Mike Wallace 1959 Interview of Ayn Rand

I found this interview intriguing for two reasons. First, I must confess to not realizing that Rand’s philosophy was rooted in the counterfactual belief that people are rational. Every social science (ironically, save mainstream economics) puts human irrationality and inconsistency front and center. Nobel prize winner Herbert Simon studied how woefully limited human cognitive capacities. More Nobels have been awarded for behavioral economics, which (among other things) has catalogued numerous cognitive biases.

Second, the questions that Wallace raises with Rand illustrate how much social values have changed in 50 years.

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    1. F. Beard

      But Rothbard is the gold standard for Austrians … Adam

      Always with the gold! Yes, Rothbard is good but even he had a gold fetish. It’s odd that many so-called libertarians can’t see the absurdity of believing that liberty requires a scarce, shiny, somewhat useless metal.

      1. ArmchairRevolutionary

        “… can’t see the absurdity of believing that liberty requires a scarce, shiny, somewhat useless metal”.

        That is exactly how I see it. I simply cannot invest in something that has no rational value. With that said, I am a little jealous of the gold bugs as I had the same opportunity to buy at $600/oz.

    2. jake chase

      Well, this is all very interesting. It certainly proves Mike Wallace was an idiot, for those who didn’t know that. I doubt that Rand’s greatest fans in that hayday of altruism could have imagined today’s collossal economic and social fuckup. How many grasp that it was government which introduced corruption into the economic equation? How exactly do you get monopoly without government? Does anyone understand that Wallace congratulated himself a bit prematurely? Well, at least today we have voluntary military service. Nobody would have thought that possible in 1959. Let’s have a head count of all those who believe they are responsible for the welfare of other people. Just think, you are now working every year until May or June for their benefit. Even the Church only demanded 10%. You would think those “other people” would be doing better, but at least the ones named Blankfein, Rubin and Daimon certainly are. Give Rand another hundred years and all those left, if any, will agree with her. What she should have gone into was all the scams erected on the altruist myth. Thanks for posting this.

      1. Dirk77

        Like a lot of philosphers, she did get some things right I think. As you mention, her refuting the altruism dogma I think the world will forever benefit from. I sure do. And I bet her total certainty in her beliefs that seems to have offended so many is what got her heard; she would have been ignored otherwise. But she like all philosphers did not get everything right and the current backlash, like the one against Marx years ago, is deserved. No philosophy is perfect and there will always be a part of humanity on the make, exploiting its flaws, be they Stalin or Goldman Sachs, eventually bringing it down if not changed given better understanding of how the world really is.

  1. Dirk77

    For those with out of date iPhones which can’t play embedded videos:

    For me, the flaw in her approach is her claim that her moral philosophy is based upon human nature, yet she provides little scientific evidence behind her view of it. Arguing can take one only so far. Even in the hard sciences, theory really can’t get that far out without experiments.

    Thanks for posting this. It’s been awhile.

    1. Alex

      Yes, objectivist reasoning is usually circular and vapid. A good example of this is the book Markets Don’t Fail!, an objectivist book which establishes the proposition in its title essentially by defining failure to be anything a free market doesn’t do.

      Ayn Rand’s philosophy of selfishness didn’t work out so well for her in her personal life. “The Heirs of Ayn Rand“:

      she was also beginning a love affair with Nathaniel Branden, who was twenty-five years her junior though obviously wise beyond his years. Their affair was kept secret from the Collective but not from their spouses, who were expected to realize that the passion of Ayn and Nathaniel was rational and undeniable, like that of Rand’s heroes and heroines. Barbara went along glumly. Frank was also compliant and went to a nearby bar to begin drinking himself into decline.

      In August, after a lengthy hiatus in their sexual relationship, Rand learned that Nathaniel had fallen in love with an Objectivist student (who later became an actress). Rand heard the news from Barbara…

      It was all terribly vague. But in her letter, Rand dropped broad hints at financial irregularities–stopping just short of insinuating embezzlement. After getting legal advice, the Brandens published their own replies. In his final statement, the former intellectual heir revealed “that which I infinitely would have preferred to leave unnamed, out of respect for her privacy”: namely, that his final offense had been a letter begging her to understand that “an age distance between us of twenty-five years constituted an insuperable barrier, for me, to a romantic relationship.”

      It seems likely that objectivism took off because it served the goal of the ruling class to associate laissez-faire capitalism with freedom. I don’t really otherwise see how “By 1967, the Nathaniel Branden Institute was installed in the Empire State Building, where it occupied eight thousand square feet and had a long lease.” Was selling ideological romance novels really paying off that well for Rand?

  2. mememe

    i just find it ironic, or perhaps befitting, that many of Ayn Rand followers label themselves religious (spoiler alert—Ayn doesn’t like religions).

    1. eric anderson

      I believe you need to qualify the term “followers.”

      I believe Rand’s Atlas Shrugged should be required reading for all high school students. Anyone who can read that book and not see parallels with the government/industry incest we see going on in USA now is willfully blind. I call her a secular prophet. She saw where things were going, because in some measure she experienced it under totalitarianism. In her book she established “types” that we observe today, looking at the Bushes, the Obamas, the Buffetts, the Imelts, the Soroses of the world, and their minions, as well as the academics and media whores who run interference for them.

      Religious folk (as myself) follow Ayn Rand in the sense that we believe freedom is something to strive for because it is something God desires. The Founders of our country viewed certain unalienable rights as a birthright from God that no government should infringe upon. Why Rand thinks human being should have these rights, what is the source of those rights, I honestly do not know. Why should Rand’s character Reardon, have the freedom to pursue his own ends, and control completely the fruits of his own mind and labor, even to the detriment of his countrymen in general? Rand explains it in terms of her own inner sense of justice, which is rational and objective only if you accept her premises. If you come at it with different premises, you might conclude that a greater number could benefit if they could appropriate an inventor’s creation. Is there a definitive “objective” solution? Hardly.

      I certainly do not embrace the radical selfishness of Rand’s Objectivism. It is because religion teaches us the fallen and imperfect nature of man that we (Christians) would, as Yves points out, not wish to depend on man’s natural “rational” nature. The mercy and compassion of the Christian religion, or any other religion, would at some level be anathema (ironic word) to Rand.

      The point of intersection is that Rand believes in individual freedom for the individual’s own ends. Conservative Christians believe in individual freedom because we are suspicious of human nature, making us doubly suspicious of a man or group of men being given too much power over others, that power being inevitably corrupting. Really, Rand paints a picture of corruption in her novel that a Christian might view as an expected consequence of big government, yet Rand relies on her own inner moral code to make that judgment, while denying any Authority that would mark one moral code as more valid than another.

      I think you will find many religious followers of Rand who do not want to literally follow her. They simply appreciate the pointed accuracy of her observations.

      1. mrwonkish

        With all respect Eric, please step out of the dark ages. Alot has happened since 50 years ago. There is no reason to leave one foot stuck in the swamp

      2. Foppe

        They simply appreciate the pointed accuracy of her observations.

        But the reason why the world has changed so much over the last 30-40 years is precisely because people have been trying to make government as corrupt as possible, and to increase the wealth and income inequalities as much as possible, using the argument that “government is corrupt” in order to corrupt it — and make her “prophecy” come true.

