Hayek, Rand, and Utopians

I’m currently engaged in a Facebook debate with some individuals who have utopian tendencies. It reminded me of a piece I wrote for the IPA Review some time back setting out some arguments about utopianism. Catallaxians will recognise the characters.

Ayn Rand remains a best-selling author. Nearly thirty years after her death, and over fifty years since publication, her books remain as popular as ever. Just last year The Economist proposed an Atlas Shrugged Index; the sales of her magnum opus tracking events that herald big government. To be sure her two best known books The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged are eerily prescient; her villains especially describe the threats to our freedoms. Her descriptions of second-handers, moochers and looters relate to people and institutions that are readily recognisable.

It is surprising that her books remain so popular in an era of instant gratification. They are long-winded, torturous reads punctuated by gems; her books need a good editing and perhaps shortening. Nonetheless thousands of people each year discover her writing for the first time, and if a long-promised Atlas Shrugged movie comes to the big screen many more millions will discover her work.

While there is steady demand for her books, it seems in recent time that there has been an increase in interest in Rand herself. The classic It usually begins with Ayn Rand by Jerome Tuccille is back in print, while Goddess of the market: Ayn Rand and the American right – a new biography – is selling well. Then there are beginners guides to Rand and many more books to choose from. Yet, for all this attention, it isn’t clear that we should learn anything positive from Rand’s life itself, as opposed to reading and enjoying her books.

Rand apparently loathed Friedrich von Hayek. He was, in her eyes, a socialist. Where he argued that individuals competed for scarce resources, she argued that individuals created resources. From their own perspective each was correct. Individuals do compete for scarce resources, but Hayek had argued that this competition wasn’t the economic problem that markets resolved. Rather markets coordinated diffuse knowledge and information. Rand had as her protagonists innovators who through their own genius and effort created new ideas and products. The entrepreneur is an important character in her thinking as it is in Austrian school economics.

So on economic matters Hayek and Rand may not appear to have had very different views. It is in their philosophy, however, that they are somewhat different. Rand was a utopian. Her homespun philosophy Objectivism lionises logic and reason. Of course, logic and reason are sensible precepts and should be applied when making decisions. But they cannot be the basis of a philosophical system of thought. In this sense, Rand was a Rationalist.

Hayek is critical of Rationalism in his first chapter of the first volume of Law, Legislation and Liberty. Rationalists believe in Human Design; the view that ‘human institutions will serve human purposes only if they have been deliberately designed for those purposes’ and ‘that we should re-design society and its institutions that all our actions will be wholly guided by known purposes’. That known purpose in the Randian sense is the morality of selfishness. In her novels selfishness conquers all; those who selfishly enrich themselves by adding value prevail, while those who selfishly enrich themselves by looting and mooching get unstuck.

That’s all well and good in literature; Rand’s novels are morality plays and the genre is well understood. Living one’s life according to a few axioms of morality, however defined, is a far more complex proposition. Humans have, with more or less some success, evolved rules that govern human interaction. Many of these rules take the form of religion and religious practice; while others are cultural. This implies that there are norms that govern our behaviour that we don’t always understand or that we cannot easily articulate. It is this type of rule that becomes problematic for Rationalists who idealise logic and reason.

Michael Oakeshott was the greatest English speaking conservative philosopher of the twentieth century. He too was very critical of Rationalism. So much so that he has a deliciously amusing back-handed swipe at Hayek’s classic The road to serfdom. Oakeshott suggests that a plan not to plan, while somewhat commendable, is a plan too many. To his way of thinking Hayek falls into a rationalist frame of mind. It is not clear what his views on Rand were.

Oakeshott characterises Rationalists as (social) engineers who engage in constant problem solving and redesign of institutions. There are two other characteristics that Oakeshott emphasises; the politics of perfection and the politics of uniformity. Imperfection, to the Rationalist, is intolerable and rational solutions can always be found for any imperfection. Once those imperfections are eliminated a rational uniformity will prevail. As Oakeshott observes, ‘The modern history of Europe is littered with the projects of the politics of Rationalism’. Writing in 1947, this is something of an understatement.

Rationalism is not self-correcting. Oakeshott makes the argument that Rationalism amounts to a corruption of the mind in that it is fundamentally mistaken about the nature of human knowledge. Rationalists believe ‘the truth’ can be discovered by a single human mind. By contrast Hayek, writing in 1945 (and probably unbeknown to Oakeshott), had argued that knowledge and information was dispersed across individuals. But the problem remains, a Rationalist cannot overcome the inherent error within Rationalism – they cannot solve the Hayekian information problem. Oakeshott argues that Rationalists are ‘ineducable’ – they can only be educated out of their Rationalism.

It is this type of analysis that could explain why Rand disliked Hayek, and probably why he disliked her too. She was stubborn, dogmatic and uncompromising. The underlying philosophical views that informed their worldviews were fundamentally at odds with each other. This then raises the interesting question of overlap within their readership.

