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Ayn Rand’s birthday

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“My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.”

Ayn Rand was unleashed on the world 99 years ago today, February 2, 1905. As a novelist and philosopher, the author of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged did more than any one other person in the last century to re-direct the basic philosophical discourse of mankind.

Her detractors ridicule her and throw invectives as at no other person in the history of letters. Socialists and altruists of all stripes hate her and her individualist philosophy like Dracula hates holy water. Consider it a sign of her power.

If you’re not familiar with Ms. Rand, your best bet would be to read The Fountainhead, then take a deep breath and delve into Atlas Shrugged. They’re like the Old Testament and the New Testament. I won’t say that they have all the answers to life’s problems, but she asks a lot of the right questions in ways that no one ever had before. Those who know will tell you that Atlas Shrugged is the most important book of the last century.

Besides any specific answers, I have found her framing of the basic questions of philosophy to be invaluable. In her presentation, there are five basic root philosophical issues:

1) Epistemology – How do we “know” things, and what does it mean when we say that we “know” something? This is the big wrap around question for everything else.

2) Metaphysics – Is there a god, and if so what is his nature?
3) Ethics – What is morality, right and wrong? By what standards of value should we live our lives?
4) Politics – What is government, where does it get it’s legitimacy, and what should it do? Ethics is about what we SHOULD do. Politics is about what we should HAVE to do.
5) Aesthetics – What is beauty? What is art? How do you understand and appreciate art?

She had- to put it mildly- firm opinions on these questions, but just framing the questions has been as important to me personally as any of her specific answers.

Happy birthday Ayn, and thank you. Enjoy Valhalla. You’ve earned it.

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  • Objectivism was a popular undergraduate ‘philosophy’ during the 1964
    Barry Goldwater campaign. Although most Right-wing libertarians no
    longer take Objectivism’s founder, novelist Ayn Rand, seriously, the
    presence of one-time Objectivist newsletter contributor Alan Greenspan
    in the upper echelons of American finance does prevent her doctrine of
    extreme laissez-faire from being relegated entirely to the dustbin of
    history. Quite the contrary, a current push is on to repopularize Rand
    in our ‘free market,’ merger-frenzied, stock-market-bubble, ideological

    Objectivism is a supremacy doctrine, based on the allegation that ‘the
    source of production is man’s mind’ (Brander & Brander, Who Is Ayn
    Rand?, Paperback Library 1964, p. 172), i.e. that since only ‘smart
    people’ (scientists, entrepreneurs and artists) invent the technological
    advancements and comforts enjoyed by civilization the ‘stupid people’
    (wage-workers) should be grateful to receive even the smallest downward
    trickles of such benevolence.

    Although it is a step up from Nietzsche’s somewhat cruder—but more
    literarily presented—doctrine (might is right), it is steeped in the
    common 19th century lore that workers should only be paid what they
    ‘would have’ produced had no brilliant minds invented anything (i.e. the
    entire industrial revolution apparatus).

    (Such distinctions, of course, are impossible to make—other than
    arbitrarily—because the industrial revolution irreversibly merged all
    relations of labor and technology.)

    The classic form of this idea (brains is might) was presented in the
    novel Atlas Shrugged. In it, all the inventors and business men decided
    that they were tired of taking crap from the wage-workers and
    ‘collectivist’ governments so they all went on strike. Needless to say,
    without all the great minds illuminating life for all the inferior
    ‘brute’ laborers, civilization collapsed somewhat in the manner
    anticipated by Charlie Manson (Bugliosi with Gentry, Helter Skelter: The
    True Story of the Manson Murders, Norton 1974, p. 246).

    Some problems with this assumption.

    Division of labor (since the Industrial Revolution) has made the
    production and circulation of goods contingent upon a vast,
    interconnected workforce predicated upon low- or no-skill laborers
    (assembly-line productivity) who are, predictably enough, paid ‘what
    they’re worth.’ Without these workers, however, even the most brilliant
    inventions cannot be produced (crafts-era productivity), distributed, or
    enjoyed by anyone. If everyone was brilliant, however, then no-one would
    be ‘qualified’ for low-skill repetitious work, an essential predicate of
    mass-production. Therefore, through the mechanism of supply and demand,
    quality education is put out of the reach of most people, thus providing
    a low-skill workforce as well as an ideological justification for paying
    them so little.

    Other tenets of Objectivist ‘theory’ assert the following points:

    1. People deserve what they get. Biological determinism. Lots of
    reference to basketball players.

    2. If a worker is unhappy with his or her job, then he or she should
    quit. If a consumer is unhappy with the conditions of a sale, then he or
    she should refuse to buy it (including food, etc.). All trade is
    voluntary, therefore equitable.