        1. eric anderson

          Well, you are certainly correct. The problem is people. People have been trying to make the government corrupt. Until people become more perfected in character, big government will inevitably be an exercise in big corruption. Can you give me a case study of a big government that is not substantially corrupt?

          The Founders tried to create a government structure that would pit branches of government against each other to restrain the rot somewhat, but even Ben Franklin predicted that it would devolve into a despotic one. “…there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other.”

          I don’t believe Franklin was precisely correct. Do we need despotic government? But George Washington was correct about this: “Virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.” And he noted that this morality would not prevail except by “religious principle.” As the Dixie Chicks would say, there’s your trouble. And this is the precise point on which religious persons and Ayn Rand depart from one another. Many of the things we see as virtues, she sees as objectionable, from her standpoint of maximized personal freedom and pursuit of wealth.

          Ayn Rand offers an interesting diagnosis, not a prescription.

          1. God

            As a christian, the only way to become “perfected in character” is to be dead, or the second coming.

            Which are you?

          2. eric anderson

            Dear God,

            I read your book, and in the Old Testament you gave a set of laws which would provide national blessings if generally followed. And biblical history supports the idea that general obedience meant prosperity, and general disobedience led to destruction.

            You also called Job “perfect.” Obviously perfect is a relative term. Perhaps I could have chosen a better one. Please understand what I wrote in that light. I meant perfected, relative to what it is now, generally speaking. Moving in the direction of perfection. Repentance even.

            Also, could I please have a new Mercedes Benz? While I have you on the line, I just thought I’d throw that in there.


          3. Fíréan

            I’m perfected in character. Any imperfections perceived are in the eye of the beholder, the one who sees “imperfection” and casts judgement.

        2. jake chase

          Yes, we all know how honest government was in the Nineteenth Century, when ever legislature and judge was for sale. Know anything about railroad land grants? Bank charters? City government? Tariffs?

      3. attempter

        If you come at it with different premises, you might conclude that a greater number could benefit if they could appropriate an inventor’s creation.

        Yes, my premise disputes the notion of the “inventor’s creation”, until we’ve first accounted for the facts that:

        1. Society raised and educated him. (Unless he was raised by wolves in the forest, in which case I’d grant he doesn’t owe society for that. Then he would owe the wolves.)

        2. I’ve never heard of a self-created inventor. Newton himself (an egomaniac, BTW) admitted that he merely stood on the shoulders of giants. Who can say with a straight face that he was more original and innovative than Newton?

        So this too obliterates the notion that any individual deserves to extract far more than the average worker. I’ve thought about it a long time, and I can come up with no exceptions. Zero.

          1. attempter

            The point is that if Newton stood on the shoulders of giants, then for someone to be self-created, he’d have to be vastly more brilliant and innovative. But like I said, it looks to me like Newton was at the pinnacle, with peers but no superiors.

            Ergo, no such thing as creators who are doing more than just adding a bit to the great cooperative project.

      4. EMIchael

        Personally, I am more concerned with government/conservative christian incest than I am with goverment/industry incest. And I am scared to death of government/industry incest.

        Sorry, but people who constantly rant on about “individual freedom” and then spend most of their time complaining about “individual freedom” they deem unacceptable frighten me.

        1. Patricia

          Combining “God” with corporate/financial oligarchy scares me the most. Since “God” supposedly approves of the regime, all their lies become unquestionable. Add in the passionate radicalism that is at the core of fundamentalist religion (which contains little rationality nor any way to appeal to it) and, well, ack!

          Further, corporatists/industrialists/financiers have been delighted to use the radicalism that the conservative Christians hand them. They’ve cynically fanned the flames.

        1. eric anderson

          Corporations aren’t people! Or at least, they shouldn’t be. But that’s another topic. Corporations are run by people with the same pathologies as those in government. Combine corporations with government in our present corporatist or crony capitalist system, and you see what a horror results.

          I don’t object to corporations, even large corporations, but I certainly object to government connecting itself to those corporations at the hip, and to the special protections and rights given to corporations. These are anti-individual, anti-people.

          1. EMIchael

            And your thought about having religions joined at the hip to governments? Pretty sure the founding fathers(including Ben Franklin) had something to say about that.

      5. Jean

        “I believe Rand’s Atlas Shrugged should be required reading for all high school students. Anyone who can read that book and not see parallels with the government/industry incest we see going on in USA now is willfully blind. I call her a secular prophet.”

        Eric, as a fellow Christian, I find this sentiment totally outrageous. I made it through high school and a university program in the 60s and 70s. Since then, I have actively engaged in many Bible studies, educational pursuits, and no one has ever required me to read Atlas Shrugged. And, I have no earthly desire to pursue it. I couldn’t even make it through the clips in the article. I find nothing remotely compelling in Ayn Rand to motivate me to pursue anything more of her work.

        Without commenting on the remainder of your post, there is nothing in my understanding of God and the Bible to move me in that direction.

        So, I take very, very strong objection to elevating Ayn Rand to required reading. Required of whom, by whom. I do hope you see the inherent contradiction there.

        1. Greg H.

          Yeah, I agree. I pretty much know everything I need to and what I don’t know is in the bible. Critical thinking is very overated.

          1. Jean

            Greg H., there really is no reason to assume that an endorsement of the Bible by definition preclude critical though. I made a point, that I believe stands without my including an exhaustive list of the most influential writers and thinkers in my life, or the means by which I became acquainted with them.

        2. eric anderson

          Oh, change “required” to “strongly encouraged” if it makes you feel better. There might be 30-50 books I would require for cultural, historical, religious, economic literacy, if I had a say. I’m not singling out Rand as particularly special. It is one of a large group.

          Actually, the abridged audio version (of Atlas Shrugged) would be sufficient. It is considerably less daunting, and leaves out nothing important.

      6. sidelarge

        “I believe Rand’s Atlas Shrugged should be required reading for all high school students.”

        I agree. John Galt, clearly inadvertently, reveals very quickly how fundamentally meaningless metaphysics that isn’t aware of itself being primitive metaphysics is. In that sense, it’s no surprise that religious people can easily be attracted to its philosophical posturing, despite its clear anti-religious stance. His “speech” is one of the most absurd and telling example of Russell’s and Goedel’s fallacy.

        Learning how to rip apart such concepts as John Galt’s “objective reality” would be a good thing for kids.

        1. eric anderson

          I agree. The book is as much fodder for criticism as it is for awe in the accuracy of its chilling predictions.

          1. sidelarge

            If you are looking for “chilling predictions,” even some silly Heinlein short stories would suffice. They are actually much better, full of juvenile silliness that is aware of its own juvenile silliness (unlike…). I don’t know what is so special about Atlas Shrugged to you in that regard, but it’s impossible to know how much you read in general.

            If that’s all you want, no need to torture yourself with a fairly mediocre fiction whose virtue is its maniacal persistence in sheer volume.

          2. Clampit

            Of the comments to this point, why do I get the feeling that Eric Anderson would be the only one capable of fixing a broken toaster?

      7. ArmchairRevolutionary

        As long as we are talking about high school curriculum, I would require that all students graduating from high school have a commanding level understanding of basic algebra, basic calculus and basic finance. Then many of these ideologies would become worthless, as the average person would quickly see through the games being perpetrated on society.

        1. Jessica6

          Sort of how ‘Going Galt’ only works if a bunch of ‘the producers’ do it – in other words, collective action.