Ayn Rand’s novels are particularly popular with libertarians who in turn are often attracted to Austrian school economics. The major economists of that school include Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich von Hayek, and Murray Rothbard. All of these men knew Ayn Rand. She had attended Mises’ New York University seminar in the 1957 – 58 academic year. Both Mises and Rothbard wrote her glowing letters after reading Atlas Shrugged. Rothbard described it as ‘the greatest novel ever written’; while Mises gushed that it was not merely a novel, but ‘a cogent analysis of the evils that plague our society’.

While it isn’t clear what influence their economic theories had on Rand, it is clear that her economic views were largely consistent with those of Mises and Rothbard and probably Hayek too. She places entrepreneurship at the centre of economic prosperity; she has strong views on sound money – favouring the gold standard, and clearly understands the role of property rights in a well functioning economy. The adverse unintended consequences of do-gooders are pitilessly exposed in her novels. She understands that government intervention and excess regulation destroys economic prosperity. She makes a strong argument for firms to be managed in the interests of their owners and not other societal interests. There is much to like in her novels and the economics of her novels are recognisable to readers versed in the Austrian school. But you don’t have to be an Austrian school economist to hold these views.

To enjoy Rand’s novels, even to learn their lessons, without accepting her morality is inconsistent with her Rationalist viewpoint. It is inconsistent with the perfection and uniformity characteristics that Oakeshott describes. In what she might have considered a bitter irony it is consistent with Hayek’s dispersed knowledge theory. It is entirely possible that a novelist can imagine a dystopia and understands the economic consequences of that dystopia and write a best-selling novel based on that understanding without being able to implement their own utopia. In this sense Hayek and Rand and Mises are all compliments to each other and not substitutes. It is possible to understand them all in isolation, but the combination of their work is far more powerful. That is why there is nothing wrong with starting with Ayn Rand, but it should never end with Ayn Rand.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

76 Responses to Hayek, Rand, and Utopians

  1. whyisitso

    Great article, Sinclair. I started with Ayn Rand in 1973. A Whitlam voter in 1972 and a strong Labor supporter until then I very suddenly became disillusioned when I realised that as a young professional in finance I had become the class enemy.

    Atlas Shrugged

    immediately jelled with me. I changed my political philosophy and took the opportunity in late 1973 to vote Liberal in a by-election (Phillip Ruddock) for the first time ever. Yes, life does move on and I agree that Ayn Rand was the beginning, but I agree that it can’t finish with her.

  2. JC

    That is why there is nothing wrong with starting with Ayn Rand, but it should never end with Ayn Rand.

    Lol. I never knew Hayek and Rand never lived each other.

    Great great post, Sinc.

  3. Troy

    I recently read Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. I’ve been a libertarian for around about 5 or so years now and always figured I should read them at some point.

    Didn’t find anything in the books that I hadn’t already worked out for myself though I wonder if I had read them several years ago maybe they would have opened my eyes. I found her writing style irritating but I rarely enjoy fiction anyway. They were long winded, boring and in some parts cliche.

    The bit in Atlas shrugged where whatshisname rents his mates car made me cringe. Same with the lame as oath they all say to join their little club. I never understood the relationship between Dominique and Roark. The whole book is about reason and then she uses some retarded ‘woman logic’ about how she cant be with him. Then in the end how Ellsworth Toohey just unmasks himself as some ‘to evil’ toasting super villain. It was all a bit, ah, dunno what the word is

  4. Michael Sutcliffe

    I still maintain Rand has the overarching philosophy which explains the human condition. I don’t think she discovered much, perhaps nothing at all, but she integrated essential elements of existing knowledge in a way that had never been done before. I think in time she will be more widely acknowledged as providing one of the first full understanding of the human condition where others missed.

    It shouldn’t end with Rand – she’s the crude framework and you should go looking to fill in the gaps. But the phenomenal value of her work is that it describes the framework that holds it all together. I often find other philosophers – I’d say Oakeshott is a good example – make very salient points and provide very insightful perspectives. However, they fail to draw significantly impacting conclusions because their perspective tends to sit on it’s own regardless of how elegant it is within itself. Rand identified the important ones and pulled them all together. That was her brilliance.

    BTW, I’ve never read any of her fiction, and I think the further she gets away from her brilliant but ‘blunt’ work in metaphysics, epistemology and ethics , the worse she gets. By the time she’s talking about aesthetics she’s just rambling.

    The other point I’d make is that regardless of what large slabs of the intellectual community might say, and the vehement objections of some of her opponents, the scoreboard speaks for itself. Her philosophy resonates with millions of people and her philosophy really hasn’t dated or even look like showing significant cracks at this point.

  5. Peter Patton

    I haven’t read her, but increasingly feel obliged to. Given I still have little patience for fiction, which ONE of her books should I read?

  6. PSC

    To be sure her two best known books The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged are eerily prescient

    What are you smoking? Where can I buy some?

