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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ayn Rand On Altruism

One of my American Government students is reading Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, which includes a series of essays by Ayn Rand, developer of the philosophy known as objectivism and perhaps most famous for the novel Atlas Shrugged. My student will shortly be reporting to the class about the book.

In preparation for my student's presentation, I watched the award-nominated documentary Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life, which included a portion of the video clip below (1979):

Start paying keen attention around time marker 3:37. Around time marker 4:15, Ayn Rand says, "Every dictatorship is based on altruism," i.e., selflessness and self-sacrifice. Later in the video, Ayn Rand and Phil Donahue discuss the oil companies and monopolies.

Find the rest of this five-part interview in the sidebar at YouTube.

Regular readers here know that I'm not an objectivist. But I did find interesting Ayn Rand's statement about altruism and dictatorships. Is her statement accurate? I'm interested in knowing your views on her provocative and controversial statement.

Note: Some time back, I posted much of the above at Infidel Bloggers Alliance, where the post let to quite a discussion.


  1. "Every dictatorship is based on altruism."


    I'd have to do a lot of research to determine the accuracy of that statement, which I am much too lazy to attempt, but my initial belief is that, while it may not be entirely accurate, there is certainly much truth in it.

    I've long said the Liberal philosophy can be summed up in one simple statement:

    "People are too stupid to take care of themselves, so we (the government) must take care of them, for them."

    Hence, we have a government in which Liberal thought is shackling us, and if allowed to continue, will eventually lead to absolute slavery.

  2. Side note: I linked over to Bloggers alliance, and was reading the comments when something on the sidebar caught my eye:

    "Rand Paul on Ayn Rand"

    And it occurred to me that possibly Ron Paul named his child after Ayn Rand.

  3. I've seen all of the clips and would also recommend the clips from the '50s with her and Mike Wallace (you can find them on Youtube). Ayn Rand, and specifically the tenets of her philosophy of objectivism, are widely misunderstood. Simply reading her masterwork "Atlas Shrugged" doesn't do justice. You really have to get into the essays (Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal) is one such collection. In fact, there's the famous essay in there by Alan Greenspan wherein he advocated for the gold standard (my how times changed huh). Ron Paul actually has a story where he took a copy of the essay to Alan Greenspan and asks him if he wants to write a disclaimer on there! LOL

    Whatever reservations or opinions people might reserve for Rand, she, like a whole great many others were ahead of the their time. They talked about things then that people are experiencing now. Similarly, we have people saying things now that are ahead of their time; outside traditional orthodoxy what have you. We should be listening to them objectively.

  4. "And it occurred to me that possibly Ron Paul named his child after Ayn Rand."


    His name is Randal.

  5. Thanks for a reminder of the past, when I first read her work in College..can you imagine it now, reading her works as required reading, and with a great debate with the Prof without bias?

  6. Was also going to mention some other great essays of hers can be found in:

    Philosophy: Who Needs it?

    The Virtue of Selfishness

  7. "I'd have to do a lot of research to determine the accuracy of that statement, which I am much too lazy to attempt, but my initial belief is that, while it may not be entirely accurate, there is certainly much truth in it."

    You should not be too lazy and you should attempt to find the evidence to support your initial belief. Until then, finding it to "not be entirely accurate" is purely speculative.

  8. "His name is Randal"

    Soap, I know you love to argue, but I don't, so I'm just going to say, OK, So I was wrong. Don't you feel special now?

    And yes, when I qualify the remark by using the word, "may", which you conveniently left out of the sentence, "may not be entirely accurate", it is speculative. Thanks for stating the obvious.

    Unlike some people, I work for a living ( I work to live, I don't live to work). I don't have time to read voluminous volumes of Libertarian philosophy, but "Atlas Shrugs" is on my list of books to read.

    BTW, Ideologically, I lean more to Libertarianism than I do to Conservatism.

  9. Thanks for sharing the clip AOW. The comment which struck me the most was when she advised Donahue to "check his premises".