          Just one going off wouldn’t make a whit of difference, it’s only if they all do. So much for the individual…

      8. Binky the perspicacious bear

        And therein lies the fascinating contradiction-how can people who profess to be Christian argue that they must behave in exactly the opposite way that Christ demanded in order to be a true Christian?
        Jesus in the Bible was a Socialist. Republican Jesus is the Antithesis of Biblical Jesus. Galt should have given up his worldly possessions, for what does it profit a man to gain the world but lose his soul?

        1. eric anderson

          Binkybear, a careful reading of the parable of the householder who went to hire laborers for his vineyard (Matthew 20) should dispel any notions that Jesus endorsed socialism. “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?” That sounds more like Rand. Not to say that Jesus was an Objectivist. Jesus wants charity to be from the heart, not out of coercion or force. Yes, we have charitable obligations to our fellow man, contrary to Rand. The question is whether government should be the enforcer of such a moral obligation. Can it be a fair and effective tool? My conclusion, based on observation, is that it is not. I find myself siding with Rand, not on the same premises, but with a similar effect.

          1. Greg Colvin

            Historically, the early Christians were communists and pacifists. They lived communally, shared all their wealth, and abhorred violence. Not at all like many of today’s so-called Christians.

          2. One Salient Oversight

            Jesus was neither socialist nor capitalist. The teaching of the bible is neither socialist nor capitalist. To call them so is to fall into revisionism and anachronism.

            What we can determine from the Bible is that practices that we associate with socialism and capitalism today are not prohibited.

            Jesus did not attack the market system of the 1st century but certainly did attack those who had become rich by corruption. He also warned that the rich would find it harder generally to enter the kingdom of heaven. Yet these weren’t economic dissertations but spiritual ones.

            What we see in some of the parables Jesus taught was a tacit acceptance of a market system, such as the master who employed his labour at the price he determined (which, interestingly, involved progressively higher prices for labour the more he wanted the work to be finished).

            Certainly the early church practiced a form of communal ownership as described early on in the book of Acts, but this is not prescribed in the rest of the New Testament. In fact, as Acts goes on there is little in the way of communal ownership being described either.

            But there are two rather important Biblical passages that inform my view that socialism isn’t as unchristian as many Christians might think.

            The first concerns Paul’s command in Romans 13.1-7 to pay taxes. The Roman government at the time was autocratic, corrupt, militaristic and financially supported Roman polytheistic religion. Yet Paul says to Christians that they should pay their taxes. Moreover, Romans 13 doesn’t prescribe the limitations of government (as some Christians erroneously argue) but merely describes some of its workings.

            The second Biblical Passage is Deuteronomy 24.19-22. This is called the “gleaning”. Essentially it describes a process by which ancient Jewish farmers kept the edges of their fields unreaped to allow the poor to “glean” what the reapers had left over. The idea was that the poor would be able to gain food from the rich person’s field. Many Christians, however, see this as an act of charity. It is not. The passage is clearly a command from God to Israel’s farmers (who were generally the rich). They had no choice but to leave gleanings for the poor. This was, in fact, an ancient form of wealth redistribution from the rich to the poor. Such commands were to be regulated and enforced by whatever government God placed at the time (which included a monarchy).

            These passages which describe a form of socialism do not prescribe it. Similarly the passages that describe a free market system do not prescribe it either. What is important to notice is that the Bible doesn’t prohibit either, which means that Christians today are free to choose, with wisdom, what they believe to be the best political and economic outcome. They are not, however, free to say and teach that their preferred political and economic system is God’s will.

    1. indio007

      hehe ,I love that little factoid. Medicare too I believe.
      Plus she tried to hide the fact. Which makes it worse than being just a hypocrite. It’s knowledge of guilt.

    2. F. Beard

      I find Rand to have been a hypocrite in other areas too wrt government. For instance, she was in favor of a gold standard, enforced presumably by government. But why should the owners and miners of gold be so privileged BY GOVERNMENT?

    3. Alex

      To pay for her lung cancer treatments, apparently. No doubt caused by the chain smoking you can see in those interviews. (I think; it’s been a while since I watched them.)

  3. Blissex

    «Rand’s philosophy was rooted in the counterfactual belief that people are rational.»

    Oh no, that’s just a small detail. The major detail is that is her work just about everybody is a narcissist sociopaths.

    Both the virtuous producer rich protagonists and the vicious parasite poor antagonists of her novels are narcissist sociopaths. To the extent that one identifies ratioinality with narcissism sociopathy with rationality, then Rand is arguing for rational behaviour. But she is not, because she is really arguing for narcissist sociopathy, not rationality per se.

    Narcissist sociopathic individualism is only practical and rationally preferable in a resource rich, low risk environment (e.g. strangely enough a ZIRP one); in a a different one with higher risks and higher conflict over resources group action is far more preferable, because a group is both a risk pool and a coalition that can defeat smaller ones.

    But Rand’s argument for narcissist sociopathy is in effect a rewording of the long standing Real American (that is Dixie) philosophy, which is social darwinism, and indeed the popularity of social darwinist policies is a resurgence of a long term trend (ask the redskins, the coolies, the darkskins, the italo/irish/jewish, the brownskins).

    During WWII risks were high and shared, as many of the rich and poor were both called up and landed on Omaha beach and they found they were both fellow humans and their blood after all had the same color; then during the Cold War risks were high and shared (virtuous, productive millionaires and vicious exploitative poor would both turn to equally radioactive ash) and working as a coalition was necessary.

    But now What’s the downside to being a Jimmy Cayne or an Angelo Mozilo or a Stephen Fuld or a Lloyd Blankfein?

    None, and you get celebrated as a WINNER who did whatever it takes, and the middle classes aspire to become ruthless rentiers like them.

    1. Blissex

      «Both the virtuous producer rich protagonists and the vicious parasite poor antagonists of her novels are narcissist sociopaths.»

      In addition her works seem to have popularized the feeling of the virtuous producer rich as victims of the oppression of the vicious parasite poor, a feeling of victimization that is the base of much of the narrative of the libertarian movement of the right in the past decades as well argued here:


      Feeling victimized by the lower orders is a natural part of the white Dixie mindset since Reconstruction, strangely enough.

      1. JCC

        I couldn’t agree more. Don’t forget R Reagan’s two “huge” wars – a two week long surprise attack on the US-owned Panama Canal and the devastatingly risky battle against one Third World Company of Engineers and one Company of Combat Troops in Grenada. It’s still hard for me to imagine that he was praised as a great War Time Leader for that, not to mention that Hollywood even bothered to make films of those tremendous patriotic wars (my favorite part of the Grenada “War” was that most of the “rescued” students didn’t even know they needed rescuing until after it was all over).

    2. Doc at the Radar Station

      I strongly agree with your analysis-esp. the part about solidarity among the classes during WWII and the Cold War aftermath. The movie:
      is an excellent illustration of that. You have a bank executive and a soda jerk that go into the war-during it the banker becomes a sergeant and the soda jerk becomes a captain. After the Soviet Union fell, there was a very subtle sense of purposelessness in many ways. Islamic extremism isn’t a true existential threat to us and that’s why the 9/11 solidarity didn’t last…it only ended up helping to divide and isolate America even more…

      1. Sufferin' Succotash

        “After the Soviet Union fell, there was a very subtle sense of purposelessness in many ways…”.
        One has the distinct impression that the US was staying together simply for the sake of the Cold War and that what we’ve been witnessing for the past 20 years is in fact national disintegration.

