Print Story Our dauther isn't a selfish brat; your son just hasn't read Atlas Shrugged
By gzt (Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 12:45:51 PM EST) gzt, palin, ayn rand sucks (all tags)
A brilliant article from McSweeney's:

I severely dislike Ayn Rand. I can't believe people think her philosophy is even vaguely acceptable or that her novels are even vaguely readable.

POLL: When do you have a reaction of disdain or horror when you see what somebody is reading on the bus?

Is it wrong for me to categorically dismiss libertarianism and Randroids? To utterly despise every single word that woman has written? I've only managed to finish Anthem, and that only because it was about 100 pages. I see no reason to read anything else of hers, as every page is as bad as any page of Anthem - which was terrible. It is trash literature and trash philosophy. Libertarianism is all well and good in theory, but it simply doesn't work. Atheism, "reason", whatever, have at it, but "Objectivism" and "self-interest" (as she defines it) are just bad philosophy and bad for living with other people (much like Radical Honesty, see this mildly interesting piece on that: )

I ordered a printer yesterday afternoon. We're printing off enough stuff that we should do it at home and a laser printer will be used often enough that it won't gum up. Got an "open box" printer for cheaps. does not put up enough articles each day.

I started Byatt's The Virgin in the Garden. I had put it off because teh wife had said I really need to read Possession, but we do not have Possession and we do not have any other books I want to read at the moment, so I'm reading The Virgin in the Garden, dammit.

Gore Vidal talking about why Ayn Rand sucks: And also why some newspaper literary critic sucks, but nobody knows who that guy is anymore. does have a point in this cartoon and only in this cartoon: Whenever I see somebody reading Rand on the bus, I have an instinctive reaction of disdain or horror. Probably not as big of a reaction as my reaction to a Palin book.

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Our dauther isn't a selfish brat; your son just hasn't read Atlas Shrugged | 40 comments (40 topical, 0 hidden)
I think Esquire is blocked by georgeha (2.00 / 0) #1 Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 12:56:37 PM EST
I know I tried to access an Esquire-like magazine from that list of Top 100 magazine articles that the  extremely aggressive cyclist talks about and was blocked, and the access attempt was logged and put into my permanent record.

But yeah, Rand, I just mentioned her in my diary. Maybe it was too many waiter cum web designers or SA on Slashdot in the dotcom era throwing their Galt attitudes around, but cringe!

yes and no by R343L (4.00 / 1) #2 Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 01:54:48 PM EST
As someone who was formerly obsessed with Rand (then met some left-wing anarchists and somehow relearned to think), I have to note that she is very appealling to a certain personality type. Someone (teenagers are especially susceptible) who thinks everything is figure-out-able, rational, etc. wants a philosophy that's neat and has simple rules -- after all if everything is "rational" then surely moral rules should be pretty algorithmic, no? That this philosophy means you don't have to do things you might not want to do anyway (e.g. help others -- teenagers are often selfish louts) just makes it easier.

As literature, her stuff (esp The Fountainhead) is honestly no worse (and probably better) than 90% of the trash fantasy or scifi that's published every year ... and people read that stuff in droves. The only reason Rand is criticized so much for her literature is because she very publicly claimed hers was so great. Honestly, I think most authors would think they are the bees knees, but she had more of a podium

Anyway, this is really just the short-short version to basically say: a lot of people have found her interesting and there is surely a reason. Yes, I no longer find her appealling (I'm actually appalled I ever did) but in some ways I don't think I would be as flexible (accepting that different viewpoints result in conflicting beliefs) as I am now if I hadn't. Though I do still look fondly at fighting The Man in high school when for some reason it was okay for the Christian groups to put up posters for Christian events, but I couldn't put up signs advertising "Objectivist" meetings.

So, I don't think you're wrong to ignore "Randroids" necessarily, but you should know that not all of them stay that way. And good, honest, non-threatening philosphical discussion (mine happened over beers and pizza in the libertarian students association) opens minds. Like with any tightly held belief system, dismissiveness, insults, etc. just makes a person hold tighter.

"There will be time, there will be time / To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet." -- Eliot

that's some tough stuff by gzt (2.00 / 0) #5 Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 02:32:27 PM EST
they let us put up our "little socialists club" posters and we were in the middle of $CORN_STATE. i hate how inconsistent and petty high school administrations can be. then again, a friend of mine was trying to form an atheist club and, IIRC, was treated dismissively by the administration (I may not recall correctly). the GLBTQ club, however, did quite well for themselves, though I found them a bit annoying at times.

