Just when it is perhaps needed most, David B. Hart comes through with a vigorous evisceration of Ayn Rand:

Ayn Rand always provokes a rather extravagant reaction from me, and probably for purely ideological reasons. For instance, I like the Sermon on the Mount. She regarded its prescriptions as among the vilest ever uttered. I suspect that charity really is the only way to avoid wasting one’s life in a desert of sterile egoism. She regarded Christian morality as a poison that had polluted the will of Western man with its ethos of parasitism and orgiastic self-oblation. And, simply said, I cannot find much common ground with someone who believed that the principal source of human woe over the last twenty centuries has been a tragic shortage of selfishness.


And, really, what can one say about Objectivism? It isn’t so much a philosophy as what someone who has never actually encountered philosophy imagines a philosophy might look like: good hard axiomatic absolutes, a bluff attitude of intellectual superiority, lots of simple atomic premises supposedly immune to doubt, immense and inflexible conclusions, and plenty of assertions about what is “rational” or “objective” or “real.” Oh, and of course an imposing brand name ending with an “-ism.” Rand was so eerily ignorant of all the interesting problems of ontology, epistemology, or logic that she believed she could construct an irrefutable system around a collection of simple maxims like “existence is identity” and “consciousness is identification,” all gathered from the damp fenlands between vacuous tautology and catastrophic category error. She was simply unaware that there were any genuine philosophical problems that could not be summarily solved by flatly proclaiming that this is objectivity, this is rational, this is scientific, in the peremptory tones of an Obersturmführer drilling his commandoes.

Read the whole thing, and remember that this hideous, anti-human “philosophy” is the publicly admitted economic worldview of politicians like Paul Ryan. And that as much as they might try to write Rand out of their conservatism, the religious right simultaneously champions political ideas inspired by her pathological hatred of the weak.

About The Author

David Sessions

David Sessions is the founding editor of Patrol, and is currently a doctoral student in modern European history at Boston College. His writing has appeared in The Daily Beast, Newsweek, Jacobin, Slate and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter here.

0 Responses to “A Tragic Shortage of Selfishness”

  1. Simian says:

    But isn’t First Things – the magazine “eviscerating” Rand -part of the religious right. Those “pathological” bastards sure are tricky.

  2. Try making a point next time, and I might have something to respond to.

  3. Sarah says:

    Eric Teetsel just wrote a response to your post on Common Sense Concept. Interestingly, comments are not enabled. His basic argument is that Ann Rynd isn’t ALL bad, just the parts where she supports greed and selfishness. You know, no big deal.

    • Kind of like saying Marx isn’t all bad, just the class struggle parts!

    • Joseph Sunde says:

      On matters of political philosophy, Rand generally falls in line with basic libertarian *political* policies (although Rand herself denied the libertarian lable). Her atheism and moral philosophy are well worth criticizing, but I don’t really understand why Christians can’t admire her on matters of government and policy. Her book, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, has little that altruism-loving conservative Christians would disagree with.

      Also, Rand’s off-based views on selfishness and greed serve as a good lesson for conservatives to avoid crossing that line. I personally think that’s part of her popularity (it is with me). I learn from Rand much in the same way I learn from Marx.

      But hey, maybe we should start talking about the progressive’s admiration of Mao (killer of millions) or Planned Parenthood (whose founder, Margaret Sanger, was a racist eugenist), both of which don’t typically come with the common qualifiers and warnings that conservatives offer on Rand.

      P.S. Comments are unavailable (vs. unallowed) on every post. We’re working on it.

      • Matt says:

        Joseph, your comment about progressives is utterly irrelevant to the discussion at hand. Whatever posture progressives might take toward Mao and Sanger say absolutely nothing about how one should think about Rand. Pointing to the stupidity or hypocrisy of others neither excuses nor sanctions your own conduct and intellectual proclivities. Its a form of evasion, and merely an attempt at changing the subject.

        Also, I don’t know a single contemporary progressive that “admires” Mao in the way you describe. John Dewey, yes, Mao, no. I’m sure with the aid of Google you can find some idiot saying something idiotic. The real question is this: are there any current progressives putting forward public policy programs that are based on, say, the Great Leap Forward? Who are the professed Maoists among mainstream contemporary progressives, equivalent to professed Randians among contemporary, mainstream conservatives?

        The reason we are talking about Rand is that she is an admitted influence on an influential Republican congressman who just released a budget proposal that without too much stretching of the imagination seems to be influenced by Rand’s ideas, or move in their direction. (I’m not saying there is a one-to-one correspondence — I’m talking about admitted intellectual influences.) Is there an equivalent in the Democratic party? Is Nancy Pelosi strutting around Capitol Hill with a copy of the Little Red Book under her arm?

        Also, its very curious to me that you don’t seem to have stopped to think about whether there is a connection between Rand’s admiration of selfishness and the other elements of her political philosophy — whether one might follow from the other. If a thinker gets something so fundamental wrong, it tends to make me doubt the broad elements of their thinking, and skeptical of their project as a whole…

  4. […] Teetsel has responded to yesterday’s post in which I seconded David B. Hart’s distaste for Ayn Rand. Eric focuses particularly on my recent condemnations […]

  5. David says:

    The book is what, like 1000 pages. One can easily find a few lines in a book of such length that does not sit well with everyone.

    The point of the book is that if society takes and takes from those that work hard and earn the rewards and gives to those that do not work, yet earn the rewards, eventually nobody will work anymore. Why should anyone work when they can get free stuff for doing nothing?

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