    3. Only individual self-interest motivates superior performance.
    (Businesses should forbid teamwork because it lowers the quality of
    individual achievement.)

    4. Collectivism is ‘altruism,’ not rationalization of resources social
    and material. (This, along with the assertion that the Nazis were
    ‘socialists,’ is the cornerstone of Rand’s criticism of Marxism.)(A
    characteristic misquote occurs in Branden & Branden’s Who Is Ayn Rand?
    [op cit., p. 20], where Trotsky is cited as revising the traditional
    communist principle ‘who not work shall not eat’ to ‘who does not obey
    shall not eat’; in actuality, this perversion is pointed out BY Trotsky
    who criticized Stalin FOR initiating it [The Revolution Betrayed,
    Doubleday, Dorin & co. 1937, p. 283].)

    5. Altruism ‘is the morality of cannibals devouring one another’ (Rand,
    ‘The Sanction of the Victims,’ The Voice of Reason: Essays in
    Objectivist Thought, New American Library 1988, p. 151). Rand was
    especially consistent in associating cooperative behavior with
    ‘primitive’ behavior, thus drawing out racist components of corollary
    supremacy beliefs. (See the ‘Witch doctor’ motif in For The New
    Intellectual, Signet, 1961, pp. 10-62.)

    6. Government intervention is simply a scheme for the ‘undeserving weak’
    members of society to seize the hard-earned rewards of those who work
    harder, have more ability, are superior, etc. (Logical conclusion: U.S.
    military presence in oil-rich lands therefore should be withdrawn; oil
    companies should incur the natural free-market expenses of providing
    their own militaries instead of forcing taxpayers to maintain operating
    costs of oil companies.) This premise infers that the ‘weak’ are running
    the country (ruling class).

    7. Government intervention should be limited to protecting private
    property (AFTER it has been violently wrested from the ‘inferior’ minds
    of Native Americans, Mexicans, etc. and then codified as ‘private
    property’ under ‘civil law,’ that is). This is a denial of dialectics
    (social and economic evolution), which qualifies Rand as an absolutist.

    8. ‘For woman qua woman, the essence of femininity is hero worship—the
    desire to look up to man’ (‘About a Woman President,’The Voice of
    Reason: Essays in Objectivist Thought, op. cit., p. 268).

    9. Capitalism is presently corrupted by mixed economies (i.e. government
    ‘safety nets’ that coddle the ‘undeserving weak’ and ‘stupid’), thus it
    is an ‘unknown ideal.’ The assumption is that COMPLETE deregulation will
    be best for everyone because free markets are the only way to insure
    that each individual has ‘choice’ (Greenspan, ‘The Assault on
    Integrity,’, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, op. cit., pp. 118-21). Such
    assumptions logically recommend the dismantling of Social Security,
    public education, product liability, Federal Deposit Insurance and child
    labor laws. Such assumptions are based on the belief that all social
    interactions can, and should, have a market value.

    10. If people aren’t happy with the reigning economic structure, they
    can either work harder (become ‘men of ability’) or leave the country
    (as the King George of England once suggested to Washington, Jefferson,
    Franklin, et al.).

    The popularity of Objectivism was—and remains—largely confined to
    universities and high schools in affluent areas. The reasons for this
    are to found in Rand’s tireless assertions that ‘[a] country without
    intellectuals is like a body without a head'(ibid., p. 12). Not only are
    such pronouncements flattering for students to hear but they are also
    plausible because (middle- and upper-class) students, living in the
    prosthetic environment of a campus, are not directly exposed to either
    the production process or even the circulation sphere of
    capitalism—and, therefore, have no way of knowing where, or how,
    surplus value originates.

    This is not to infer that Objectivism is characterized by rigorous
    thinking. Quite the opposite. Ayn Rand had a conspicuous habit of
    criticizing concepts she didn’t understand. Notable examples are her
    critiques of John Rawls’ Theory of Justice and B.F. Skinner’s Beyond
    Freedom and Dignity. In the case of the former, she actually admitted
    that she didn’t even bother to read one word of the book (Rand, ‘An
    Untitled Letter,’ Philosophy: Who Needs it, Signet 1984, p. 109). Both
    were critiques of book reviews of the books she critiqued (Rand, ‘An
    Untitled Letter,’ ibid., pp. 102-19; also, ‘The Stimulus and the
    Response,’ ibid., pp. 137-61)—not exactly a study habit encouraged on
    ANY American campus.

    The strength of Rand’s arguments come from the probability that her
    (young, conservative) audience is even less acquainted with the ideas
    that she first explains and then attacks.