    I can’t put it better than this:

    http://whatever.scalzi.com/2010/10/01/what-i-think-about-atlas-shrugged/

    All of this is fine, if one recognizes that the idealized world Ayn Rand has created to facilitate her wishful theorizing has no more logical connection to our real one than a world in which an author has imagined humanity ruled by intelligent cups of yogurt. This is most obviously revealed by the fact that in Ayn Rand’s world, a man who self-righteously instigates the collapse of society, thereby inevitably killing millions if not billions of people, is portrayed as a messiah figure rather than as a genocidal prick, which is what he’d be anywhere else. Yes, he’s a genocidal prick with excellent engineering skills. Good for him. He’s still a genocidal prick.

  7. Peter Patton

    Well genocide is ultimately an engineering feat.

  8. jtfsoon

    Unfair but hilarious

    , it’s a totally ridiculous book which can be summed up as Sociopathic idealized nerds collapse society because they don’t get enough hugs. (This is, incidentally, where you can start your popcorn munching.) Indeed, the enduring popularity of Atlas Shrugged lies in the fact that it is nerd revenge porn — if you’re an nerd of an engineering-ish stripe who remembers all too well being slammed into your locker by a bunch of football dickheads, then the idea that people like you could make all those dickheads suffer by “going Galt” has a direct line to the pleasure centers of your brain. I’ll show you! the nerds imagine themselves crying. I’ll show you all! And then they disappear into a crevasse that Google Maps will not show because the Google people are our kind of people, and a year later they come out and everyone who was ever mean to them will have starved. Then these nerds can begin again, presumably with the help of robots, because any child in the post-Atlas Shrugged world who can’t figure out how to run a smelter within ten minutes of being pushed through the birth canal will be left out for the coyotes. Which if nothing else solves the problem of day care.

  9. Peter Patton

    I just read that, and loved it too. It’s official. I am going to buy Atlas Shrugged tomorrow. Look forward to “going Galt” on the weekend.

  10. Gab

    Really, really enjoyed this post Sinclair. Thank you.

  11. Michael Sutcliffe

    Peter, here’s a primer for you. This was actually a comment on an anti-Rand blog. I thought it was funny enough to keep:

    ———–

    Galt steered the sedan around a wide curve, through a sun-flooded glen lined with aspens. Dagny leaned back, surrendering to the warm current of air that kissed her face. Then suddenly she jerked upright in her seat.

    “Stop the car! Oh, please stop!”

    Chuckling, Galt shifted into park. Dagny threw open the passenger door and leaped out, took two quick steps forward, then stopped, gazing in astonishment at the tall, gaunt figure who stood before her on the side of the road.

    “It’s you, isn’t it?” she whispered. “You’re here in Galt’s Gulch, too.”

    “Why, yes, Miss Taggart,” the man said with a knowing smile.

    “You know me?”

    “We all know you, if only by reputation. But I’m surprised you know me.”

    “Of course I do. You’re Will Koch, CEO of Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari, the last of the fully rational theme parks.”

    Will Koch inclined his head gravely.

    “I used to go there every summer,” Dagny said breathlessly. “I would ride the giant water slide and swim in the endless pool – always wearing my Holiday World water wings, of course. It was my refuge from the looters and the hell they’d made of the world.”

    “As it was meant to be,” Will Koch said. “We had a strict no-looters policy. Anyone who had accepted government funds for any reason was barred from admission. I refused to allow my water slide and the other attractions, the products of my intelligence and my dedication to reality, to serve the amusement needs of the parasites and moochers. But when the government told me I had to stop screening visitors and admit anyone with the money to pay – regardless of the source of that money – then I knew I would have to close the park. It was the hardest decision I’ve faced in my life. I’m honestly not sure I could have gone through with it on my own. But that night, as I sat alone on one of the giant lily pads long after the park had closed, out of nowhere he appeared.” He nodded toward Galt, still seated behind the wheel of Midas Mulligan’s roadster. “By the time he finished speaking to me, dawn was breaking … and my decision didn’t seem so hard anymore. I took a last walk through the Jungle Jim Maze and left that park and never looked back.”

    “But how can you stand it?” Dagny moaned. “Leaving it all behind?”

    Will Koch smiled, a radiant smile of morning, the smile of a child awakening on a perfect summer day. “Oh, but I didn’t, Miss Taggart. I brought it all with me. The plans, the blueprints, the marketing strategies, all of it.” He tapped his forehead. “I carry them here. And now, here in this valley, I’m building a new Holiday Park and Splashin’ Safari theme park, a recreation place for the men of the mind – and only for the men of the mind. It will be my gift to the producers of society, and my monument to them – a more lasting monument than anything I could have built in the looters’ world. It’s the proudest accomplishment of my life. Would you like to see it?”

    “Yes, please, very much.”

    “It’s right over there,” he said, pointing to a small mud hole, three feet wide and six inches deep, ringed by disorderly piles of sapling branches.

    “Oh.” Dagny felt a brief plunge of disappointment. “It’s a bit small, isn’t it?”