Yes, you're right, a lot of them don't stay that way and perhaps end up better for having gone through that experience. Further, a lot of them are quite nice and open to reasonable discussion over beers and such, so it's not a good idea to dismiss them or insult them. Well, whatevs.

[ Parent ]
I think if by MillMan (4.00 / 0) #8 Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 03:29:54 PM EST
you don't see yourself as a social creature who lives within a community, her appeal is obvious.

I don't think seeing yourself as a social creature is an automatically intuitive conclusion for all humans to make, and the modern (first) world makes the opposite conclusion pretty easy to buy into. Some of her haters feel otherwise, I think.

"Just as there are no atheists in foxholes, there are no libertarians in financial crises." -Krugman

[ Parent ]
conclusions and perspectives by aphrael (2.00 / 0) #10 Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 03:58:38 PM EST
I don't think seeing yourself as a social creature is an automatically intuitive conclusion

I don't get it; I can't imagine how any human can see themselves not as a social creature.
If television is a babysitter, the internet is a drunk librarian who won't shut up.

[ Parent ]
through contempt by Merekat (2.00 / 0) #11 Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 04:01:07 PM EST
From what I can observe (assuming no medical explaination).

[ Parent ]
eh, no by lm (2.00 / 0) #20 Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 09:15:28 PM EST
The choices of:
  • who to work with
  • who to live by
  • who to shop in the same store as
Are no different in kind than the choice of which nation-state to pay taxes to.

If any of the above are free choices, then all are free choices.

Now, for those who live in a nation with no freedom of egress, that might be different. But, in principle, it is no different for someone to leave the US and renounce their citizenship than it is to move to a different neighborhood or get a different job.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
Ahem by gpig (2.00 / 0) #3 Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 02:01:12 PM EST
Probably not as big of a reaction as my reaction to a Palin book.

should be

Probably not as big of a reaction as my reaction to a Sarah Palin book.

There are other, better Palins available.
(,   ,') -- eep

Yes. by gzt (2.00 / 0) #6 Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 02:38:45 PM EST
Well, the poll has it right, at least.

[ Parent ]
as someone with a libertarian bent by zwhite (4.00 / 2) #4 Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 02:18:33 PM EST
I despise rand. I've had to spend more time defending libertarian ideas from the perversions that rand gave them than anything else. The biggest problem with talking to any randoid is that they redefine words in subtle ways (EG, greed, self-interest, etc) so that if you don't know their definitions you end up talking past them.

This means that when I talk to a non-randoid who has had an unfortunate encounter with a randoid (especially an aspie randoid) and I use words in the way everyone else does, I end up having to undo the damage that the randoid has done before I can have a reasonable and intelligent conversation with that person.

The biggest problem with rand's philosophy (and I use that word ironically) is that she ignores the aspect of responsibility that she doesn't like. No one wants to face the fact that making sure everyone around you can live a good life is not only a moral imperative but in their own self interest.

she definitely shit the bed by gzt (4.00 / 1) #7 Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 02:40:36 PM EST
ruining it for all the libertarians. There are some good ideas in libertarianism, but Ayn Rand comes at them from the wrong angle. Those subtle redefinitions are insidious.

[ Parent ]
Libertarians don't have a libertarian bent by lm (4.00 / 1) #16 Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 06:16:13 PM EST
By which I mean acknowledging liberty as an important good (libertarian bent) rather than acknowledging liberty as the chief and highest good (libertarian).

If libertarians did have a libertarian bent, I could talk with them in a meaningful fashion.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
there are no Libertarians by zwhite (2.00 / 0) #28 Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 01:26:00 PM EST
Just there are no Conservatives, no Liberals, etc. There are only people who are more or less aligned with an ideology. I have yet to meet anyone who was a true ideologue, I can always take their ideology to a place that the person I'm talking to is not comfortable supporting. (I once knew someone with Asperger's who fixated on rand for a couple years, and yet even he was uncomfortable with the idea that you should kill someone who threatens you, as obviously they are the agressor and you are simply preventing the loss of something very dear to you.)

I find your choice of words interesting. Do you believe that it is possible to have something be the "chief and highest good" but still be overridden by a combination of other factors?

[ Parent ]
I have friends I could introduce you to by lm (2.00 / 0) #38 Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 07:36:11 PM EST
... to prove that there are, in fact, real libertarians.

