics.

  •  There's any number of disturbing things (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JerryNA, catilinus

    about Ayn Rand and her belief system, but I wish this one was more widely known. Let me share an excerpt from her address to the graduating class of West Point in 1974:

    (After making an argument that it was okay for Europeans to run Native American tribes off their lands because the Native Americans didn't have a concept of individual rights.)

    "...But let's suppose they were all beautifully
    innocent savages --which they certainly were not. What were they fighting for, in opposing the white man on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence; for their "right" to keep part of the earth untouched--to keep everybody out so they could live like animals or cavemen. Any European who brought with him an element of civilization had the right to take over this continent, and it's great that some of them did. The racist Indians today--those who condemn America--do not respect individual rights."
    Stalin would be proud.
  •  I got into Rand when I was in the Marines (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BentLiberal, RubDMC

    It's easy to consider yourself a proponent of her bad ideas when you get free room & board, and a whole long list of other gov't bennies. I ditched her "philosophy" as soon as I was discharged and started college, because it was unlivable for me.  I myself went on to get my BA in philosophy, and the kinds of thinkers and ideas I was attracted to wound up being the direct opposite of the views she held, being that I had developed a liking for pragmatism, postmodernism, critical theory, and anti-foundationalism.

    Ayn Rand was a philosopher the same way L. Ron Hubbard was a philosopher: offering all of the easy answers, without asking any of the hard questions.

    Col. Brandt: "What do you think we'll do when we lose the war?" Capt. Kiesel: "Prepare for the next one." --from "Cross of Iron"

    by ConservatismSuxx on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 02:25:26 PM PDT

  •  I try not to be an -ist of any kind. (0+ / 0-)

    Sometimes I fail.

  •  Bentham all the way. (0+ / 0-)

    I read "Principals of Morals and Legislation" when some of my friends were reading Atlas Shrugged.

    Utility man. It makes sense. It's mathematical.

    And as long as you're applying it within the context of a constitutional system where there are specific things you're not allowed to do in order to create what you perceive to be the greatest possible good, it actually works.

    An Fhirinn an aghaidh an t'Saoghail.

    by OllieGarkey on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 09:32:50 AM PDT

  •  Since you mentioned Kant... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    grumpynerd

    "FK the deficit. People got no jobs. People got no money." Charlie Pierce

    by RubDMC on Sat Jun 14, 2014 at 10:20:59 AM PDT

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