    In short, Objectivism is a sort of cliff note intellectualism for people
    too busy, lazy, or stupid to actually be intellectuals. The
    contradiction of a supremacy theory predicated upon the ‘superiority of
    smart people’ that itself is characterized by and logical
    inconsistencies, emotional reductionism, poor scholarship and, as a last
    resort, suppression of dissent has, of course, delighted liberals and
    other left-wingers for decades. For ‘management’ class (or wannabe
    management-class) kids who subscribe to Objectivism (the ‘challenge to
    2,000-and-a-half years of cultural tradition’), it provides a
    simplistic, narcissistic justification to expropriate as much surplus
    value from workers as biologically possible and politically feasible.

  • Chris Wilson

    Well, sounds like Barry has got it all figured out. This took up WAY too much of my lunch break.

    Think I’ll go read about the Top-100 Metal Guitarists of all time…….

  • SKI

    Excellent synopsis.

  • Chris Wilson

    The synopsis was only fair and it rambles all over the damn place. It is abundantly clear Barry knows his Ayn Rand, but it strikes with the tact of a drunk lumberjack. The obsession alone causes me to seriously doubt his rather long-winded point.

    Rand was a brilliant intellectual, whose work will always be debated. But one must absolutely read both “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged,” if, for no other reason, than to be exposed to different ideas and beliefs. I do not consider that “lazy” or “stupid.”

  • duane

    Interesting critique, Barry. On your point 3:

    3. Only individual self-interest motivates superior performance. (Businesses should forbid teamwork because it lowers the quality of individual achievement.)

    isn’t it possible that individual self-interest can lead one to seek out collaborators and to engage in teamwork? Someone made an analogy with driving in heavy traffic. The problem is that drivers are supposedly selfish, cutting in and out of lanes, not allowing others to merge, etc. The counter is that if drivers truly were selfish — pursuing an action that was to their own benefit, in this case, getting somewhere in the least amount of time — they would cooperate with other drivers. That would increase the overall flow of traffic (fewer accidents, less gridlock, for example), thereby achieving the “selfish” goal of minimizing the drive time. Thus behavior that is superficially “altruistic” is actually “selfish.” Teamwork wins the day, but is ultimately selfish.

  • This is an essay I wrote and posted back in 1997. http://www.mcspotlight.org/cgi-bin/DR/message.pl/capitalism?mID=17918

    Chris says: ‘Rand was a brilliant intellectual.’ Yet her ‘reviews’ of Skinner and Rawls demonstrates she opined on literary efforts she failed to even read. Case closed on her ‘intellectual’ abilities there.

    Duane asks ‘isn’t it possible that individual self-interest can lead one to seek out collaborators and to engage in teamwork?’ I would say, in brief, that there are many forms of motivations in the world. Rand thought there was only one – $. I’d suggest a basic reading of Skinner and Rawls to point to other conceptions.

  • Chris Wilson


    Did Ayn Rand turn down a date with you or something? Everyone has dirt if obsessively investigated. Hell, even Dr. Martin Luther King plagiarized some of his work in college – but does that mean we should “close the case” on his ideas and beliefs even if they run counter to what you believe?

    We can argue until we are blue in the face about Rand’s beliefs, but for you to argue – and in a very long winded way I might add – that she is NOT an intellectual on the basis of a couple of mediocre criticisms, is sadly misguided and closed minded, to say the very least……

    Her work is fascinating, her talent extraordinary and her ideals extremely thought-provoking. I have read Mein Kampf and SCUM Manifesto. Now, I do not believe the political ideals trumpeted in either works, but they are thought-provoking never-the-less, detailing social attitudes and beliefs different from our own.

    Open your mind and stop grinding lumps of coal into diamonds….

  • Thanks for an excellent contribution, Barry. Al Barger continually posts Ayn Rand propaganda to the site. He is proud to claim her, and Mencken, as the only writers he has ever read. I appreciate the reminder she was equally fatuous.

    In short, Objectivism is a sort of cliff note intellectualism for people too busy, lazy, or stupid to actually be intellectuals.

    An excellent description of Barger, as well as Rand. One of my complaints about him is that he refuses to do even minimal research. Other people have noticed his laziness, too.

    I believe there are other aspects of Objectivism that deserve our attention:

    *It resembles the Christian doctrine of the elect. In the doctrine, those who are naturally deserving have been chosen by God. In Objectivisim, they have been chosen by nature. In both, the proof of superiority is the possession of material goods and power.

    *Intellectuals are rarely the most successful people in society. Many are actually wage slaves at universities and corporations who turn over their ideas and inventions in return for job security. The most successful people, if money and power equal success, are persons of inherited wealth who exercise control over the political process. (An example is the Bush dynasty.)

