The Pathos of Politics (67) Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand

Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage’s whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men. ~ Ayn Rand

Russian-born American novelist and dime-store philosopher Ayn Rand (1905–1982) was a consummate materialist. She idealized reason. It is worth reminding the reason is a train of thought that pleases its conductor, not by any means headed toward truth, or even on the rails of rationality with regard to actuality.

Reason is man’s only means of grasping reality and of acquiring knowledge. Rationality is man’s basic virtue, the source of all his other virtues. ~ Ayn Rand

Rand rejected the notion that society was anything more than a population of individuals who should be self-serving. Rand went so far as to express contempt for compassion: a fascist sentiment.

If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject. ~ Ayn Rand

Rand was opposed to anything that encumbered individualism. To Rand, pursuit of self-interest was a moral right.

The idea that “the public interest” supersedes private interests and rights can have but one meaning: that the interests and rights of some individuals take precedence over the interests and rights of others. ~ Ayn Rand

As an economic materialist, the bedrock right was private property.

No human rights can exist without property rights. ~ Ayn Rand

To Rand, nothing mattered more than material gain.

Money is the barometer of a society’s virtue. ~ Ayn Rand

Rand saw unfettered capitalism as the only rational social organization.

Capitalism is the only system where such men are free to function and where progress is accompanied, not by forced privations, but by a constant rise in the general level of prosperity, of consumption and of enjoyment of life. ~ Ayn Rand

An anarchist at heart, government was anathema to Rand, as it represented a threat to prosperity.

Government “help” to business is just as disastrous as government persecution. The only way a government can be of service to national prosperity is by keeping its hands off. ~ Ayn Rand

An urban creature, Rand had no respect for Nature, nor any apparent knowledge of environmental ecology.

Even if smog were a risk to human life, we must remember that life in Nature, without technology, is wholesale death. ~ Ayn Rand

Rand was frustrated by her failure to win respect from academic philosophers, most of whom dismissed her work outright if they were aware of it. She attributed this neglect to incompetence and collectivist bias.

Rand did not help herself achieve her goal of scholarly acceptance by her idiosyncratic interpretation of history, her proclivity to broad ad hominin attacks, and her general unwillingness to brook disagreement.

A passionate hater of religion, Rand founded a cult around her own person, complete with rituals of excommunication; a passionate believer in rationality and logic, she was incapable of seeing the contradictions in her own work. She was a rationalist who was not entirely rational; she could not distinguish between rationalism and rationality. Of narrow aesthetic sympathies, she laid down the law in matters of artistic judgment like a panjandrum; a believer in honesty, she was adept at self-deception and special pleading. I have rarely read a biography of a writer I should have cared so little to meet. ~ English psychiatrist Anthony Daniels

Rand was dismissed in her lifetime by scholars, and even fellow conservatives, as cantankerous and ill-informed. In recent decades, Rand’s ideas have garnered admiration from libertarian and anti-government right-wingers in the United States. Her rabid materialism is popular in India. Rand’s primal racist misanthropy also appeals to some of these people.

Native Americans didn’t have any rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights which they had not conceived and were not using. What was it that they were fighting for, when they opposed white men on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence, their ‘right’ to keep part of the Earth untouched, unused and not even as property, but just keep everybody out so that you will live practically like an animal, or a few caves above it. Any white person who brings the element of civilization has the right to take over this continent. ~ Ayn Rand