    “Well, what the hell do you expect? I’m a CEO, Miss Taggart. I’ve never worked with my hands in my life. I don’t have a clue how to actually build anything. I got the job because I know how to schmooze the shareholders at the annual meeting. That’s how all of us got our jobs. Besides, it would take a small army of construction workers to build an actual theme park, and we have no construction workers in Galt’s Gulch. No sanitation workers, either – but that’s another story. You don’t really believe that a handful of disgruntled corporate executives could build a theme park, much less a whole community, without the proper equipment, training, or skills, do you? Only a small child would buy a crazy story like that.”

    “Yes,” Dagny said, accepting the hard, bright logic of his words. “Yes, of course you’re right.”

    Will Koch smiled. “So … would you like to go for a dip?”

  12. Peter Patton

    OMFG. It reads like pillow talk between the Avian Oracle and Phil!

  13. THR

    I suspect a number of right-liberals read the intellectually embarrassing Rand in their deformative years, and therefore feel a twinge of sentimentality toward her. It’s like the baby boomers with ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ – it’s pretty bad, but it’s possible to come up with some post-hoc rationalisation when nostalgically dancing to it.

    Unfortunately, it seems that for Rand (and, to a lesser extent, Hayek), influence is limited to a few US-based shock jocks and rightist think tanks, who keep spruiking these products. Certainly nobody in academia, of any political persuasion, takes Rand the least bit seriously. Nor would anybody dream of actually putting Rand’s ideas into practice. Historically, liberals and radicals were prepared to lay down their lives for the ideas not just of Marx and Engels, but relatively minor philosophers like Fourier or Stirner. Nobody in their right mind would even consider breaking a fingernail for Rand.

  14. Peter Patton

    THR

    It seems, she has got you hooked. And you haven’t even read her!

  15. JC

    THR.

    Hayek won the Nobel prize for economics in the early 70’s this at time when the prize was worth something and not given erroneously to partisan NYTimes opinion hacks.

  16. Peter Patton

    And liberals gave their lives for Marx/Engels, eh? You dopey fuck knuckle, Marx/Engels was a reaction against liberals/ism. Marx/Engels HATED liberals.

    Hullo?

  17. JC

    Nobody in their right mind would even consider breaking a fingernail for Rand.

    No possibly not, but entire classes of people she indirectly spoke about and defended, particularly in her native Russia, were wiped out.

    I like Rand.

    Anyway the debate about her is really quite arcane and essentially deals with very little in terms of differences and perhaps style. The Under-bedding is the same.

  18. Michael Sutcliffe

    The other point I’d make is that regardless of what large slabs of the intellectual community might say, and the vehement objections of some of her opponents, the scoreboard speaks for itself. Her philosophy resonates with millions of people and her philosophy really hasn’t dated or even look like showing significant cracks at this point.

    The ‘vehement objections’ bit is THR!

  19. JC

    Rand made one observation most people don’t like. Some of us are far, far more important to the species than the rest. vital almost.

    The unfortunate part about this is that it’s true.

  20. THR

    You dopey fuck knuckle, Marx/Engels was a reaction against liberals/ism. Marx/Engels HATED liberals

    Allah be praised, you are unbelievably stupid. I wrote:

    liberals and radicals were prepared to lay down their lives for the ideas not just of Marx and Engels, but relatively minor philosophers like Fourier or Stirner

    Read more slowly, Patton. You’re making a fool of yourself.

    No possibly not, but entire classes of people she indirectly spoke about and defended, particularly in her native Russia, were wiped out.

    So what? I like Africans, and believe they have a right to live, so does that mean that I’ve ‘defended’ 5 million victims in the Congo?

  21. JC

    You dopey fuck knuckle,

    Ladies, language please.

  22. Peter Patton

    So you’re saying that liberals DID lie down their ;ives for humanity’s two greatest misanthropes, but then backed up to do it again for a dude who made pretty patterns out of (-1)^1/2? Oh dude, you are fricking hilarious.

    What next? Europe invented imperialism? ROFLMAO.

  23. THR

    You’re struggling, Patton. Invest in some better quality Midori, luvvie.

    All of this is fine, if one recognizes that the idealized world Ayn Rand has created to facilitate her wishful theorizing has no more logical connection to our real one than a world in which an author has imagined humanity ruled by intelligent cups of yogurt

    Like most right-liberalism, Rand’s is a philosophy of ressentiment. It’s for pasty-faced misfits who blame the trivial welfare afforded to dole-recipients and darkies for their personal woes. It’s for pimply non-entities to pretend that their woe is caused by the rest of the world failing to recognise their genius.

    All this is clearly confirmed by Rand herself. The concept of ‘going Galt’ is, in effect, a kind of secular Apocalypse literature. What we know of all Apocalypse literature, whether Jewish or Christian, is that it revolves around resentment, and is basically a symbolic stand-in by which the weak and impotent can attain deferred vengeance against their perceived oppressors.

    There is Rand, and then there is courage and intellectual hygiene. The two are not to be found in the same place.

  24. Piett

    THR,

    I’m not fully signed up to the libertarian project, but I’ll say one thing in their favour: at least they have a sense of humour. This thread has so far given us several jokes and parodies at Ayn Rand’s expense.

    Number of times I have ever seen a left-wing blog poking fun in any way at Marx (or any other left-wing idol): zero.