    *Many inventions are not brilliant. In fact, often the appeal of an item may simply be that people desire it, not that it serves any useful purpose. Inventiveness in a contemporary context may have more to do with producing better ways for people to use what we have than inventing new products. Incremental improvement of existing useful products seems to be the norm.

  • MD, I have nothing to say about Rand, but you’ve grossly misstated the Christian doctrine of predestination. The point of election is that it is not based in any way on whether or not the recipient is “naurally deserving.” In fact, none of the elect are “naturally deserving,” that’s somewhat the point.

    As a further clarification, the “proof of superiority” for the Christian elect are that they serve, not lead. That they humble themselves, not hold themselves to be superior. Your second error flows naturally from your first, since those who are “naturally deserving” would naturally be arrogant, while those who recognize their own unworthiness should spend their lives showing gratitude for their election.

    I realize this is a thread about Ayn Rand, but the misuse of a doctrine I’ve studied extensively caught my eye.

    Thanks for reading.

  • I am referring to the Calvinist version of the doctrine of the elect. Early American Protestants looked for evidence of election, i.e., being chosen by God for salvation regardless of behavior. They found that evidence in success. The reasoning is that if someone has been gifted with the fruits of society, God must favor that person. So, the economic theory of capitalism and the Darwinistic belief in survival of the most fit were merged with this theological justification. I am not saying the doctrine is explicit in American thinking. If polled, I doubt most Americans would recognize the phrase. But, it is an underpinning of much of what people believe.

  • MD, if you knew me better, you would not seek to educate me on Calvinism. I spend most days discussing the intricacies of Calvin’s Institutes with other Calvinists. I don’t mean to come off as arrogant here, but you’ve stumbled across one subject I happen to know extremely well.

    I assure you that your understanding of Calvin’s doctrine of the elect is way off. It reminds me of Crichton’s take on chaos theory in the way it touches on some of the same points, and uses some of the same words, but comes at things so completely backwards that nobody who actually understands the theory would recognize it.

    Similarly, election is not identified by success, and early American protestants did not tie the two together. Many of them, in fact, believed that the suffering they went through during harsh New England winters was as much evidence of their election as anything else. You’re clearly confusing different periods of American history, and still missing the point of the doctrine.

    During the civil war, for example, the Presbyterian belief in election was extremely popular, but it still was not identified by success. Jackson is one popular example of a man who found great comfort in believing that he was saved by God, and further that the very moment and means of his death was fixed. But he did not believe that would ultimately lead to military success, since he recognized that their were Calvinists on both sides of the battle. He believed only that God’s will would be done, and that he didn’t have to worry about dying because there was nothing he could do to change things one way or the other.

    The favor of God is not election, and election is not the sole result of the favor of God.

    Though there is a popular unacknowledged belief among Americans that success is a sign of God’s favor, this is not the result of the doctrine of election. In fact, the most vocal proponents of the idea that success is a measure of God’s favor are strictly Arminian, rejecting Calvin’s formulations outright.

    I could spend a lot of time explaining why I believe this is so, and how it naturally follows, but I suspect you’ll want to stick to a subject about which you know something, and Rand is the subject of this post.

  • Okay. I now have additional information.

    I still wonder why so many people ascribe almost holy status to the wealthy, though. I’ve never understood that. Considering that many rich people inherit their wealth, it is not as if they are actually observed doing anything outstanding.

  • dan

    I have only read Anthem, a small fry compared to the rest of her books, but I practically swallowed it whole. I have been meaning to read Atlas Shrugged and Fountainhead, and I appreciate the reminder.

  • i useta have a copy of The Fountainhead in college…it was propping up the back corner of my couch.

    no, wait..maybe it was a maxwell house coffee can.

    i could be mistaken.

  • How does a crazy old lady who has inspired several generations of pretentious little pricks amount to a major direction in philosophy? Really, please ‘splain.

    Because it’s all bullshit. No matter how much you argue, it’s all bullshit.

    Rationalisation by pretentious losers.

  • Oh jeez, I just realized, when is L. Ron Hubbard’s birthday? That’s when the mysterious Barger is going to strike with his nonsense again!

    Alert Chief Gordon! Send up the bat-signal. We can prevent bullshit while there is still time!

  • I get the feeling Barger (currently busy posting racy titles to attract visitors to his blog) is just looking for rationalization of his own views. Rand made self-centeredness into something to celebrate within her little cult. That appeals to Barger like catnip to a toothless tiger.

  • The best guide to the “thoughts” of Rand are in Matt Ruff’s “Sewer, Gas & Electic” which is a pastiche of one of that old bat’s books. In Ruff’s book, Rand is a genie in a gas lamp, and she just gives stupid, useless advice.