For the most part I just try to avoid talking politics with them.

But to answer your question, no, if something is the greatest good, it cannot be overridden. If it could be overridden, it wouldn't be the greatest good. Rather it would be commensurate with other goods.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
but in their own self interest by duxup (2.00 / 0) #34 Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 02:46:32 PM EST
Thus my biggest gripes with some folks on the right.  There is this imaginary play land where if allowed their talents would flourish if only allowed to and they'd run their little factories, produce their art, or whatever except it would just be better.  Ignore that in play land education, methods of commutation, transport are fucked up now as it is left to rot.

There is plenty of room for sensible arguments about how much government and regulation and so forth but some of the randoids (and those who don't know it but seem like randoids) think you can cut the legs off the stool and everything will operate the same but better just because.

[ Parent ]
Books by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #9 Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 03:38:36 PM EST
I personally feel you should be willing to read someone if you are willing to hold their views in disregard.  Far too many do exactly as that cartoon, attacking an idea without really considering it.  (Yes, I've even read "Mein Kampf".  I basically agree with that cartoon almost entirely except I expect the author likes Rand more than I do.

Ayn Rand did hold some allure for me.  Then I turned twenty and started interacting with the real world.  Oddly enough, "Atlas Shrugged" was given to me around then by my extremely liberal aunt.  No clue what was involved there other than I suspect maybe her girlfriend at the time may have been an extreme randoid.
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

I agree with the whole reading thing. by gzt (2.00 / 0) #12 Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 04:14:29 PM EST
But I think, in her case, Anthem and a little bit of her essays are sufficient. I don't have to read 1000+ pages of dead prose to know she sucks.

If I had much interest in WWII and Nazi ideology, I would certainly read Mein Kampf.

[ Parent ]
Mein Kampf by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #14 Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 04:44:29 PM EST
I found it quite illuminating, and remember thinking when I read it that if more people in Britain, France and Russia had read it in 1937, they might have done a far better job of dealing with Hitler.
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
My mother in law reads rand by cam (2.00 / 0) #29 Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 01:34:34 PM EST
and is involved in the democratic party. Libertarianism is an argument within liberalism. Additionally the personal morality (rather than biblical/state) being the guiding force for self-governance is consistent with liberalism as well.

I haven't read any Rand stuff so anything i know of objectivism is second hand.

Freedom, liberty, equity and an Australian Republic

[ Parent ]
yes and no by aphrael (2.00 / 0) #36 Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 06:06:25 PM EST
"Libertarianism is an argument within liberalism"

Yes and no. It depends on what you mean by liberalism.

Most libertarians in the US caucus with the Republicans - and therefore with 'conservatives'.

Just proof, once again, that our language for political concepts is bizarre by international standards.
If television is a babysitter, the internet is a drunk librarian who won't shut up.

[ Parent ]
(Comment Deleted) by aggressive cyclist (2.00 / 0) #13 Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 04:32:23 PM EST

This comment has been deleted by aggressive cyclist

Objectivism deserves to die by lm (2.00 / 0) #15 Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 06:12:38 PM EST
Libertarianism, not so much. There are strong defenses of libertarianism at the abstract level and, even though I think they all fail, they bring up good points worthy of discussion.

Ayn Rand, on the other hand, pretty much just says that if you disagree with here then you aren't being rational. Objectivism could bring up some interesting points but it doesn't. As a system of philosophy it is entirely dependent on ignoring any criticism.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
I see your point and retrospectively agree by gzt (2.00 / 0) #17 Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 07:21:36 PM EST
The failure of libertarianism, though, seems to me terribly obvious, but I suppose they have value because their system will never come to fruition in America, but they serve as a valuable counterbalance in the marketplace of ideas.

[ Parent ]
Libertarianism by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #27 Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 12:25:45 PM EST
Like most "isms", its main failing is taking some reasonable observations too far.
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
I get excited when I see a chick on the bus by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #18 Thu Aug 26, 2010 at 07:40:07 PM EST
reading Rand, because I know that means unfettered access to her shamecave.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

(Comment Deleted) by yicky yacky (4.00 / 3) #21 Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 03:57:00 AM EST

This comment has been deleted by yicky yacky

Genius. by Breaker (2.00 / 0) #23 Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 06:47:15 AM EST

[ Parent ]
WIPO, in descending order of shock by Scrymarch (2.00 / 0) #22 Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 05:24:38 AM EST

Iambic Web Certified

Satanic Verses is shocking? by gzt (2.00 / 0) #26 Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 09:45:37 AM EST
Okay, I agree that people might take a second look at somebody reading the Koran.