  10. For a fair and balanced presentation you might want to take in Charles Ferguson's "Inside Job". In theaters near you and one of the best documentaries in years.

  11. She writes about things that people are experiencing now? What?

    A transportation system based on railroads?

    A motor that can run on static electricity because the fringe right ha never studied the concept of entropy or the laws of thermodynamics?

    Just what is "true" in her undisciplined sci-fi "masterwork"

  12. Excerpt from a discussion in "The Guardian":

    [Ayn Rand's] books provided wide-ranging parables of "parasites," "looters" and "moochers" using the levers of government to steal the fruits of her heroes' labor. In the real world, however, Rand herself received Social Security payments and Medicare benefits under the name of Ann O'Connor (her husband was Frank O'Connor).

    As Michael Ford of Xavier University's Center for the Study of the American Dream wrote, "In the end, Miss Rand was a hypocrite but she could never be faulted for failing to act in her own self-interest."

  13. If you watch her interview with Mike Wallace Ducky you see that the things she spoke of during that interview as well as other essays she wrote illustrated much of the geo-political climate as well as the collusive relationship between corporations and government that exists today.

  14. One thing about posting something from Ayn Rand: there will be discussion. **smile**

  15. Such a 'deep thinker', I'm afraid I fall way too short to have much of a deep discussion on this. I do agree with much/most, but as one of your commenters said, I'm too lazy to dig too deep right now. Or just too tired right now.

    Right Truth

  16. Well soapy, what would you have us believe? That the unregulated market is going to act in our best interests?

    The only way you get that little piece of fiction to validate is to predefine the outcomes of market operations as necessarily optimal. That's the pure stinky cheese.

    No discussion of Ayn would be complete without mentioning the film adaptation of "The Fountainhead". Rand insisted on butting in and you wonder how King Vidor managed to make it sch an hilarious melodrama right under her nose. She didn't object to the rape scene. Anyway, a camp classic with some great performances, don't miss.

  17. wow, i just lost all my respect of ayn. seriously, having morals, caring for other, etc is bad? since when?! if the goverment is doing it, well duh, because they won't stop with that. but individually, a whole lot of people would be very bad off if it weren't for others helping them. if everyone was selfish, dand only cared about themselves, what would stop them from doing whatever they want, i.e. robbing, killing, etc others to gain their possessions?
    morals is what stop us from absolute evil, no morals and the world will be ruined in less than a week.
    man, i'm going to make a meal out of her book now. i wish she was still alive so i could give her a piece of my mind...

    one last thing for those that read 'capitalism' she keeps mentioning a moral code, yet NEVER defines one. humph

  18. I admire Rand's work and some of her ideas, but with her philosophy of absolute selfishness as the ideal, I can't really respect the lady too much, and I understand why she died with no friends.

    Dictatorships are built on altruism? No, dear they're built on greed for power, and-- I daresay-- selfishness.

  19. Duck,
    Years ago (40?), I read The Fountainhead but only recently saw the film of the same name.

    I believe that objectivism did "catch on" for a while in Hollywood with Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal advocating the individualism aspect.

  20. Wildstar,
    Ayn Rand is a bit of a conundrum to me.

    Were I you, I wouldn't lose ALL respect for her.

    Of course, when you give your report to the American Government class, you'll likely want to point out what you see as the flaws and inconsistencies in her views. In your report, you should be even-handed insofar as possible.

  21. Robbing and killing? Not in Ayn's utopia. Use of force is verboten and government is permitted for the purpose of civil order an busting the proles' heads now and again so they don't get any ideas.

    Just think, in Ayn's utopia a lot of you guys would be behind the ghetto walls facing the truncheons. The fallacy you all accept is that you will be among the wealthy in Ayn's dystopia.

    Keep dreaming.

  22. AOW, I especially enjoyed parts 4 and 5 of this interview. I don't quite understand why she placed such a value on selfishness and atheism, but I admire her for her willingness to be politically incorrect if she had to.