    Silly old fool.

  • Stoller at least makes an attempt at an argument, but look at what kind of nonsense he’s offering. For starters, comparing Rand to Charlie Manson is dumber than a sack of rocks. Rand is the apostle of business and achievement, Manson the evilest imaginable incarnation of a dirty hippy. Rand had an apocalyptic type theme in one of her novels, therefore… That’s just silly- yet he’s citing Bugliosi’s book- complete with page reference, like part of a bibliography.

    Accusing her of “drawing out racist components” of other belief systems may be even more ludicrous. Rand may be the foremost EVER philosophical proponent of individualism. You just cannot legitimately get even a HINT of racism or tribalism from her thinking. You might as well accuse MLK of being in cahoots with the KKK. It wouldn’t be any stupider.

    Obviously, Mr. Stoller feels indicted in some way by Rand’s words. The desperate, hysterical dishonesty of his attacks strikes me as comic at some point. To put it nicely, I find it difficult to believe that anyone could read Rand and honestly come up with anything vaguely like what he’s describing.

    Does Carruthers think that simply hurling a couple of curse words at a distinguished philosopher somehow constitutes a refutation?

    I do not take Rand as gospel- though admittedly she does sort of invite such adulation. Some of her ideas are GOLD, some less valuable to me. There are certainly significant legitimate arguments to make against some of her ideas, though.

    However, it’s going to take someone besides Diva. Beyond anything else, she doesn’t seem capable of understanding. She doesn’t seem to comprehend, for example, that there are significant differences between libertarian thought (dominant in my mind) versus conservative thought.

    Hell, she can’t seem to grasp the profound difference between thoroughly atheistic Objectivism versus Calvinism.

  • Someone needs to tell the far, far Right that ‘libertarianism,’ which much of it has embraced, is anathema to extreme conservatism. Not long ago we had a newfound pal of Barger’s, Dan Precht, demonstrate my point by coming to Blogcritics and expressing views that were about the freedom of individuals alright, at the expense of other individuals. My favorite of his inane comments was his assertion that Rosa Parks deserved to be beaten by thugs for her role in the civil rights movement. I believe it tells us a lot about the kind of persons running for office as libertarians. They often farther Right than their Republican opponents. And, they see nothing wrong with whupping on little ole ladies.

    I’ve since revisited the issue of the relationship between libertarianism and the neo-Confederate movement at Silver Rights.

    There is a significant overlap between people who are neo-Confederates and those who consider themselves libertarians. Indeed, the relationship is such that some ‘libertarian’ think tanks, such as the Ludwig von Mises Institute and Lew Rockwell’s have become neo-Confederate bastions. The basic argument of proponents of this viewpoint is that the current government is too intrusive. That’s typically libertarian. But, the next step pushes the envelope. Not only is the government too intrusive, according to neo-Confederate libertarians, it needs to be overthrown. Alternatively, some states, usually described as being in the Southern United States, should secede. After the secession, they should create a society similar to that of the pre-Civil War South, which was an ideal republic, they say. Among the persons who hold those beliefs dear is neo-Confederate/libertarian spokesman Clyde Wilson.

    You can read more about the relationship right here at Blogcritics. The far, far Right is using the rhetoric of ‘individual rights’ much the same way it has used ‘state’ rights,’ as a pretext for depriving other people of their rights. The telling thing is that much of the use of the libertarian label is coming from them. My former blogrollee Julian Sanchez insists there is a more defensible form of libertarianism. He may be right, but it is this reactionary version that is growing.

  • She doesn’t seem to comprehend, for example, that there are significant differences between libertarian thought (dominant in my mind) versus conservative thought.

    maybe we could use an al barger post on exactly what you think this difference is. i’m certain that there is one, but it’s sometimes tough to figure it out when your commentary is sprinkled with stuff like stupid liberal, commie, pinko, etc.

    and i’m not arguing that you should tone down all bargerisms…man, if you start sounding like flanagan i’m gonna go out and whack my head on the driveway.

  • I stated using the term “Anarcho-Fascist” to describe certain right-wingers who describe themselves as libertarians. When you boil fascism and self-centred libertarianism down to their basest elements, you do find a lot of overlap, such as:

    * Worship of raw power
    * Contempt for the ‘weak’
    * Fetishisation of violence

  • Eric Olsen

    While thoroughly eschewing * Worship of raw power
    * Contempt for the ‘weak’
    * Fetishisation of violence, I believe Rand’s central thesis of “enlightened individualism” is absolutely at the core of a) the good life, b) successful capitalism, c) successful democracy.

    Take care of you and yours first – while always keeping an eye on the big picture and being mindful that you are part of the big picture – without being selfish or greedy, and everything else will fall into place.