  25. Peter Patton

    Piett

    Dude, they’re too busy committing suicide over Marx to laugh. Alas, they clearly don’t make the Marxists like they used to. 😉

  26. THR

    An old revolutionary walks across the Brooklyn Bridge one day, and he sees man of a similar age standing on the edge, about to jump. He runs over and says: “Stop. Don’t do it.”

    “Why shouldn’t I?” he asked.

    “Well, there’s so much to live for!”

    “I’m just depressed, I’ve been a Communist all my life and the revolution seems as far away as ever”

    “You’re a Communist?”

    “Yeah, why?”

    “I am as well!! Did you originally join the Communist Party USA?”

    “Yeah”

    “Me too! Did you join the pro-Trotsky Communist League of America in 1928, which later merged with the American Workers Party to form the Workers Party of America in 1934?”

    “Yeah”

    “Spooky, Me too! After the WPA was expelled from the Socialist Party of America in 1936 did you then go on to join the Socialist Workers Party USA and the fourth international?”

    “I did actually…”

    “Me too! In the 1940 dispute did you side with Cannon or Shachtman?”

    “Cannon.”

    “Me too! In 1962 did you join Robertson’s opposition caucus, the Revolutionary Tendency?”

    “Yep.”

    ” Holly shit! And of course like me you were expelled and went on to join the International Communist League (Spartacist)”

    “Well that goes without saying!”

    “In 1985 did you join the International Bolshevik Tendency who claimed that the Sparts have degenerated into an “obedience cult””

    “No way!”

    “Nah, me neither. In 1998 did you join the Internationalist Group after the Permanent Revolution Faction were expelled from the ICL?”

    “Yeah! I can’t believe this! Maybe I won’t….”

    “Die counterrevolutionary scum!”. And he pushes him off the edge

  27. Michael Sutcliffe

    Like most right-liberalism, Rand’s is a philosophy of ressentiment.

    Unlike left-wing philosophy, which is totally and utterly built on envy.

    It’s for pimply non-entities to pretend that their woe is caused by the rest of the world failing to recognise their genius.

    There’s a minority of people like this on our side, but there’s no shortage of dip shits on your side either. This is not hardly the overarching nature of Rand’s philosophy. More like:

    rational behaviour is a virtue for humans, not allowing yourself to be driven to destructive behaviour by your fucked-up emotions like the left (then denying any complicity in the whole disaster and expecting others to clean it up)

    productive behaviour is essential for human survival, let alone prosperity, rather than wasting your life pursuing the left-wing rainbow of being able to live comfortably (somehow) regardless of your laziness and knowingly crap decisions

    acknowledging that certain actions have negative consequences rather than hiding behind a denial of free will

    acknowledging that individuals can control their own behaviour rather than hiding behind the idea of collectivist ownership of your behaviour

    acknowledging that if I’m happy within myself and pursuing my own values it becomes clear the left wing notion of equality is really about nothing more than envy.

  28. THR

    Dude, they’re too busy committing suicide over Marx to laugh. Alas, they clearly don’t make the Marxists like they used to.

    Of course, dear. Now, be a good chap and maybe Algernon can fetch you a blue Curacao and soda, to help you with your reading.

  29. Troy

    The other thing I disliked about The Fountainhead was that by the end of the book I thought that Howard Roark was a bit of a dickhead.

    Imagine if you went to get your haircut and you told the hairdresser what you wanted but they refused to cut your hair unless they could do it the way they wanted to. That hairdresser would be a dickhead right?

    A libertarian would say that the hairdresser has every right to cut whoevers hair they like whether or not they agreed with the hairdressers reasons for doing so. But Rand goes further and says that not only does the hairdresser have that right but that any self respecting hairdresser should refuse service to anyone who disagrees with their own tastes in hair fashion. If we all practiced this I don’t imagine much would get done!

  30. THR

    Unlike left-wing philosophy, which is totally and utterly built on envy.

    Sorry, Sutcliffe. The envy is entirely on the Randian side of the coin.

    rational behaviour is a virtue for humans, not allowing yourself to be driven to destructive behaviour by your fucked-up emotions like the left

    Do we really need to go through a list of destructive rightist actions? What makes you think that your ‘libertarianism’ isn’t underpinned by ‘fucked-up emotions’?

    productive behaviour is essential for human survival

    I think there’s total agreement on this point, as I’ve never heard a leftist deny it.

    acknowledging that certain actions have negative consequences rather than hiding behind a denial of free will

    That ‘certain actions have negative consequences’ has nothing whatsoever to do with ‘free will’. Try your philosophy again, this time without the fail.

    acknowledging that individuals can control their own behaviour rather than hiding behind the idea of collectivist ownership of your behaviour

    Who the hell wants to collective ‘behaviour’? Leftists want to collective the means of production, not behaviour.

    acknowledging that if I’m happy within myself and pursuing my own values it becomes clear the left wing notion of equality is really about nothing more than envy

    Sutcliffe, the sweatshop worker, the street whore, the Aborigine, and plenty of others, even within our wealthiest cities, do not get to pursue their ‘own values’. Meanwhile, gibbering retards like James Packer do. In your world, this is because Packer is a ‘productive’ genius. For everybody else, it’s yet another case of a wealthy mediocrity free-riding on the back of workers. This isn’t ‘envy’; it’s empirical truth.