        1. Jib

          “One has the distinct impression that the US was staying together simply for the sake of the Cold War”

          I emphatically reject this. What I remember is he end of the cold war as a tremendous lifting of a burden that was stunting the country. The idea that the cold war was a great calling for the US is pathetic and sad. It was a dirty job that went for too damn long and we paid a very high price in what it did to the character of this nation. We are still being damaged today by shallow, small people who seek to re-instate it with every too bit dictator they come across.

          1. pws4

            Chalmers Johnson (a more worthy writer than Rand, in my opinion) felt at the conclusion of the Cold War that he ‘fought’ in that it mainly functioned as a con job to get Americans used to the idea of a worldwide Empire of Bases.

            He didn’t believe that until the Soviet Union fell, and he saw that very little changed in American foreign policy.

      2. Patricia

        I’m reading Percy Walker’s “Second Coming”. Great book.

        “…as for people nowadays–they were never a hundred percent themselves…More likely they were forty-seven percent themselves…All too often these days they were two percent themselves, specters who hardly occupied a place at all.”

        “…Peace is only better than war if peace is not hell too. War being hell makes sense.”

  4. tz

    Why did you bother writing Econned if people are irrational?

    And we better end democracy now as the irrational majority will destroy everything.

    No, people are capable of reason, and are responsible to form their conscience and exercise their free will so their passions won’t rule their reason.

    Yet that is the point of Rand – The leaders that destroy things are using reason, but either it is ill informed so wrong, or to produce a diffrent goal such as political power.

    The only difference between you and the banksters and the other elites is the latter are more honest in saying the ordinary american is stupid trash. They look at them as a herd of cattle, you want to keep them as pets. But you both deny their humanity – rationality is a human attribute.

    I, on the other hand, believe in dignity of every human being – not their utility, or their class. But part of that dignity is to hold them responsiblee for their actions, both the London looters in the street and boardroom. That because they have the ability to know consequences, they have the responsibility and culpability.

    Jefferson said if there is a defect, the answer is education. Our country was founded on reason and self-control. I call people to stop pretending to be cattle or pets. What mind you have, use it.

    I will throw out one last stereotype – women are more emotional (less rational). I hope that is enough to shatter your condescention.

    1. Tripoli Bodies

      Just a quibble, the looters haven’t been brought to justice or held to account for their actions. Our imperious leaders exclaim: “It’s not terrorism when we do it!”

    2. Patricia

      Tz: You are correct that rationality is a human attribute but it is not the fundamental motive that drives human thought/action. Human action more often emerges from irrationality.

      It is the same with compassion—humans are capable of it but are generally more deeply self-interested at the expense of other. This is why Rand has been popular–she thinks that self-interest is excellent, unmodified.

      It takes work to modify these instincts—not erase them but moderate them so that they function for self and other. That is as true for American banksters as London looters. It is true for you and me.

      That you call out, “What mind you have, use it” shows that at some level you know this.

      And as to your last throw-in, emotionality is not necessarily “less rational”. They are not contradictory—in fact they make each other better, bigger, broader. What I most admire about Arthur Silber is his triumphant unification of high emotion with astute rationality.

      1. David

        Well put, TZ. You restate the portion of Objectivism I love– the part that insists on the dignity of every human. However, I don’t believe you have to abandon that insistence while recognizing a fundamental flaw in Rand’s philosophy: people are not rational, or irrational. We’re sometimes rational, sometimes irrational, and sometimes non rational. And thank god for it– there are no easy solutions, life is messy, but at least we aren’t machines.

        1. Patricia

          Many philosophies embrace the dignity of every human. And every philosophy places conditions.

          The gigantic condition that Rand places on human dignity is that when a human can no longer function alone, he/she loses dignity and any right to relationship (unless someone else happens to find that his/her self-interest coincides with “helping”).

          Therefore, if you become chronically ill (for eg), you lose not only your health and gain the burdens that result from it, but you also are left out on the ice floe.

          This is why, in her vulnerable old age, Rand took social security. Obviously her acolytes were too self-interested to care for her and why shouldn’t they be? They were lazy and selfish–happy to have no reason to deepen themselves with compassion.

          She obviously didn’t like what her philosophy told her about herself-in-need and off she went to the gubmint.

          Rand’s philosophy is bankrupt–and that is literally what it has done to society. It only saves the lucky sociopath–that person who is both completely self-interested and never happens to fall into misfortune.

    3. Abelenkpe

      “The only difference between you and the banksters and the other elites is the latter are more honest in saying the ordinary american is stupid trash. They look at them as a herd of cattle, you want to keep them as pets.”

      “I will throw out one last stereotype – women are more emotional (less rational). I hope that is enough to shatter your condescention”

      Hilarious. Hateful, bigoted and insulting. Great illustration of sociopathy associated with Rand’s beliefs. Well done.

    4. Deus-DJ

      yes, the only way to save humanity is the philosophy every man for themselves; the only way to dignify them is to let them die for things they may or may not control.

      You pathetic fool.

    5. Anonymous

      If people were magically rational, we wouldn’t need democracies. Everything would magically, rationally work itself out.

      Put down whatever you’re smoking. It’s making you loopy.

  5. PB

    This woman was an utter whack job. It has been 25 years since I first read her and I had forgotten what a loon, fringe character she was. The fact that Alan Greenspan was an acolyte of hers is even more disturbing. These interviews should have been required viewing by all of Congress prior to any Greenspan nomination hearing. Perhaps then he would not have been confirmed as Fed chairman, and we would not be in this horrendous economic condition right now.

    1. Paul Tioxon

      I second the whackjob description. I am even more impressed that she gets any attention at all. When I was in college in the 1970’s, I never heard of her, and no one ever brought her name up at all. I was too busy digesting “Gravity’s Rainbow” and “The Structure of Evil”. Silly me.

      Obscure might be too high a compliment for her impact outside of NYC. Greenspan’s close personal relationship with her was more than just one of an admiring reader. He was a part of her inner circle. I guess if Alan was born 10 years later, he would be tripping balls with Leary. Now that would have been an intellectual breakthrough, Quantum Economics!

    2. eric anderson

      She’s an enormously popular “whack job.” Have you noted the sales figures for her books lately?

      Something in them is resonating with people. That “something” is a kernel of truth wrapped in some admittedly stilted and pedantic fiction.

      1. Ben Wolf

        By your logic there must be something legitimate and powerfully true in Mao’s Little Red Book, The Protocols of the Elder’s of Zion, and the saga of Harry Potter. Maybe Rowling should be required christian reading.

      2. Sauron

        That your selfish behaviour is a-ok. That’s what resonates. It enables people like Blankfein to believe they are doing God’s work…that greed etc. is morally laudable.

        It’s guilt-remover. That’s part of its attraction.

