The Problem With Ayn Rand

In a previous post I wrote that I’m a capitalist. And many capitalists worship Ayn Rand, though others are put off by the contradiction of self-declared individualists enthralled to a charismatic leader.

I’ve been reading Atlas Shrugged, Rand’s novel about entrepreneurs being driven underground because the government, in trying to micromanage the economy, has destroyed any incentive for innovation and thus destroyed the economy.

Rand makes many excellent points about economics. But it seems that everything in the book is seen as a business transaction. When executives Dagny Taggart and Hank Reardon have an affair, Reardon is clear with Taggart that he doesn’t care a bit about her and he’s pursuing the affair out of self-interest. Which makes Taggart swoon. I nominate Rand for the worst romance writer ever.

Rand strikes me as an emotionally stunted individual. She wasn’t just an advocate of self-interest, but a full blown narcissist.

I agree with her that we should pursue our self-interests. In fact, I think this is exactly what everyone does, whether they want to admit it or not. Those who claim to act altruistically are just being passive-aggressive while pursuing their self-interest, which in the end is far more destructive.

Self-interest is only a problem when we devalue others, violate their rights, and start thinking we’re superior to others. And that’s a key distinction: pursuing one’s self-interest does not require alleging superiority. That is, we can pursue our self-interests without being narcissists. But contained in Rand’s advocacy of self-interest is an implied advocacy of narcissism.

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5 thoughts on “The Problem With Ayn Rand

  1. I have never found Ayn Rand to be particularly compelling. I think the message that resonates with many is the image of the super-hero that battles the system: Iron Man vs. The Government. I found her characters to be flat, transparent, ghost-like without full human colour, richness or depth. The one value that she brought to the table was the promotion of the value of adults as self-sufficient. It’s easy to be self-sufficient when one has the mind of a John Galt, or a Reardon, genius without the human, daily constraints of limited mental, and physical human energy and limited funds, as can only be found in a narrative. Her books, despite a positive message remains fantasy fiction.

    Harrumph.

    1. Yeah, it wasn’t like she’d payed for them by paying thousands of dollars in taxes… No, she just should have accepted being exploited.

  2. “She wasn’t just an advocate of self-interest, but a full blown narcissist.”

    Well put! Rand just screams narcissism.

    “I agree with her that we should pursue our self-interests….”

    What gets kind of interesting, our self interests often involve quite a bit of altruism. What makes you happy, often involves making others happy, providing them with a service or a product, or employment or teaching somebody something. When people actually embrace their own self interest, others tend to want to align themselves with you, to seek you out.

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