  31. Michael Sutcliffe

    Troy, that doesn’t detract from her point but it’s a valid criticism. I think it makes the whole idea of Roark going into a quarry rather than just designing buildings not exactly to his liking a bit ridiculous.

    But you said you rarely enjoy fiction and I’m much the same. In my personal opinion people who enjoy fiction seem to be a lot more accepting of these abstractions. I was the kid who watched Star Wars and said “if they’re smart enough to invent a laser gun how come they’ve never thought of putting a sighting system on it?”!

  32. Peter Patton

    My dear, I have no need for Algernon at the minute, for you see I am Bunburying. However, I should be delighted if Lane would mix me a Shirley Temple.

  33. Peter Patton

    Left-wing philosophy? I do believe that is a finalist for shortest pamphlet ever written. Its main competition is The wit and spontaneity of Malcolm Fraser.

  34. Peter Patton

    Sutcliffe, the sweatshop worker, the street whore, the Aborigine, and plenty of others, even within our wealthiest cities, do not get to pursue their ‘own values

    Unfortunately, neither do you. That is because you are too stupid to have any. And THAT is the main cleavage in our society. 😉

  35. Michael Sutcliffe

    Sutcliffe, the sweatshop worker, the street whore, the Aborigine, and plenty of others, even within our wealthiest cities, do not get to pursue their ‘own values’.

    Bullshit, you ballroom socialist. I’ve been a railway platform guard, a bean picker, a tyre fitter, a night watchman on construction sites. I know a prostitute. You’ve been none of those things, and I suspect anything like it. Me and those people I work with were happy then and we’re happy now. I’m not saying we didn’t want to work to build better lives for ourselves but It’s your view of reality that is fictional.

  36. JC

    I know a prostitute.

    Do you.. expand a little please.

  37. THR

    I’m not saying we didn’t want to work to build better lives for ourselves but It’s your view of reality that is fictional.</i

    Calm down, you resentful moron. The horizons open to a person are dependent on what they’re born into. That’s not the only variable, but it’s a significant one, and it’s perfectly reasonable, in an enlightened society, to try and give everybody an opportunity to succeed. Your Randian utopia, as it stands, is based (principally) on the exploitation and state-backed violence against Chinese sweat-shop workers. These are the starving millions who underpin your economic niceties. But who cares? So long as you are ‘happy’ with your prostitute.

  38. Peter Patton

    The horizons open to a person are dependent on what they’re born into

    Jesus H. Christ.

  39. Peter Patton

    No crib for you, eh? You were born on a rainbow!

  40. THR

    Has Algy got your Shirley Temple, yet?

  41. Peter Patton

    THR

    Are you really Andrew Leigh with all this ‘blessed are the brown children’ shtick?

  42. Peter Patton

    LANE, you fuck knuckle. Are you as ignorant of literature as philosophy, history, and psychology?

  43. Michael Sutcliffe

    Sure.

    When I was in Canberra one of my best mates (now unfortunately not of this world) introduced my wife and I to a friend of his. Clearly it was a form of mutually beneficial relationship, if you know what I mean. She was a very bubbly girl who was liked to party and was a bit of social butterfly. She was a bright light in any social gathering and became a friend of my wife and I.

    She had graduated high school, but didn’t want to do further study. She was also quite an athlete incidentally. She didn’t seem to have any trouble getting office work at reception and so forth, but she didn’t like what she did and I think she was frustrated by the low pay. Over time we noticed she wasn’t always working, but this never dampened her socialite ways and, in fact, she’s often have something like a new car or take holidays. One day my wife just asked her and she owned up. Being confident in herself she didn’t hide anything and said she was working as a pro, sorry if you’ve got a problem with it. She said it meant that working two or three nights a week was more than enough to live comfortably, pay the rent and pursue the lifestyle she was after.

    Point is, she had options and chose job for the benefits. Also, while I’m sure some of those around her would of objected, she didn’t seem to have a problem with it and it didn’t seem to change her lifestyle.

  44. THR

    Are you really Roland Roccacelli?

  45. Michael Sutcliffe

    is based (principally) on the exploitation and state-backed violence against Chinese sweat-shop workers.

    Well, we can embrace left-wing ideology and it won’t be too long before we’re working for them, because they seem to be embracing capitalism quite nicely. Then we can be guilt free about exploiting others. But we’ll need to ensure that we have strong unions, lest one of us work their way to a better life!

  46. THR

    Point is, she had options and chose job for the benefits.

    Yes. You’re friend is just like a smack-addled street prostitute. Nice analogy, douchebag.

  47. Greego

    As much as I find Rand underwhelming, I love the foaming-at-the-mouth she generates in leftists. It’s Pavlovian, almost.