      3. Paul Tioxon

        My son tells me there is a video game called “AFTERSHOCK” which is basically a send up of Rand. Other friends who are aware of Rand note the popularity especially among the digerati, the software engineers, the IT industry players who like the appeal of a politics based on the one characteristic of intellect which they believe they have more of than the others. The success of dot coms, silicon valley etc with venture capitalists also reinforces the great man view of history which again, they are the heroes, the Bill Gates and Steve Jobs as the new captains of the 2nd Industrial Revolution. But really, another displaced European refugee spilling her guts against Lenin in panoramic pseudo intellectual fashion is little more than a political opera easy digested by people long on math and short on social skills.

        1. carl

          The Randian send-up video game series is “Bioshock” and its sequels.

          The first game is set in an undersea city that was the brainchild of an objectivist billionaire that, predictably, went cataclysmically to shit after all the rational liberals kept trying to eat each others’ lunches.

  6. Tony

    Whoa! At around 4:35 of the first video Mike Wallace referred to ‘our modified government-regulated capitalism’. When’s the last time a journalist said that? I think the preferred term among the MSM today is ‘socialism’.

    1. Anonymous

      I was struck by that the first time I saw this video too. It shows how much more rational the polity was, and across all levels of American communities, during the new deal consensus.

  7. MRW

    What Rand lacked, IMO, was any sense of the working universe of all her rational individuals; neither did she think she had to realize that they participated in something larger than everyone walking around alone. [She lacked the imagination to get past Russia.]

    That’s why her school of thought lacked the kind of values Douglas K Smith writes about, the imperative in a functioning society. Seen 50 years out, she’s selfish. But she probably would have approved of TARP and the looting.

  8. LRT

    What Rand lacked was a mind. She appears to have formed her thinking entirely on summaries of Great Books courses. She was unable to formulate an idea precisely, she was incapable of putting together a coherent argument. What you find in her essays is basically impossible to dispute because you cannot extract any position to argue with.

    The novels are at the level of Harold Robbins. One has to deeply admire or maybe pity anyone with the stamina to get through one of them.

  9. Philip Pilkington

    Mentally ill old crone. She’s still fringe today, those who ‘follow’ her ‘teachings’ are still small in number; but she’s become a slogan which she would have hated.

    The interviewer is more interesting than her in these pieces.

  10. Toni

    When that cigarette hag was dying of lung cancer did she ever embrace medical welfare!

    No free market for her at that point!

  11. Tao Jonesing

    the counterfactual belief that people are rational

    People are rational, if you redefine the word to describe how people actually think and behave (e.g., cognitive biases are part and parcel of what it truly means to be a rational human being).

    What is irrational is continuing to use a false conception of rationality as the measuring stick for human behavior. Why do behavioral economists bother documenting how many ways human beings do not meet the economist’s misconception of rationality instead of redefining what it means to be rational? Are they just fooling themselves with the anchoring and adjustment heuristic? When everything about neoclassical economics is founded on and flows from a demonstrably false assumption (its misconception of rationality), how can it be reformed? In their attempts to debunk certain aspects of neoclassical economics, behavioral economists actually perpetuate neoclassical economics as a whole.

    1. Philip Pilkington

      That’s like saying that black is white if you redefine the word ‘black’ to mean ‘white’. Not only is that a perversion of reasoning (and, may I add, highly irrational) but it’s also a perversion of language itself.

      Of course human beings are irrational creatures. In fact, we’re far more deeply irrational than most people realise; they usually use rationality as a cover for undertaking actions based on strongly irrational motivations which are in turn usually tied up with sexuality, vanity and self-image.

      1. Tao Jonesing


        You once again show why MMT will ultimately become the servant of the evil you think MMT solves.

        Do you know what anchoring and adustment is? The fact is that the economist’s defintion of rationality, i.e., utility maximization, started as an assumption not based on empiric evidence. But that assumption has become an anchor around which we adjust our later assumptions of what it means to be “rational.” Any economic theory derived from this false anchor will be just as false, and MMT is derived from that very anchor.

        By the way, Steve Keen has made the same observation as I have: that a definition of rationality that defies reality is, in and of itself, irrational. I’m sure he’s an idiot, too.

        Seriously, what value does the traditional definition of “rational” provide? Can you measure human behavior by it? Clearly not. So why cling to it? The definition of rational v. irrational is not the same as the definition of black v. white. Why? Because black and white are objectively measureable while “rationality” is an abstraction.

        Of course, some take great pride in knowing that human beings are not rational, according to the classic definition. But why? Don’t you understand that you, too, are not rational by that definition? Why do you insist on using a false metric instead of trying to find a true one?

        Here’s a thought exercise for you, Philip: coin your own word for how humans really think and behave, then construct an economic system that honors that instead of tweaking a system built on a lie that attacks humanity. If it is language that prevents you from freeing yourself of your false assumptions, get in touch with your own Lewis Carroll.

  12. Mark

    What people here don’t understand about Rand is how utterly banal and cliched she sounds in the Russian context (Rand was born and raised in Russia, escaped when she was in her early-mid 20’s). To humble middle-class suburban American ears, Rand’s wild-eyed elitism and self-assuredness is a big part of what makes her persuasive, because in our culture very few people would have the nerve to advance such bat-shit crazy ideas with that much confidence, without even a hint of self-deprecating humor. But in Russia, Rand comes off as a laughable cliche, as banal as they come–this is how Russian bimbos talk, all elitism and egoism and contempt for those “lower” than you. You can find a zillion Russian bimbos and meat-heads talking exactly like this in any night-club or overpriced street cafe in Moscow. The only difference is that Rand had a rough time in Russia growing up, where she was shunned as a homely nerd. She must have thought she’d died and gone to heaven when she came to America and found a bunch of gullible hicks who thought she was brilliant and unique.

    1. Sid Finster

      Interesting point. I have tried explaining Randism to Russian people in Russia and Ukraine and the response has generally been something like:
      “This has to be a put-on. Nobody who ever set foot in a Soviet school could ever possibly be allowed to be that stupid.”

  13. Brett

    I saw this interview maybe 6 months ago and forwarded it to a bunch of bloggers but no one commented on it. Glad Yves sees it as incredibly interesting, because I too found it eye opening. It even spurred me to go buy this book of her interviews and endure the pain to read it: http://www.amazon.com/Objectively-Speaking-Ayn-Rand-Interviewed/dp/073913194X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1314465738&sr=8-1

    She’s a total nutcase, but it’s interesting that her philosophy doesn’t reside in economic theory at all. She always says “go read about economics” but she herself hasn’t read any economics, or at least doesn’t cite any economists regarding her theories on capitalism. It’s all up in head, and she bases it on faith that free markets are the best solution to any problem. I was surprised that her works aren’t littered with references to Friedrich Hayek or someone comparable who shared her views. And certainly, during her time people like Kenneth Arrow and Francis Bator were writing papers giving numerous examples of market failure. Yet she willfully ignores them.

    But yes, her entire philosophy is centered around her idea that humans are rational beings. She disparages those who beg to differ and question whether human’s have full information. She really lived in a fantasy world.

    Perhaps back then the businessman was looked at more negatively than he is today, so maybe one could be sympathetic with her to be upset over that, but things have swung so far the other way that today you are looked at as crazy if you even suggest that the businessman doesn’t have the noblest intentions at all times as he seeks to maximize profit. We have seen the results when you let the free market “do its thing” with minimal oversight and regulation. The results are catastrophe. Of course, if she was writing now she’d spin it as all the government’s fault, as the Republican think-tanks are trying to do today.