    A difficult balance? Sure, but who said it’s supposed to be easy?

  • “Anarcho-Fascism” doesn’t come from Rand’s own writings, but from the internet screeds and rants by some of those who claim to be her followers.

    They don’t seem to be interested in any kind balance between personal well-being and the bigger picture. They certainly *don’t* believe in democracy; that isn’t compatible with their vision of an intellectual elite lording it over the servile and impoverished masses – one of their favourite slogans is “Democracy is a sheep and two wolves voting on what to have for dinner”.

  • Diva, I do try SO hard to be understanding, and to have a sense of humor about your foolishness, but then you go back to just directly making up malicious lies, such as these comments about nice ol’ Dan Precht, and by extension all libertarians: his assertion that Rosa Parks deserved to be beaten by thugs for her role in the civil rights movement. I believe it tells us a lot about the kind of persons running for office as libertarians. They often farther Right than their Republican opponents. And, they see nothing wrong with whupping on little ole ladies.

    NO libertarian believes or would say anything even vaguely like that. You goddam know better than that nonsense when you say it. It’s why you have no credibility with anyone, nor really any friends- though Rand knows I try.

    Again, Dan noted that Rosa Parks had been assaulted. His point was not to say that this was good or acceptable, but more as an example to point out that criminality in the black community is a much bigger problem for black folks than anything whitey is doing to them.

    What exactly do you think you are accomplishing by your continuing lying foolishness?

  • Hey Al, I never used any curse words. If I did use a curse, you’d have rectal warts (of course, if you already have rectal warts, well, my wishes can take some credit). I said Bullshit, which like light is a great disinfectant.

    Randism and other forms of so-called libertarianism are just the justifications for social cancer. You mistake short term ends for progress, you make bad neighbours and you are a blight on public discourse. And you get all shirty when somebody calls Bullshit on your slash and burn philosophy.

    If it looks and smells like bullshit, then it probably is bullshit.

    At least we can be thankful you are not an acolyte of Camille Paglia.

  • Stop lying, Barger. Precht’s remark is available for all to see on that thread. He said Ms. Parks may have deserved to be assaulted after expressing opposition to the civil rights movement.

    Apparantly, Rosa, deservedly or not, has already recieved the “bitch slap”. The following from a “Shatter the Glass Ceiling” biogrophy:

    “On August 30, 1994, the nation – and especially Detroit – was stunned to learn that the 81-year-old Parks had been assaulted in her home. Joseph Skipper, a young, unemployed African American, broke into Parks’s home, hit her repeatedly, and stole $53 from her.”

    (Suffice it to say that spelling isn’t the man’s strong point, either.)

    Why the contempt for Ms. Parks, which Precht also expressed by referring to the elderly woman as ‘Rosa’? According to Precht, millions of African-Americans should have abandoned their homes to move North instead of fighting to change a vicious system. Some people pointed out that de facto segregation was almost as bad a problem as de Jure segregation. However, the point flew right over Precht’s rather empty head. It is this kind of dunderheadedness that causes reasonable people to be skeptical of the ‘libertarian’ label.

    Precht has run for the Senate as a libertarian candidate.

    Good description, Tim Hall. Most libertarians seem to be interested in the rights of exactly one individual — themselves.

  • I am always amazed by the reaction people have to Ayn Rand. Polarizing would be to weak a word.

    Here’s how I take Rand — good to read between the ages of 18-25, exposes you to an extreme reaction to the totaltarian regime from which she escaped. Teaches valuable lessons about the limits of collectivism and individualism.

    Should not be re-read past the age of 25, or therebouts, as will probably induce a case of “Man, I used to think this was good.”

    Her essays are much more readable and interesting later in life than the novels she wrote.

    The one thing I always liked though was her description of smoking a cigarette from Atlas Shrugged: (paraphrasing) Man had advanced so far as to be able to hold fire between his fingertips and not be burned.

  • And of course it gives you cancer (I’m talking about smoking, Al) just like her ideology gives society cancer. Instead of looking at the writings of ideologues, why don’t we look at their lives? Ayn Rand, crazy old lady who used a cult of personality to punish people or justify really unsocial behavior — well actually justification for being an utter asshole.

  • Notice Diva that even the words you’re quoting in comment #27 don’t support the claim you are making in that comment, which in itself is quite different and watered down from the original claim you made in #20.

    Do you think that simply a strongly worded accusation from you does or should persuade anyone that your statement is correct? They are so often so far from any connection with objective reality on the ground as to reduce any sentient being to laughter.

    For some reasons of personal pathology that I do not claim to understand, you seem to think that you saying that night is day makes it so. I assure you that it does not.