  48. Michael Sutcliffe

    She has a nicer place than you. And unlike you, she earnt it.

  49. Michael Sutcliffe

    She was also probably fitter and healthier than you (she was into distance swimming). Not to mention better company.

  50. JC

    THR

    That’s a pretty uncalled for reply. Michael just gave an account an opinion.

  51. Peter Patton

    Expect THR to start screeching against atheists soon as “imperialists” and “Islamophobes” as the [barely] 110 IQ luvvie-Left devours itself.

    And there we have it. This post was written by a Catholic, for other Catholics, and the reference to “Atheist rationalism” in the title was not an attempt to be inclusive, but was rather a dog-whistle to his fellow Catholics to set them barking at the enemy, the “atheist rationalists,” who would be provoked and drawn into this thread, and who would be accused of bigotry, elitism and lack of education, by Catholics and ex-Catholics alike.

    If you had set out to divide the Left against itself, well then, you have succeeded. Congratulations, Mark. I hope you are happy with your achievement.

  52. jtfsoon

    Basically Rand repackaged Aristotelian ethics for libertarians. That accounts for her appeal especially among people who would be classified as both right wing and atheist.

  53. TerjeP

    Rationalists believe in Human Design; the view that ‘human institutions will serve human purposes only if they have been deliberately designed for those purposes’ and ‘that we should re-design society and its institutions that all our actions will be wholly guided by known purposes’.

    That would seem to imply that an “economic rationalist” is somebody who advocates a planned economy. Or at least a designed economy. The rationalist in me detects an imperfection in our language.

  54. Sinclair Davidson

    Terje – that’s probably right, although the term ‘economic rationalist’ is unique to Australia.

  55. THR

    That’s a pretty uncalled for reply. Michael just gave an account an opinion

    I admit it was uncalled for, even though MS has been dishonest on this thread.

    Expect THR to start screeching against atheists soon as “imperialists” and “Islamophobes” as the [barely] 110 IQ luvvie-Left devours itself.

    Oh dear. Yet another reference to LP.

    In any event, there seems to be no dispute here that ‘going Galt’ is essentially an attempt at apocalypse literature, and, as such, is characterised by resentment and a desire for vengeance against perceived ‘sinners’, whilst the righteous few are carted off to a New Jerusalem.

  56. Louis Hissink

    Sinclair,

    it’s the editor in me but it’s complement, not compliment in your last paragraph.

  57. dover_beach

    That would seem to imply that an “economic rationalist” is somebody who advocates a planned economy. Or at least a designed economy. The rationalist in me detects an imperfection in our language.

    Terje, that is right. The problem is that the ‘economic rationalists’ are precisely the critics of what they described as ‘economic rationalism’.

    In any event, there seems to be no dispute here that ‘going Galt’ is essentially an attempt at apocalypse literature, and, as such, is characterised by resentment and a desire for vengeance against perceived ‘sinners’, whilst the righteous few are carted off to a New Jerusalem.

    THR is quite right too, we should leave the apocalypse literature to the Left where it is characteristic. BTW, I’m still surprised at how easily THR sucks people in nowadays.

  58. Nicholas Gruen

    “stubborn, dogmatic and uncompromising.” So what’s there not to like?

    But seriously Sinclair, thanks for the excellent post.

  59. Sinclair Davidson

    Louis – thanks.

  60. PSC

    Basically Rand repackaged Aristotelian ethics for libertarians. That accounts for her appeal especially among people who would be classified as both right wing and atheist.

    She’s not though. She’s derived from Hegelian Great Man theory. Rand argues we suffer from a lack of Great Men because the State is getting them down. If only the State would butt out occasionally, the Great Men could get on with it.

    But there is still an Ideal State sitting in backwoods Montana powered by Great Men and naturally coalescing around them.

    And this is the problem with the argument – in reality we don’t need Great Men. In practice Galt doesn’t go off and invent his boy genius car by himself. He gets together with a bunch of other car builders whose work he can’t understand and puts chunks of car together which don’t work the first time and finally gets it going. All the time relying on generous State subsidies and R&D grants until he has a working product.

    This might not be the ideal of Libertopia-in-Montana, but at least you get a car.

    Popper’s chapters on Hegel read like a broadside against Rand.

  61. jtfsoon

    PSC
    I’m referring to the whole rationality, productiveness, pride in accomplishment etc ethic which is basically simplified Aristotle. Rand countless times refers to Aristotle as her philosophical hero so we can assume that’s where she got it from, as well as this ‘A is A’ business. She would’ve despised Hegel as a mystic

  62. dover_beach

    Popper’s chapters on Hegel read like a broadside against Rand.

    These chapters are infamous as ham-fisted readings.