  14. Herman Sniffles

    So if people are irrational, and all these rational attempts to fix things aren’t working, what should we do? Well, when the Eskimos ran into someone like Blankfein or Dimon -someone who hoarded his seal meat and didn’t share it around the village – the rest of the tribe would bring him gifts and heap praise on him. As his yard filled up with sleds and furs and spears, and as his fellow tribesman yelled over his whale-bone fence the equivalent of “Heluva job, Joe! You’re one fine-haired son of a bitch you are! Why can’t we have more people in our tribe like you!” the shame and guilt would build in his soul unit he began passing out his seal meat like a madman to anybody who would take it. So here’s what I think we should do. We’ll get several thousand welfare mothers to donate 10% of their meager governent check to Dimon and Blankfein. We’ll have it automatically deposited into their bank accounts. And then we’ll have these self same welfare mothers send Blankfein and Dimon endless letters thanking them for the wonderful job they have done – and are doing – for their fellow Americans, emphasising particularly their selfless devotion to the community that they are part of. The only problem I see with this is that in a community of Eskimos sociopaths were probably pretty rare, just a few popping up each generation that needed to be dealt with. But in a modern society like ours there are so many sociopaths that they can form groups. And I think that’s what we have now, literally a tribe of sociopaths pickled in their own warped, selfish, group-think. So maybe we have to start considering crimes against humanity. And going back to our friends the Eskimos, it may be time to consider a very long and naked stint on the ice, preferably in a blizzard, for some of these evil seal hunters.

  15. Diogenes

    Thank you for posting these clips Yves. I would not have seen them otherwise.

    Objectivism proposes a society without empathy. But that is not a society, merely a collection of individuals within a national border. It seems, unfortunately, that this is beginning to describe the US.

    In my opinion, Rand merely describes in her theory the attributes of psychopathy, providing intellectual cover for the narcissists and psychopaths among us. Objectivism makes no distinction for, and offers no protection to, those born with lesser intellects or physical attributes.

    As Warren Buffet said in a recent interview: “Everybody in this country owes their good fortune in some way to the rest of the country…” This is a more realistic and more intellectual outlook.

  16. MG

    A person who was just as ugly on the outside as on the inside. With all of the great literature that Russians have written the past 200 years, why would anyone waste their time reading her blathering?

    You can learn a lot more about Russian character and society as a whole from a dozen Russian authors who do a much more accurate job of depicting modern society as nuanced, multi-faceted, and complicated.

  17. litesout

    Rand was a marketing genious. Rand was a capitalist interested in extracting money from the economy. She found an ideology that would make her interesting, and she marketed like a street whore. Sort of like L Ron Hubbard. Realizing as P. T. Barnum said, “there’s a sucker born every minute,” she knew there were suckers ready to be mined for gold.

    1. A Real Black Person

      Was profit her only motive? According to Mark, her intellectual career seemed like an elaborate scheme to get laid.

  18. linda in chicago

    What did she spend her money on?

    What do Greenspan, Blankfein et al. spend their money on?

    The answer to these questions might reveal something.

    1. Jack Peaceful

      Let’s ask NY Fed Director Kathryn Wylde what she do wif’ her money. 450K a year? We need serious welfare reform, that scrip is absurd. It’s absurd all over the New Jork/Washington financial industrial complex, yet the craven bastards won’t get people to work or help them stay in their homes.

      1. Examiner

        In 1969 Leftwing domestic terrorist William ‘Bill’ Ayers, head of the group known as ‘the Weathermen,’ staged the ‘days of rage’ in Chicago during which acts of violence, mayhem, and destruction of property were conducted as a means by which Progressive extremists would not only protest American capitalism and the Viet Nam War but so disrupt the country that its economic and social system would crumble and be replaced by a Marxist and pacifistic model.

        1. Examiner

          Besides the significant geo-political implications of the Egyptian uprising, from a human perspective the revolution in Egypt and the wave of popular uprising in the Arab world are testaments to what the masses can achieve once they understand the value of freedom and decide to take action against the forces of tyranny and oppression that obstruct their most fundamental human rights.

  19. Susan the other

    For some reason I thought Buckley liked Rand. So the clip with him and Charlie Rose was interesting. He made fun of her. Objectivism is just too vulnerable to evolve. It cannot have come from anywhere (except post Nazi Commie left field), and obviously, it had nowhere to go.

  20. JCC

    I don’t find her to be a “whack job” necessarily, but extremely immature and selfish, both emotionally and educationally (is that a word? :).

    Her knowledge of American History is obviously very limited bordering on fantasy; pure grade-school stuff we all got as 11-year-old kids.

    Social and economic “Survival Of The Fittest” Darwinism has been found to be anything but scientific for a very long time and usually used as a justification for criminality on many levels and to many degrees.

    For those who have read Darwin (as well as modern evolutionists such as David Sloan Wilson), group survival was and still is an extremely prominent piece of “Survival Of The Fittest”. Group dynamics and survival of the group has been studied over and over again from a biological perspective since at least Darwin’s era and life among most species, to include people, has been found to be pretty consistently in favor of survival of the group as well as the individual.

    Needless to say, everything that her disjointed and immature philosophy stands for goes against group survival.

    For example, her statement concerning men being their brother’s keepers:

    “There is no way in which you could justify it. Nobody has ever given a reason why men should be their brother’s keepers, and you see examples of it every day, you see men perishing in their attempts to be their brother’s keepers.”

    which she used to justify her philosophy (end of part 2), besides being very arguably false, is without a doubt some of the most bullshit circular reasoning typical of a freshman college student that I have ever heard. All I could think of at that particular point was “No shit, Sherlock, that’s the point, that is what heroes are made of; that is how we get men to land at Normandy.” not to mention Kabul and Baghdad.

    The real whack jobs are those who sat at her knee and absorbed this childish and selfish philosophy and never took the time to grow up and thing it all the way through to it’s probable conclusion. Then, somehow, they went on to imprint this sociopathic philosophy on our present day economic and political system.

    Unfortunately these present-day whack jobs have used her occasional one or two dis-jointed (and somewhat reasonable) statements regarding collectivism to ensure that The State would interfere as little as possible with the economic elite and not coerce them in giving up too much of their property and property rights; they just somehow completely forgot about ensuring the same for the other 99% of the population.

    We get the immature dog-eat-dog part instead, as well as being our Banker’s Keepers.

    1. Franklin Delano Goldberg

      “Not to mention Kabul and Baghdad.” Two wars that have taken hundreds of thousands of lives, evicted millions from their homes and continues to suck Billions.

  21. Anonymous

    Everything about this woman is facile nonsense. This whole ‘philosophy,’ is only her own personal unresolved traumas, neurosis, fear, and immaturity being projected onto literally everything else in the world. Anyone who takes this silliness seriously never advanced beyond adolescence.

  22. Joe M

    What strikes me is how nearly indistinguishable objectivism is from conservatism of our day. While contemporary conservatives regard these beliefs as the founding beliefs of our republic, Wallace, who was a living memory of a time before the welfare state, who was not unknowledgable of history regarded it as something new.

    I must look into this.

  23. sarwaters

    I found it very enjoyable to watch a young Mike Wallace, being himself and engaging his guest 1-on-1. Time shows that Ayn was partially correct, and Mike Wallace’s assumptions had some flaws. An extremist like Ayn has value in shocking an open-minded listener into questioning some standing assumptions. Example: Mike Wallace *appears* to like the Social Security system. Little did he know, in 1959, that it proved to become a bankrupt Ponzi scheme.

