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Monday, February 13, 2017

Working Minds Essay #112: Ayn Rand's Critical Mistake

Lots of folks get Ayn Rand wrong: Ron Paul, Paul Ryan, even radio host Thom Hartmann. They mostly spread misinformation trying to refute the misinformation about Ayn Rand and Objectivism that seeps out of the Republican propaganda machine.

Ayn Rand kicked the Republicans out of her 'circle' in New York in 1968, and she kicked out the Libertarians the next year. The Republicans especially stand on the word 'selfish' and say they love Objectivism but give themselves permission to lie and cheat and steal to win elections. Any claims to Objectivism by Republicans and Libertarians are untrue.

The economies of the United States and Europe are not and never have been capitalism. Robber barons are not capitalists, but they get away with a lot by flying that false flag. Capitalism is the creation of jobs and products and services.

Ayn Rand's Objectivist philosophy is correct in the existential sense: it matches objective reality. It is also perfectly consistent with the Golden Rule. Although the philosophy is correct, Ayn Rand made one very large mistake, one which has caused a lot of mischief.

Ayn Rand was born in Petrograd, Russia in 1905; she experienced both of the revolutions of 1917; the Bolsheviks took away her father's pharmacy and her family suffered reduced circumstances thereafter. She hated communism for the rest of her life.

You can see videos of Ayn Rand from the late 1970s, mostly from televison appearances, and they are a lot of fun. What is remarkable there is that even at age seventy her Russian accent was pronounced. (She moved to America in 1926, died in New York City in 1982.) It looks on these videos like she thinks in Russian and then speaks in English. That is the source of her major mistake. The term 'selfishness' as used in her novels and her newspaper columns and her collected works is not really what the philosophy intends. The proper word would be 'selfhood', which leaves the Republicans out in the cold. A lot has been lost in that mis-translation.

One must become a (capital-S) Self in order to practice Objectivism. A Self is responsible for his/her actions. A Self has no interest in pressure to conform or to surrender to altruism – altruism is putting the interest of real or abstract strangers before the interest of one's Self or loved ones. A Self chooses and lives from his/her values without agreement being necessary.

So-called Social Darwinism is also a false concept. Charles Darwin used the term 'survival of the fittest' only once in his writingss, and that was a quote of someone else. What Darwin said was “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Mankind's failure to adapt to the reality of climate change has our species destined for extinction in about thirty years. Conservatives use Darwin to justify raping and pillaging the planet – just as they use Objectivism to oppress regulation and civil rights.

One of the items on my Lottery List (what I'll do when I win the Big One) is to obtain the rights for "Atlas Shrugged" and edit a version with the word 'selfishness' replaced by the word 'selfhood'. While the Ayn Rand estate sells 300,000 books each year, in large part to college students, those readers give up the tough road to selfhood partly because the vocabulary in Ayn Rand's books is inaccurate. There is also the 24/7 pressure of the Culture Structure to believe all the crap that recently put a fascist in the White House.

Being a Self provides major advantages in dealing with a sometimes-hostile and often-irrational culture. You should try it.
Copyright 2017 by G.E. Nordell, all rights reserved

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