She’s easy to hate on. So easy, in fact, that people completely ignorant of her ideas or real life find it quite easy to do. I would suggest, if you want to be more informed in your hatred, watching The Passion of Ayn Rand (movie) or reading The Passion of Ayn Rand (book).
But it might actually be more illuminating to watch; Sense of Life or perhaps read We the Living with the understanding that the central character in that novel is her, including the ending. That is how she saw her journey from Russia. If you would prefer to understand were she came from and what she was driving for.
Her ideas are also quite easy to capture and use for truly harmful purposes, as a good number of people are doing right now. That DOES NOT negate the value of what she said when she said it, which was a different time and place than now.
I’ve read most of her work; I don’t have any of the newsletters. Current thought in Objectivist circles has gone so far off track that Harry Binswanger has recently been writing about how the rich should live tax-free (still buying-in to trickle-down economics?) and the rest of us should worship them.
Here’s a modest proposal. Anyone who earns a million dollars or more should be exempt from all income taxes. Yes, it’s too little. And the real issue is not financial, but moral. So to augment the tax-exemption, in an annual public ceremony, the year’s top earner should be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Imagine the effect on our culture, particularly on the young, if the kind of fame and adulation bathing Lady Gaga attached to the more notable achievements of say, Warren Buffett. Or if the moral praise showered on Mother Teresa went to someone like Lloyd Blankfein, who, in guiding Goldman Sachs toward billions in profits, has done infinitely more for mankind. (Since profit is the market value of the product minus the market value of factors used, profit represents the value created.)
Instead, we live in a culture where Goldman Sachs is smeared as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity.” That’s for the sin of successful investing, channeling savings to their most productive uses, instead of wasting them on government boondoggles like Solyndra and bridges to nowhere.
Conveniently skipping over how the currently wealthy Wall Street bankers are only wealthy because we bailed them all out.
I offer this in response, this is more heroic and deserving of praise.
PZ Myers tweeted this today;
Read the story of Ayn Rand’s life. She was not a nice person…
…and it’s hard to feel much sympathy when her ideology collides with reality, and she gets her comeuppance.
I actually found the comic interesting http://activatecomix.com/162-1-1.comic I deem it “The Passion of Ayn Rand” in comic book form. The movie was better.
However, none of her personal flaws or the cult she created of “the collective” http://2think.org/02_2_she.shtml (BTW, the same man who wrote that piece wrote this one too http://www.skepticblog.org/2012/10/23/why-ayn-rand-wont-go-away/ so go figure) actually invalidate her ideas about what was good in life, what was worth striving for, and what was heroic.
Hitchens poses the question here;
Which I answer rhetorically, “because of the altruists who would demonize self-interest” Without the dictatorship of Stalin, the Russian revolution, the works of Karl Marx derived from the ethics of Kant, the creation of the myth of selflessness. Without this chain of events we would have no objectivism created as a reaction. No need to confirm to the average person that it’s OK to concern yourself with your interests first, in the face of all these people who tell you that you should give more. Because in spite of Hitch’s protestations, there are real philosophical forces at work attempting to grind down individuality and to pound down the exceptional like an offending nail. To convince the average person that they must submit.
Hitchens being who he was would never have noticed this; or if he did would have deemed it powerless. Perhaps it is powerless to most people. Still, there were clearly a lot of people glad to hear that they weren’t evil people simply for thinking of themselves first. That they didn’t need to give more and more to the needy, to those who’s hands are always outstretched for more. That her words are now used to defend actions she would not agree with is just a testament to the popularity of her work.
I’m sure Nietzsche would be weirded out by most of his fans as well.