Ayn Rand, Objectivism & the Confusion of Harry Binswanger

Ayn Rand is easy to hate on. It is so easy to hate on her that people completely ignorant of her ideas or her 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). Either one of those should enlighten you to what someone of her core group thought of her in the moment, and what they thought of her after they fell from grace.

But it might actually be more illuminating to watch; Sense of Life, a documentary prepared by someone who doesn’t hate Rand from the outset. Perhaps a reading of We the Living is warranted, with the understanding that the central character in that novel is her. 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 with her works.

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.

Forbes, Harry Binswanger, Give Back?

He conveniently skips over how the current crop of wealthy Wall Street bankers are only wealthy because we bailed them all out. Otherwise they’d be as broke as the rest of us are. To say nothing of Lady Gaga being far more worthy of adoration than Warren Buffett is, just on talent alone. This really shouldn’t be a surprise since worship of wealth and the wealthy is pretty much the core of Objectivism.

I offer this in response, this is more heroic and deserving of praise.

NBC news, ‘Rosie the Riveter’ still working, seven decades later

Elinor Otto, 93, is doing the same work she did in 1942 as part of the famous “Rosie the Riveter” brigade during World War II. NBC’s Mike Taibbi reports.


PZ Myers tweeted about this webcomic today. He posted it to his blog as well. I found Ayn Rand by Darryl Cunningham vaguely amusing. 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,”

…to the inner circle surrounding and protecting Rand (in ironic humor they called themselves the “Collective”), their leader soon became more than just extremely influential. She was venerated as their leader. Her seemingly omniscient ideas were inerrant. The power of her personality made her so persuasive that no one dared to challenge her. And her philosophy of Objectivism, since it was derived through pure reason, revealed final Truth and dictated absolute morality.

THE UNLIKELIEST CULT IN HISTORY,
Skeptic vol. 2, no. 2, 1993, pp. 74-81.

by MICHAEL SHERMER

The man who wrote that piece wrote this one too,

So when you see Atlas Shrugged, Part 2, remember that this is far more than a film or a story about a railroad and a mysterious motor. It is a vehicle to get us to think about which moral principles we value the most, because as Ayn Rand believed, it is ideas that move the world.

WHY AYN RAND WON’T GO AWAY
by MICHAEL SHERMER, Oct 23 2012
Atlas Shrugged, Part 2 
and the Motor of Moral Psychology

So go figure. I’m not sure what happened to Michael Shermer over the decades, but that is beside the point. None of her flaws or the observations of others invalidate her ideas about what was good in life, what was worth striving for, and what was heroic.

Hitchens observes here,

DefenceSpeech Hitchens Destroys the Cult of Ayn Rand Published on Sep 29, 2009

I don’t think there’s any need to have essays advocating selfishness among human beings. I don’t know what your impression has been, but some things require no reinforcement.

Which I answer rhetorically, because of the socialists 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 okay 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 whose 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.

The Final Patch for Mists of Pandaria

Blizzard is promoting the new 5.4 patch to the four corners of the world. I have a response to this.

Things I love about 5.4. 

Timeless Isle. In fact, I’ve loved all of Pandaria game play with the exception of the lunkheads that I’m forced to play with because there still aren’t any community policing tools in the game. Pet battles, quests, collectables. It’s a feast. If I could play it by myself. But this is about what I like, and I really do like Pandaria. It’s unqualified beautifully imagined. The landscape is breathtaking. The fights are challenging, if not a bit over-long in places. There are more ways to play the game now than there have been in any version prior to this one. Pet-battling may be demonstrably derivative, but it’s a great way to spend some time in the game, and a welcome addition to the melange of methods available to leveling characters.

Leveling has been sped up, and is so short through classic game that level ‘dings’ occur faster than you can clear quests in an area, if you are the kind of player that bothers to quest.   The re-mapped areas introduced in Cataclysm wear better than the original game quests where they have been changed (my objections to continuity issues aside) with the dungeons and PvP battlegrounds thrown into the mix, there really isn’t enough time to experience the full breadth of the game before you move off to the next area.

Things I hate about 5.4.

New currencies introduced to hobble long-time players.Why do that? Why punish players who have stuck through to the end of this XP who now have to throw away the work done with previous currencies, since those currencies are now worthless? (well we didn’t…) Really? The currency for speeding up research products has been spirit of harmony for the entire XP. Now it’s the same token that you use for extra rolls in the new raid. [It is actually an entirely new mat acquired through disenchanting. The previous mats acquired this way have never been seen by yours truly, although I have it on good authority that they do exist. Consequently the limit for the average player will be significantly lower than 3 a week] Don’t even get me started on the problems with raid looting.  Besides, I’ve already blogged on that subject.

However, and I don’t think I can stress this enough in an MMO game, the biggest downside of the game remains the stunning lack of tools for dealing with bad actors. I really can’t understand Blizzard’s unwillingness to introduce a ratings system into the game; and because of  this group play remains hit and miss based on the luck of the draw.  With the fights more difficult than anytime previously in the game this presents a real problem for the average player just trying to get through the content.

I personally would welcome the challenge, if there was a way to remove the idiots.