      1. skippy

        Yep, ***looting*** a *Trust* is not indicative of a ponzi. Its more in the vane of robbing Peter, well, just to rob him cuz you can and there is fk all he can do about it.

    1. Paul Tioxon

      Social Security, 75 years old, never missed a payment, never crashed 3 times, like the banking system has. Never needed trillions of dollars to be bailed out, lends trillions of dollars from its cash surplus to fund deficits for war. Not a ponzi scheme, not a ticking time bomb, but a rock solid national retired program, a socialist welfare state triumph that you and people like you will only get out of our cold dead hands. But then, we numerically out number you, and in a Democracy that is your worst nightmare.

  24. R. Raskolnikov

    There’s a British documentary series called “All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace”. I highly recommend the first episode on Rand and her “disciples”.

  25. middyfeek

    My how you people do go on.

    First of all, if you’re not old enough to remember the period in which the book was written you can’t appreciate what she did.

    Forget Ayn Rand as an individual, and Objectivism, and Alan Greenspan, etc. etc. Focus on the book. That puts most of you behind the eight ball because you never read it.

    In writing the book when she did she was going directly against the grain of where we were headed at that time. She was vilified because of this.

    The ensuing half century have proven her remarkably astute in this regard. If you can’t admit that you either:
    a. haven’t read the book
    b. have an axe to grind
    c. aren’t too bright

    Have a nice day.

    1. JCC

      You’re making a lot of assumptions here that aren’t necessarily true, not to mention missing a lot of the points.

      A) Her philosophy is based on fantasies
      B) Her acolytes never followed her philosophy.
      C) Her acolytes never hesitate saying what a “brilliant” and “prescient” philosopher she was and use this philosophy regularly to justify their feeding the Robber Barons our money.

      I would bet that more here have read her “book” than you may think. For example I read two of her books (just in case you aren’t aware, she wrote more than one) over 40 years ago and thought they were both pretty boring at that time To be fair to her, I was around 17 or so at that time and probably wasn’t mature enough to get anything more than boredom out of the experience.

      I tried to re-read “Atlas Shrugged” again about 8 years ago but quit about half way through it. I don’t know if that means I’m not too bright, still just bored with it, or wise enough to spend my time doing something more productive.

      Prescient and astute, or not, she and her husband never hesitated for moment in applying and collecting about $14K in S.S. payments the last 8 years or so of her life. I’m not sure if you are old enough to remember or not, but $14K was a lot of money back then.

      I guess it is lucky for her that her “We should not be our Brother’s Keepers” philosophy never took hold among her fellow citizens.

    2. Cahal

      ‘First of all, if you’re not old enough to remember the period in which the book was written you can’t appreciate what she did.’

      So by this logic WW2 historians have wasted their lives because they didn’t fight in the war?

      ‘Forget Ayn Rand as an individual, and Objectivism, and Alan Greenspan, etc. etc. Focus on the book. That puts most of you behind the eight ball because you never read it.’

      I tried to read it (assuming you mean AS) but gave up. It’s a 1000 page, FICTIONAL story about how the world should work. It’s amusing when people cite an event in it as evidence for their opinion.

      Btw, the average NC commenter is probably more widely read than the average economics professor, so I wouldn’t try and accuse them of ignorance (no I don’t have myself in mind).

      ‘In writing the book when she did she was going directly against the grain of where we were headed at that time. She was vilified because of this.’

      1959: Capitalism’s ‘Golden Age’ with sustained increases in living standards and a number of crises you could count on one hand. We’ve now moved towards fairly Rand-style policies and guess what, they suck in the real world!

      ‘The ensuing half century have proven her remarkably astute in this regard. If you can’t admit that you either:
      a. haven’t read the book
      b. have an axe to grind
      c. aren’t too bright’

      Ah, the ‘categorise your opponent’ method. Worthless.

      Btw does anybody know if there is a formal name for this tactic?

  26. GREG B

    Wow, if this is what passes as rationality among conservative christians, we Objectivists will eradicate you in about 20 years. I’ll let Rand speak for herself:

    On faith: “Do not say that you’re afraid to trust your mind because you know so little. Are you safer in surrendering to mystics and discarding the little that you know? Live and act within the limit of your knowledge and keep expanding it to the limit of your life. Redeem your mind from the hockshops of authority. Accept the fact that you are not omniscient, but playing a zombie will not give you omniscience—that your mind is fallible, but becoming mindless will not make you infallible—that an error made on your own is safer than ten truths accepted on faith, because the first leaves you the means to correct it, but the second destroys your capacity to distinguish truth from error.”

    Capitalism: “The moral justification of capitalism does not lie in the altruist claim that it represents the best way to achieve “the common good.” It is true that capitalism does—if that catch-phrase has any meaning—but this is merely a secondary consequence. The moral justification of capitalism lies in the fact that it is the only system consonant with man’s rational nature, that it protects man’s survival qua man, and that its ruling principle is: justice.”

    1. F. Beard

      … we Objectivists will eradicate you in about 20 years. GREG B

      Yes, I have found you guys to be murderous as well as hypercritical.

    2. JCC

      Not being a conservative christian, I guess that means I’m safe :)

      Her philosophy, it seems to me, is based on the classic “Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc” fallacy. Previous fallen civilizations and/or systems fell due to too much Gov’t interference, so Objectivism is “rationally” designed, after the fact, to fix this.

      However, as Diogenes above stated, Buffet has a far more rational and intellectual outlook when it comes to the human condition anywhere.

      Maybe some here should watch part one of “All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace” as pointed out by R Rasikolnikov above (google it, free on the web). Although this film is ostensibly about the computer revolution, it clearly, both directly and indirectly, points out the fact that the philosophy of Objectivism is, at it’s heart, immature, narcissist, selfish, and irrational.

      Ultimately Objectivism is nothing more than a poor derivative of Nietzsche’s Promethianism and prone to serious abuse by the more sociopathic among us. Besides being completely unable to take into account changes in technology relative to the human condition, it completely leaves out basic human emotion; even Ayn Rand herself could not live within it when her lover left her.

      (Not only did Ayn Rand appropriate Promethianism wholesale, she rejected Nietzsche completely, apparently, and irrationally, afraid to give credit where credit was due.)

      Personally I believe that any philosophy or system that ignores the often irrational and sociopathic behavior (as defined by human beings) of people and that fails to take into account that humans, like most other successful species, have survived in part to due a natural altruistic component is, to put it mildly, deficient.

      Finally, post hoc, ergo propter hoc :), Like Objectivism, all clocks (taking into account military-style 24-hour clocks) are momentarily close to 100% right at least once a day, just as some philosophies are 100% close to right once every 3 or 4 centuries. That does not mean, by any rational assessment, that they are always dependable or functional.

      1. JCC

        (whoops… “all clocks” should have read “broken clocks” just as “some philosophies” should have read “broken philosophies”)

      2. JTFaraday

        But, Rand doesn’t mention Nietzsche. In the interview she says she read Aristotle–in fact, I think she said the ONLY philosopher she read is Aristotle.