    And yet again, every possible topic under the sun comes back to your personal racial hangups. Again, anyone who does not totally share your racial pathology is a RACISTNEOCONFEDERATESLAVER and blah, blah, blah.

    You need some new material.

  • It is obvious to smarter people, stupid. Why is the phrase “deservedly or not” there in regard to Ms. Parks being assaulted? There is no way she could deserve it. And, that remark is of a piece with Precht’s others. He unwittingly flaunted his bigotry for all to see.

    However, my criticism of libertarians is not limited to racism. Their entire outlook on what it means to be a citizen in a free society is warped.

  • Please, everybody, try to restrain the personal insults and name-calling. It is generally unbecoming and unconvincing.


  • Mike Holt

    I’ll try to defend Ayn Rand’s review of Skinner here even though I haven’t read it in a while. Though Ayn Rand wasn’t a scholar or an academic, she was an intellectual. She was someone who was very intelligent and who thought for a living.

    She considered it reasonible to use the review of Skinner’s work instead of actually reading it herself. Why? Because she had better things to do than read “Beyond Freedom and Dignity.” She assumed that the reviewer, who had read the book and who’s job it was to offer an accurate analysis of it, had given her an honest portrayal of the intellectual content of the book. This is called “specialization” in economic terms and seems to me to be a reasonable assumption to make if one is too busy to do the reading. Also, it seems to me that philosophers (and other academics) purposely make their writings unweildly, difficult to read and understand in order to obfuscate their true meaning or lack thereof. Do I really need to read Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason” to understand it’s meaning when thousands of people have read and written about it before me? No.

    As an engineer I encounter this all the time with math people. I frequently use formulas that I wouldn’t be able to prove. That’s what math people are for. Does this make me less of an intellectual? No, because by the same token, they couldn’t do what I do.

    Ayn Rand was primarily a novelist and secondarily a philosopher. Just because she didn’t live up to the academic’s standard of “rigor”, nor behave the way you think she should have is of no relevance to the content of her ideas.

    She was a “pratical” philosopher. If she had written in the manner of Skinner or Kant we wouldn’t be having this discussion because few of us would have been able to read her. It’s difficult enough to get through “Atlas Shrugged” without it being written for a purely academic audience.

  • I would forgive Barger many things, but this, the third track on his album, the so-called “killer power ballad” just sucks and blows. Big floppy donkey cocks, that bad. Night Ranger bad.

  • hah HA, I just realized people googling for “al barger” “ayn rand” and “big floppy donkey cocks” will likely land here. And so far, they would be right.

  • Jim, I echo your opinion in less colorful language.

    Barger, during the last two months, has been particularly unpleasant. At first I credited his behavior, which suggests depression, with the holiday season. Many people become blue during that time. I cut him a lot of slack. But, the holidays are over. It is time for Barger to go to a doctor and find out why he is so dyspeptic.

    One thing Barger could do is to save himself from continual debunking, is do some research. Having read Rand and Mencken is not sufficient support for most discussions, if any.

  • “less colorful language”

    why, why, why, you — racist! What have you got against people who use language of colour?

    And it’s spelled “colourful”

    Al needs all the support he can get, being challenged and all. If he wants to be a dumb-ass with no taste, we should do all we can to support him. I know he is probably crying right now, snuggling up to his K-Tel “Superhitz of the Eighties” tape. And _you_ made him cry. So you should feel sorry.

    I don’t feel sorry because, well, I’m a mean bastard.

  • Shawn

    Libertarians do not ever advocate assualt. Libertarians do not worhip power or violence. Quite the opposite. Libertatrians advocate a system in which no person wields power over any other, or ever intites force against another.

    Libertarians believe that the initiation of force or fraud by one person or group against any other person or group is always morally wrong.

    That all adult interaction should be voluntary.

    That individuals are the rightful owners of their own lives and therefore have inherent freedoms and responsibilities.

    That the proper purpose of government is to protect such freedoms but not to assume such responsibilities.

    Libertarians stand for individual freedom and choice,personal responsibility, and the protection of the life, liberty and property of each and every citizen.

    Libertarians support:
    Constitutionaly limited government.
    The rule of law.
    The primacy of property rights over the authority of the state.
    Individual freedom.
    A free and open society.
    An open immigration system that welcomes all regardless of race.
    A free market economy.

    A libertarian is a person who believes in the non-inititation of force principle, and that all adult interaction should be voluntary. Thats it. Anyone who accepts those principles is a libertarian. Anyone who does not, is not a libertarian, whether they call themselves one or not.

