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5/20/10

Ayn Rand: Bankrupt Intellectually, Morally, & Artistically


"I consider Ayn Rand to be one of the most evil women of the twentieth century, completely morally bankrupt and fortunately unable to see any of her warped philosophy or economic theories gain any credence. If they had, the results would have been every bit as disasterous as Hitler or Stalin. To me, Atlas Shrugged is as despicable and dangerous a book as Mein Kampf." ( Found here.)

Unfortunately, her ideas and theories did gain credence, and in no less a person than Alan Greenspan, former Federal Reserve Chief, once her disciple. More about Greenspan near the bottom of this piece.

Almost all American philosophers do not consider Ayn Rand a philosopher or a thinker worthy of studied attention. You will not find her works taught in philosophy departments, except as examples of thought gone astray. You also won’t find her discussed in any standard works on the history of philosophy — either in general or specifically American philosophy. There may be rare instances to prove an exception, but that's all they are.

She doesn’t appear to be in Grayling’s two volume introduction to philosophy, the Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, or Kuklick’s history of American philosophy. Rand’s writing has been routinely dismissed as juvenile and subliterate when it has been considered at all.

By the time she died, at age 77 in 1982, Rand had delineated what she and her followers insisted was the most significant new philosophy since Aristotle (“objectivism,” which emphasized rationality as the defining characteristic of humanity) and was hailed as the godmother of small-government, pro-freedom libertarians (whom she dismissed as “hippies of the right”).

Ayn Rand was a self-declared “radical for capitalism” who praised the “virtue of selfishness” in Atlas Shrugged upon its publication in 1957. This 1,100-page, densely plotted tale, packed in equal measure with descriptions of rough sex and paeans to capitalist innovation, climaxes in a Castro-length radio address in which the protagonist, John Galt, lauds “the man at the top of the intellectual pyramid [who] contributes the most to all those below” and attacks “the man at the bottom who, left to himself, would starve in his hopeless ineptitude.”

She is typically written off as a writer whose basic appeal is to maladjusted adolescents, a sort of vaguely embarrassing starter author who is quickly outgrown by those who develop more sophisticated aesthetic and ideological tastes. There’s more than a small degree of truth to such a characterization.

Yet she has become iconic in some quarters. Alan Greenspan admits to having been a disciple, although he allows that he was grossly wrong about objectivism in that he smiled upon unregulated self-interest, which manipulated the financial markets into creatures such as credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations. Recently Greenspan publicly admitted he was wrong about his views.

Recent books, Ayn Rand and the World She Made and Goddess of the Market provide a rounded portrait of a woman who, as one of the authors writes, “tried to nurture herself exclusively on ideas.” As Rand’s biography underscores, she failed miserably in that.

For more click here, as well as at this site and this one.

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