  63. jtfsoon

    Rand on Hayek

    http://aynrandcontrahumannature.blogspot.com/2010/07/objectivism-politics-part-58.html

    In the forties, the most successful book defending freedom was Hayek’s Road to Serfdom. Rand hostility toward Hayek was immediate and vitriolic. She regarded Hayek as “pure poison” and “an example of our most pernicious enemy.” “The man is an ass,” she wrote, “[The Road to Serfdom] had no base, no moral base. This is why my book is needed.” [ibid, 104-105]

  64. Seeing amusing take downs of Atlas Shrugged are allowed on this thread, I don’t think I’ve read this one before:

    As someone who gave up at the fourth Harry Potter because it got too long — please, they are children’s books — I’ve never read Atlas Shrugged. Luckily, my buddy, professional smarty-pants Ellis Weiner did, describing Rand’s equally adolescent fantasy as “an interminable three-way between Friedrich Nietzsche, L. Ron Hubbard and Judith Krantz.”

    And putting its sales into perspective:

    Yes, sales of Atlas Shrugged have gone up in the past few years, probably due to all the media coverage of its 50th anniversary two years ago. According to the director of the Ayn Rand Institute, which is committed to indoctrinating students to Rand’s ideas, in the last 52 years Atlas Shrugged has sold 6 million copies. Compare that to 85 million copies sold of the Twilight series, and you begin to see that gas-baggy John Galt has ten times less impact on the youth of America than a teen vampire who refuses to bang his girlfriend.

  65. dover_beach

    If she imagined Hayek was ‘pure poison’ one wonders what she thought of Oakeshott if she thought of him at all.

  66. .

    Rand’s “Capitalism the Unknown Ideal” is a great book where she implictly describes some Coaseian solutions to public goods problems.

    She seemed too spiky to get along with.

  67. .

    http://theweek.com/article/index/203764/ayn-rand-speed-addict

    “There was her 30-year use of amphetamines, beginning with Benzedrine in 1942, as she was rushing to complete The Fountainhead, and continuing with Dexedrine and Dexamyl into the 1970s. Until now it has been described as a two-pill-a-day prescription for weight control, but evidence in Heller’s book indicates that it wasn’t seen that way by everyone. As early as 1945, her then-close friend, journalist Isabel Paterson, was berating her in letters with passages such as, ‘Stop taking that benzedrine, you idiot. I don’t care what excuse you have — stop it.’ Heller presents other evidence that Rand had periods of heavy use in the 1950s and ’60s. But the exact extent of her dependence on amphetamines is peripheral here to the broader self-delusion. As anyone who has had the experience knows, a good way to get a really, really distorted sense of reality is to swallow a couple of Dexedrines. If you want to take them anyway, don’t go around bragging that you never ‘fake reality in any manner.'”

  68. JNR

    I read once that Malcolm Frazer was a fan of Ayn Rand and that she was invited to the White House to meet him when he visited the US.

    I wouldn’t of thought Frazer would have been into Rand at all.

    Can anyone confirm this?

  69. Sinclair Davidson

    Fraser and Rand discussed here.

  70. PSC

    She would’ve despised Hegel as a mystic

    You’re right – she would have seen all his World Spirit stuff as the sort of piffle she was fighting.

    But Galt is a latter day Great Man.

  71. dover_beach

    PSC:
    You’re right – she would have seen all his World Spirit stuff as the sort of piffle she was fighting.

    That is only because she is likely to have taken his idea of Geist literally.

    Jason:
    I’m referring to the whole rationality, productiveness, pride in accomplishment etc ethic which is basically simplified Aristotle. Rand countless times refers to Aristotle as her philosophical hero

    I think this is mistaken. Firstly, Aristotle’s idea of phronesis cuts across the whole grain of Rand’s Objectivism as does his Doctrine of the Mean. Secondly, there is a great affinity between Aristotle and Hegel that is indicated in their use of analogical reasoning and approach to political philosophy which bares much similarity. Thirdly, if you’re looking for philosophical resemblances to Rand, she is a very, very crude version of Plato (apologies to Plato).

  72. Michael Sutcliffe

    If you want to see the importance of Rand’s work, listen to this debate:

    http://www.abc.net.au/rn/philosopherszone/stories/2010/2944921.htm

    http://www.abc.net.au/rn/philosopherszone/stories/2010/2949213.htm

    Rand isn’t mentioned, so don’t expect to hear some direct reference.

    It’s meant to be an ‘entertainment’ debate, but I still think there’s plenty to find in it. This is a list of the debaters:

    Candace Vogler
    David B. and Clara E. Stern Professor of Philosophy
    University of Chicago
    United States

    Philip Pettit
    Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Politics and Human Values
    Princeton University
    United States

    Graham Priest
    Boyce Gibson Professor of Philosophy
    University of Melbourne
    Australia

    Arche Visiting Professorship
    University of St Andrews
    United Kingdom

    so, you’d think they might have some pretty clever insights, and they do raise many insightful things. However at the end of the second debate, it comes down to the obvious question: what is the basis of morality? This ends up getting put to the presenter, Alan Saunders – a long time student of philosophy himself – who puts forward his position. It would just seems strange to me that his position was completely uncontested by these elite minds that surrounded him, and they didn’t have any further insight to offer.

  73. Peter Patton

    THR

    Yoo Hoo! Got any other books you haven’t read to use a the centrepiece of your Tour de Dumb?

Comments are closed.