    Any person who advocates that Rosa Parks deserved to be assualted because of her role in the civl rights movement is not a libertarian. To attack libertariansim because of the silly remarks of one person is intellectual dishonesty as much as calling yourself one and then advocating assualt.

    A libertarian cannot be racist and also be a consistent libertarian. Libertarians advocate individual freedom and equality under the law. Libertarians believe that all people should be free and have exactly the same rights regardless of race.

    Because libertarianism is the philosphy of individual liberty, no true libertarian could advocate slavery. The Confederates were not libertarians. As both a libertarian and a southerner, I would have fought on the side of the Union in order to uphold the libertarian principle of freedom for all.

    The LewRockwell web site is not a libertarian web site, it is an Anarchist web site that advocates a stateless society. Libertarians only advocate limited government.

    I am all in favour of rational critiques of libertarian ideas, but in none of the above posts do I see one. Instead what I see are people holding up caricatures, distortions and ourtright falshoods as “libertarianism” and then attacking those. This is a shallow, cowardly, and decietful way to engage in debate.

    To paraphrase one of the best libertarian magazines in the world:

    “Libertarians uphold each individual’s sovereignty over his own life — i.e., his right to sustain his life and pursue his happiness as he chooses. We maintain that he possesses this right not by permission from God, society or the government, but by virtue of his nature as a self-aware, thinking, choosing being. Therefore, we advocate the elimination of compulsion and force from human affairs. We promote the belief that all adult interaction, in all spheres of life, should be voluntary. We defend the free market, not just in the realm of commerce, but universally. We are neither left wing nor right wing. We are as opposed to the censoring of personal, intellectual, cultural and moral values, traditionally favoured by the right, as we are to the regulation of economic activity extolled by the left. We believe that the only act which may properly be banned in a free society is the initiation of force or fraud by one party against another; that the only laws which may properly be imposed are those which ban the use of force or fraud — e.g., laws against assault, murder, rape or theft; and that the sole legitimate function of government is to define and enforce such laws, and to protect and defend the life, liberty and property of each and every citizen.”


  • Shawn,

    The trouble with Libertarianism is that many of us non-libertarians tend to judge it by the words and actions of those that claim to be Libertarians. For instance, a certain Blogcritic who’s name I won’t mention claims to be a Libertarian, but comes over in many of his political posts as more of a fascist.

  • Shawn- Please elucidate on this claim: “comes over in many of his political posts as more of a fascist.”

    It seems that basically anyone who doesn’t eagerly grant the basic premises of socialism and the welfare state is a “fascist” according to some people here. The exact opposite would actually be closer. This is because in fact socialism and fascism are pretty closely related theoretically and obviously in practice.

    And Shawn, don’t be roped in by Diva’s continuing malicious dishonesty- NO ONE here even hinted at sympathy for abusing Ms Parks. That’s more of her typical lying. Black thugs in her own neighborhood abused her, and then Diva blames the white guy from Indiana for noticing that it was black folks rather than the Klan that hurt her.

  • BB

    “It resembles the Christian doctrine of the elect. In the doctrine, those who are naturally deserving have been chosen by God. In Objectivisim, they have been chosen by nature. In both, the proof of superiority is the possession of material goods and power.”

    To echo Phillip’s treatise – really MD, your misguided attempt at Christian doctrine is absurd. Please read (and understand) your bible before deciding to preach – ’nuff said. Sorry for digressing from the topic folks.

  • Roland

    I finished Michael Shermer’s “Why People Believe Weird Things” recently. To my surprise, one of the chapters in his book was devoted to objectivists and their philosophy. Shermer’s contention is that to be an objectivist one has to uncritically accept Rand’s version of reality, under penalty of some sort of excommunication from the group.

  • christina


    Try reading Ayn Rand’s works again. You have clearly misunderstood.

    Here’s a hint:
    Everyone is potentially “smart people” – it’s your choice…

  • Ayn Rand is truly coming into her own, if she can provoke such an apoplectic intellectual mess of a denunciation as that posted by Barry Stoller.

    Folks, we are experiencing the first death-throes of the pre-Randian intellectual era. I for one am enjoying it.

    The way is clear for a renaissance of man’s mind. R.I.P., Ayn Rand.

  • Rodney, you can see how Mr Stoller was thrashing about desperately for a way to discredit her, and you can see how empty he was coming up. No one takes Ayn Rand seriously nowadays.

    Really? Then why are we all still talking about her near 50 years after Atlas, and why does her work continue raising hackles so effectively?

  • Mohjho

    Kant was right. nuff said.

  • Abraham Lincoln

    Al Burger is an intellectual pygmy!

  • Abraham Lincoln

    Al Barger is fine. I meant to say that Barry Stooger is an intellectual pygmy. He is uneducated and is a genuine derelict!