    Btw, Duck, who's that guy on your avatar? It looks like some mafioso.

  23. Duckys words fall like the Democratic Socialist Party candidates in the last election.

    She is probably a fine author but the fact is you dont need her words to belive in the power of Capitalism.

    Just look around you, there are more wealthy people in this nation than any where in the word. People like Ducky point to our poor as the failure of Capitalism but our live better than half the rest of the world.

    The other fact is that some of our poor deliberately choose to be poor. I know I have looked them in the face and talked to them. Have you?

    Our government is now bent on a course to quash free enterprise and private property rights. Is it any wonder that our economy is now going down the drain?

    You dont need a degree from Harvard Law to figure out to turn this around we need to go back to the founding principles of this nation.

    The alternative is chaos in the streets of our cities like we have been watching in Egpyt as people form armed "camps" and people search for food.

  24. Nice rant blogginator, including your incredibly thorough analysis of the rise in food prices. No mention of the inflation that's being generated by our monetary policy to save our financial system after the "free market" meltdown and failure?

    I don't think you are prepared to discuss it and neither will AOW's indoctrinated darlings after they finish reading Rand's crap.

  25. Duck,
    My indoctrinated darlings?

    Please stop.

    The post clearly states that ONE of my students is reading essays by Ayn Rand.

    Each student was to choose one work of outside reading for American Government and report on that reading: a written report to me and an oral report to the class.

    I do not assign the materials for outside reading.

    In fact, never before have any of my students read Ayn Rand for a report.

    And I will bring up the issue of market controls, specifically, if laissez faire really does work in the long term.

    You might also note that commenter Wildstar, who is reading Ayn Rand, isn't all that thrilled with some of what she has learned about Ayn Rand.

    In the interest of honesty, I will say that my students are, by and large, a conservative group. I do play devil's advocate from time to time, though -- my perverse side, I guess. And I do like a good discussion that's not all one way.

  26. Thanks for posting that. It'll be included in the Sunday link post.

  27. umm excuse but the rise in food prices has nothing to do with capitalism...it is the flawed policy of liberals practicing Keynesian economics thinking that a government can print money to get itself out of the debt...for those that study history the result is always the same ....inflation...the other lesser impacting force is again the short sighted liberal agenda of using corn to fueld cars never considering people use corn to eat....

  28. Blogginator is right on the money. And, in fact Ducky's really exposed his ignorance on the subject by suggesting a "rise" in food prices.

    If you truly understood even a sliver of the United State's monetary policy you'd know that there is no "rise" in food prices. Instead, what has happend is that your currency is and has been decreasing in value and thus it requires ever more of it to purchase a good or service whose actual price is largely unchanged.

  29. There is a rise in food prices on the horizon. Inflation is showing up at the pump mostly right now as a result of several factors but mostly because of the illegal ban on exploration, drilling and processing of oil by the Obama Regime.

    This does not mean I think you should buy gold. Silver would be a better investment as private ownership and use was banned during the Depression. They did it once they will do it again. Ignore folks like Ducky pick up a history book.

  30. "...mostly right now as a result of several factors but mostly because of the illegal ban on exploration, drilling and processing of oil by the Obama Regime."

    This is a facade. The oil companies have in fact themselves lobbied for tighter restrictions on drilling so that they may create an artificial bottleneck.

    It is too a facade when they state that "global demand is up". The facts show that the swings in supply/demand on oil are not as wide as they'd have you believe.

    Quantitative Easing has had a far greater affect and a much more expeditious one at that.

  31. I can not disagree as yes the politics of phoney money outweighs everything else....the private sector could create 200,000 jobs next month and still the deficit would grow because you can not tax people enough to cover the rate of spending coming out of Washington....

    I know you are right about the oil companies for we saw the same stuff happen in our autoindustry as Unions, CEOS, and government worked hard to keep the little guys out and inoovation under control...and the result...China now owns 18% of GM....excuse while I hurl


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