4.28.2011

The C(a)lt of Galt

Ayn Rand and Objectivism are rearing their ugly heads again. I noticed when the newly stamped copies of Altas Shrugged - this coffee table cum paperback graced the shelves at Costco. Seriously? Costco? I understand the desire to sell paper in such large volumes, but lets all admit to ourselves that this is the Brief History of Time for the Tea Party Set. The first 3-23 pages will show wear and the rest may as well be blank.

But more important of course is the risk that objectivism could begin to influence policy. I read Atlas Shrugged. And the Fountainhead. And Anthem (BTW - it does in 100 pages what it takes her 1000 pages to do elsewhere.). I read them around the age of 20. I tried on the ideas. I am a smart, above average height, ok looking, athletic guy. I mean, yeah, don't deserve to be me? Haven't I earned everything I've gotten? Why should others ride on my coattails as I ascend to greatness?

How long before you meet your first walking reality check? Someone whose father has cancer? Someone whose company lays them off at just the wrong moment? How long before you realize that there but for the grace of god go you?

I am all for more personal responsibility. It could go a long way to improve the functioning of our society. But it doesn't change that we live together and our aggregate interactions require policies to govern them. Otherwise a free spirited mother is getting my kid sick with TB because she refuses to vaccinate. Where's my freedom there?

Ayn Rand takes the extreme position that there should be no regulation and no social safety net. You just need one exception to derail such an ethos and I think even the starkest libertarians among us have lived a few of those exceptions themselves. To do otherwise can be barbaric.

1 comment:

thegameiam said...

Anthem is definitely the right Rand book to read: she's better, in my opinion, in smaller rather than larger doses.

I think the value of her philosophy is more that of a corrective. It's easy to demonize capitalists and capitalism - witness the sturm und drang of the last couple of years - and Rand puts a (metaphorical) stake in the ground saying that only by the actions of individuals acting in their own interests is humanity bettered. This is an important point, and one that is forgotten too much on the leftish side of things. Where the objectivist/libertarians go to far is to imply that the truth of that proposition necessarily implies the contrapositive: that if individuals suffer it is exclusively due to their own failings.

That is an obviously false conclusion, but its falseness does not invalidate the usefulness of the prior statement.

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