[ Parent ]
SV is still pretty controversial I'd say by Scrymarch (2.00 / 0) #39 Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 03:52:24 AM EST
If not exactly shocking.

Iambic Web Certified

[ Parent ]
Have you read by Breaker (4.00 / 1) #24 Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 06:54:29 AM EST
Marx's Manifesto of the Communist Party?

Is it wrong for me to categorically dismiss socialists and leftists?

That said, I didn't enjoy Atlas Shrugged particularly.  One or two interesting points (especially how state intervention often causes unwanted side effects) but if she was a good a writer as she believed, that book could have been a quarter of the length.

Yes, I have by gzt (4.00 / 2) #25 Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 08:02:57 AM EST
Honestly, though, people reading Marx, Engles, Trotsky, etc isn't all that shocking, they're commonly assigned as coursework.

[ Parent ]
The Manifesto is an easy read by cam (2.00 / 0) #30 Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 01:36:18 PM EST
as a rhetorical document it is gripping.

Freedom, liberty, equity and an Australian Republic

[ Parent ]
A spectre is haunting Europe by gzt (2.00 / 0) #31 Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 01:54:17 PM EST
Yes, quite well-written.

[ Parent ]
das kapital by aphrael (4.00 / 1) #37 Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 06:07:21 PM EST
Ayn Rand from an uneducated poorly read dork by duxup (2.00 / 0) #32 Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 02:23:03 PM EST
Uneducated poorly read dork = me.

From the little I know my biggest gripe is ... why should I care about her novels re-enforcing her philosophical points?    Is this meant to demonstrate that her beliefs passed the almighty crucible of... her book?  The entire thing is within her control ...  what the heck does that prove?

I find this frustrating by garlic (4.00 / 1) #33 Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 02:34:19 PM EST
in many novels. Of course the world in the novel supports the author's premises -- they designed the world. It doesn't mean the premises are any less ridiculous if applied to the real world.

[ Parent ]
You should read my book by duxup (2.00 / 0) #35 Fri Aug 27, 2010 at 03:26:44 PM EST
It turns out I'm right about a lot of stuff!  Who would have thunk it?

[ Parent ]
She wrote her novels to propagate her views by lm (2.00 / 0) #40 Sat Aug 28, 2010 at 08:11:36 AM EST
And, for the most part, it's worked fabulously. She's made millions of acolytes who have been convinced of the truth of her philosophy by the vibrant images painted in her fiction. Most of these acolytes have never critically examined the ideas themselves or the foundations they are based on.

And that is why no small number of the Tea Party movement is comprised of androids. They think they could the next John Gault if only it weren't for the heavy boot of The Man on their necks. The Man constantly taxes them and passes all sorts of Byzantine and paternalistic laws that make starting your own business insanely expensive and that, so the argument goes, is the real reason why the recession continues.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
I'm a little late to the party... by nstenz (2.00 / 0) #41 Thu Sep 02, 2010 at 03:47:29 PM EST
...but the explanation is incredibly simple.

Libertarians aren't against sharing. We are against people taking other people's things by force. I'm more than happy to share all kinds of stuff, including my time. Many seem to think that we (true) conservatives are just greedy. Raise taxes on the evil corporations because they're rich? Sure- nobody bothers to think about what they would have used that money for. Avoiding salary cuts, avoiding firing people, hiring new people, not dropping family health care coverage when the premiums went through the roof...

It's government taking money for "the greater good" vs. people getting to decide who they feel is good to give money to. The question is, who do you trust more- yourself, or the government? Conservatives trust themselves to make better decisions; liberals are afraid people can't take care of themselves and think the government should do it. Yeah, it's a simplification, but if you look at the overall picture, that's what it boils down to. Libertarian philosophy sticks to the principles the U.S. was founded on, because the simplest solutions are a lot easier to work with.

As for not knowing how to share: don't blame libertarianism as the cause- blame just being an asshole. That's definitely some people's political philosophy.

That being said, Rand's novels are a bit nuts, but they're also fiction. They have basically the same story line as a lot of sci-fi stuff does, but not set in the future.

Our dauther isn't a selfish brat; your son just hasn't read Atlas Shrugged | 40 comments (40 topical, 0 hidden)