        Aristotle ultimately upholds a concept of natural slavery, based primarily on a natural lack of rationality.
        That such natural differences exist “in nature,” he rests on the “natural” distinctions between men and women. It is the first topic he addresses in The Politics.

        While Aristotle concedes that some who are legally slaves may not in fact be slaves by nature, nowhere does he posit that ALL men may in fact be created naturally equal and the slave condition primarily a product of the deployment of power, as both the sophists (before him) and the stoics (after him) were inclined to do.

        In which case, one could see how Rand might appeal to latter day social darwinist poindexters like Greenspan.

        (And, did I also catch a whiff of a recently displaced Harvard President? Gasp, I think I did).

  27. middyfeek

    @JCC There is only one salient point. I thought I made that clear. Either you are willing to give credit where it is due, or you are not.

    The woman made a startingly accurate assessment of where we were headed. Everyone can see it now, she saw it beforehand. If you can’t acknowledge that you are contemptible.

    All the rest is talk.

    1. F. Beard

      The woman made a startingly accurate assessment of where we were headed middyfeek

      Like hell she did. She predicted socialism would destroy us when it is fascism that is the current danger.

    2. JCC

      If she were the only one that had “predicted” this, then surely I would give credit where credit is due. But she is not the only one, and so I cannot.

      I have been listening to and reading about the “fall of the US” comparisons to “The Fall of Rome” comparisons for over 50 years, many of which were written many years before I was born (most of hers were not). She said nothing that I am aware of that hadn’t been said many times, and in different ways, before.

      Since the original point of Yves’ post was Rand’s “counterfactual belief that people are rational”, I have tried to stick to that (without any ad hominem attacks on those who disagree with that particular and very salient point, by the way), adding that her irrational belief that ethics and altruism are negative traits.

      I also. apparently contemptibly, stand by my assertions that her philosophy is derivative, immature, selfish, borderline sociopathic, and that those in power who have justified their actions based on her “Objectivism” are at best foolish, and they have used this philosophy to justify screwing all of us into the ground.

      ‘Conscience of a Conservative’ has made a good observation below, and I agree wholeheartedly, particularly in regards to myself. I rarely post here although I read this site daily.

      I suppose my primary issue is that I have been listening to Randites for years, some of my best friends think she’s a genius (we have never resorted to name calling when we disagree though, unless too much Jamison’s has been consumed, of course :) and I usually ask them if they have read any Nietzsche, “Will To Power” or “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”. Invariably they have said, “No.” and continue to say no, so I think a lot of the passion is stirred up by those who have never read any Nietzsche and think that Rand’s thoughts are original and unique.

      They are not.

    3. JCC

      By the way, you made three salient points:

      a. haven’t read the book
      b. have an axe to grind
      c. aren’t too bright

      In regards to myself, you happen to be mistaken on points a and b and point c is not for me to judge.

      And I sincerely hope that you relax and have a nice day, too.

  28. Kelly

    A great white shark is more rational and objective than any human will ever be, well I guess there are loan sharks.

  29. Conscience of a Conservative

    It’s interesting that all these years later Rand and her work still generates such strong passions and debate.

  30. tony

    my favorite part of atlas shrugged was when hank’s kiln of molten metal cracks, and the metal starts pouring out, threatening devastation. victor ascends, with hank,a big pile of dirt/coke/ash and they start throwing the material up at the kiln to stem the flow. they are silhouetted, these two strapping men, side by side against the glowing metal of the kiln, their bravery and heroism so evident. and their little handfuls of ash were enough to stem the flow!

    what a tacky, pandering, lame situation for an author to create. it deserves to be on a top ten list of the most sentimentalist plot devices ever created.

  31. stevelaudig

    a driveby reaction: objectivism as it played out looks, smells, sounds, and feels ever so much like scientology, awfully glad I didn’t taste it or step in it. At their very best, at the very top of their thinking game when well-rested, well-fed, well-housed, well-educated and well-loved, the human ape is only intermittently reasonable, occasionally rational, yet sadly oftentimes “logical” but only in the sense that the “Inquisition” was logical if you accepted the premis that there was witchery. Objectivism can be logical without being either reasonable or rational.

  32. A Real Black Person

    I think Ayn Rand touched, very clumsily, onto something very relevant to the modern world. There’s a constant tug-of-war betweeen collectivism and indiviudualism and contrary to what some may believe, they are not compatible. For better or worse Ayn rejects collectivism, because she’s seen (maybe) first hand the harm that collectivism can do under Stalin’s rule in the Soviet Union .

    Helping others can have negative consequences. Look at the Green Revolution. Sure, it’s saved lives but it has also increased the number of humans alive and decreased a corresponding amount of fresh water, topsoil, easily obtainable minerals, and easily obtained energy needed to sustain the human population on Earth.

    If you keep sending third world countries more food, the average person doesn’t receive more food, it just allows more hungry people to stay alive because of the way food is distributed. The international community has done little to change how food is distributed so that the average person receives larger portions.

    Other examples can be used to show how collectives fail. Despite the money supposedly being spent on public healthcare or public education in America, the quality of neither has improved for those below a certain income level. Contrary to what people here say about socialized health care,it is not an utopia, and it doesn’t seem that it will survive the debt problems Europe is facing. The problem with collectivism is that it tries to remove competition and scarcity, two very key components of life, and scarcity and competition keep reappearing.

    Humans aren’t rational, but they do many things for selfish reasons. One of the reasons why people want to believe in a higher power is that they want a garantee that their aluturism will be rewarded because in the world, there’s no such garantee. In absence of an expectation for a post morterm reward for relationships, All relationships, all acts of kindness must be beneficial to humans either emotionally( giving feels good, especially if the receivers appreciate it and remain humble. In terms of philantrophy giving inhances status), financially, or sexually otherwise they would not be pursued. Humans act out of self-interest but self-interest may or may not be rational because if I defined rational as sustainable social and economic models, humans are NOT rational. Most of the problems discussed in this blog, arise because humans give more value to the present than the future. The goal of religion, saving money, and education is to get humans to think about something greater than the Now. but this is very hard for humans because we aren’t wired for thinking about the distant future. human aren’t computers. Humans are animals. Most animals are driven by impulses to think in the present.

    What Ayn Rand was not aware of was that individualism can do harm to society, that the corporation is not a lone individual, but another group where individuals subvert to a cause, and that her ideas could never be implemented without the use of force or the threat.

  33. Joe Corall

    There is one thing I’ve never understood that is underlying the entire premise of Objectivism. Hopefully someone here can clarify.

    ‘Government’ is deemed the problem child. While ‘Industry’ is the golden-boy. When government gets involved with industry, things get corrupt and everything breaks down.

    Aren’t both of these entities just groups of people? How does one side have some fatal flaw the other somehow avoids?

    Could it be Objectivism attempts to demonize ‘the government’, in an attempt to prove their (her) point? In Ayn’s case, ‘government’ represents the ‘irrational’ side of man. The side which is unpredictable, and can make stupid, and in some cases downright evil, decisions? Admitting all people have this characteristic destroys her entire argument – that rational self-interest alone can be the guiding light throughout a peron’s life. So it’s easier to just say government needs to be taken out of the picture – and everything will be OK. But really it’s human nature she’s talking about.

    Of course the reverse of my observation – the view of industry being chastised and government apprized – could be debated the same way. But that comment should go on a different blog thread…

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