I’m sure it comes as a surprise to no one that I’m drawn to the Objectivist philosophy of Ayn Rand. Last week, Johann Hari posted what claimed to be a review of two biographies of Ayn Rand at Slate.com. Not surprisingly, though, it was turned into an ill-informed (or ill-presented) slam against Objectivism and the like.
Reading through the article, it was clear that Hari either was completely confused about the basis for Objectivism or simply buys into the collectivist bent of modern Liberal thought that needs to push down any sort of outright individualist philosophy. It is also very clear that Hari is unable to divorce the philosophy from the philosopher, feeling a need to point out every fault of Rand as an indictment of Objectivism.
In his discussion of Atlas Shrugged, Hari makes the comment of “Her heroes are a cocktail of extreme self-love and extreme self-pity: They insist they need no one, yet they spend all their time fuming that the masses don’t bow down before their manifest superiority.” If Hari actually read the book and got this out of it, then he needs to go back and re-read it. There is no claim the masses should be bowing down to the protagonists. Instead, there is the claim that those who are attempting to use them, either through force or fraud (looters or moochers), should stop doing so and actually offer something in trade rather than expecting it to be given to them or just taking it by force.
Hari goes on to make the inference that Rand was endorsing only the rich should be in control, when that was never said or intended. The intention was that only those who are actual producers should have control. Those who contribute nothing themselves, only taking from others, should have no say. Otherwise, you end up with what we have in the current day and age where earmarks are voted in Congress to redistribute wealth from those who have actually earned it to those who have done nothing to earn it.
Yes, Ayn Rand had her failings as a person. To be honest, the character she most resembles from her books isn’t Dagny Taggart or Dominique Francon, but rather Gail Wynard. She fostered a cult of personality around her for her own personal power and ego stroking, leaving the path she laid down in her writing.
I will, however, fully admit that Rand contributed somewhat to this viewpoint of her work in her statements of having lived out her philosophies every day of her life. This leads people who are looking for something to attack to view anything she wrote through that filter rather than on the merits of the philosophy itself.
I understand that not everyone agrees with Rand and there are many people who actively dislike her. I’m more than willing to talk on Objectivism on the basis of what is actually written, removing the filter of Rand’s less than ideal personal adherence to it. Putting out an obviously slanted attack piece under the guise of a book review? Not so appropriate.