City Journal Winter 2016

Current Issue:

Winter 2016
Table of Contents
Tablet Editions
Click to visit City Journal California

Readers’ Comments

Brian Domitrovic
To the Randians of All Parties « Back to Story

View Comments (18)

Add New Comment:

To send your message, please enter the words you see in the distorted image below, in order and separated by a space, and click "Submit." If you cannot read the words below, please click here to receive a new challenge.

Comments will appear online. Please do not submit comments containing advertising or obscene language. Comments containing certain content, such as URLs, may not appear online until they have been reviewed by a moderator.

Showing 18 Comment(s) Subscribe by RSS
Capitalism competes, while government coerces. This is why so many blacks have government jobs. They can't compete in the market place, so the Robin Hood (robbing hoodlums) need to be in a place where the taxation base guarantees them income, either by the revenue stream of salaries or welfare.
Objectivists too often turn sympathetic ears away with the same shrill and pedantic tone you can see it in some of these comments. Rather than accept the reality that the Catholic Church held conflicting views on logic and reason, some positive, some negative, it's easier to damn anyone criticizing any nugget of Dear Leader's wisdom and descend into shrill preachiness. Rand's followers tend to reduce human beings to philosophical straw men, and too often place those who disagree in the "enemy" camp over some point of epistemological or ethical dogma. That is why Objectivism isn't a more popular school of thought - not because it requres "superior genes" or because those who disagree are morally inferior. Demanding that someone buy into your whole world view 101% or be denounced as a looter isn't a good way to win people over, especially when you're selling a philosophy that's radically opposed to some of the core institutions of Western Civilization.
Argumentative overreach and ad hominem are big reasons why I'm not a "movement" Objectivist, though I believe its core philosophy For too many Objectivists, it's not enough to agree on issues. They demand you accept 101% of their ideas - including Rand's sometimes dead-wrong personal opinions on subjects like Aristotle "vs." the Catholic Church. Objectivism at its worst resembles a personality cult in the LaRouche or Rothbard mold - perhaps it's a structural problem with movements that attract radical-minded intellectuals.

Much like the Pauls' libertarianism, there are very good ideas to be found in Objectivism if you can sort the wheat from the chaff. Readers - please don't let overzealous polemics like those cited by Domitrovic lead you to damning the whole Objectivist project - whether they come from followers or from Rand herself. Listen with an open but critical mind, disregard the "Dear Leaderism" and you'll find someone who in her best moments was one of the most insightful defenders of individual rights and freedom.
Read ‘Atlas Shrugged’ and an accurate portrait of Barack Obama jumps off the pages – and Obama wasn’t yet born when the book was originally published. Rand’s prophesying was extraordinary, almost eerie in her ability to accurately depict America’s future. Each generation of Americans discovers her anew because each generation can easily recognize the Statists she wrote about over half a century ago. But her thoughts never qualified as a philosophy, nor as a religion, nor as an economic theory.

The obsessively religious condemn her ideas - too selfish they say, where’s the compassion for the less fortunate they exclaim. But all religions contain enduring elements of prior religions, including all of today’s major faiths. For Rand, however, she couldn’t borrow concepts from a previous religion since none reinforced her thoughts and beliefs.

She was an original thinker, too original for most and unable to command respect among a populace more comfortable with traditional icons. Like George Orwell, she saw our country’s future clearly and like Cassandra she was cursed to be heard but never heeded. And Rand, also like the cursed victim of Apollo, couldn’t alter future events nor convince others of the validity of her predictions.

American Statists won’t ignore her either which would be the wiser tactic on their part. They hate the picture she paints of them and see themselves clearly within the mirror of her fictional characters. Like the religious with their “where’s the compassion?” criticisms, in the end they must resort to character assassination in order to relieve their psychic pain.

Unnecessary, however, because the majority aren’t intending to embrace “Objectivism” as a popular philosophy or reject Statism as our preferred system of government. Ayn Rand should be read, her ideas discussed by the young of each generation but her all too accurate prophesy has not changed America’s preferred course one iota.
"Wiping out regulation and licensing in the automobile, food, and construction industries might sound scary, but the authors maintain that the result would be greater safety and efficiency."

So why did government orgs like the FDA emerge in the first place? If we go by the 'competition for consumers instead of regulation' theory, wouldn't 19th century food have been perfectly safe and sanitary, leaving figures like Upton Sinclair toothless radicals?

The same naively-abstract ideologies that drove the communists seem to be driving today's Randians. Yes, in theory it would sound like food distributors, for example - from the local hot dog vendor to the national meatpacker - would strive to provide the best, safest products possible because if they didn't, they'd lose customers to competitors. So why hasn't this EVER happened, especially in 19th century laissez-faire markets? Why did lousy, dangerous, unsanitary food companies abound back then? If the answer is that customers were not "educated" about the dangers (they didn't know the stuff they were buying was contaminated), how would you propose educating them? Would people have to buy from a shoddy business, get ill, or injured, or die, and then "know better now" by switching to a competing business?
The system of economics is not as important as how a society incentivizes it's producers. It is human nature to seek challenge when equipped to meet and exceed those challenges as much as it is human nature to fear the unknown. Education provides the tools for challenge seekers and positive incentive provides the desire. What two things do government power brokers most fear and seek to control? Education and Incentive! We are far too gone to stop the fall as we have for too long not addressed the heart of our societies problem. Much of today's politics is deflectionary and self destructive, but you'd be hard pressed to find a citizen on the street capable of understanding that.
Steve F. - who is the exploiter here? I'm sure you hate walmart believing they exploit the persons whom they give employment and affordable goods. But it could be argued Walmart is an object of exploitation by its workers. The aren't slaves, not yet at least. This Marxist idea of compassion never seems to show up for the collective slaves of communist governments. Why is is that champions of 'compassionate socialism never notice the enslavement of workers in China? Where's is your outrage there?You pick and choose your founding principles to suit your own sense of right or wrong.
Mark - thank you - its always nice when someone provides the full picture.
"the Randian argument that remarkable people need extra space to achieve self-realization" does not imply that the government's powers related to criminal law should be diminished.

The grave weakness of Capitalism is its vulnerability to criminal schemes. Trading of derivatives opened the door to "AAA by bribery" scams based on 1,500 falsely rated prime issues. Mortgage bundles that were set up with 10-times-normal fees to the rating agencies.

Ayn Rand was one helluva party gal. She enjoyed her Hollywood years, as do many young people. But what she learned was how to please narcissists -- the core of her writing. Exceptional criminality, not ability, is what would rule in a world that tried to implement her notions.
Objectivists need to understand that politics is governed by the personality type of the individual which is influenced by genetics. Having a libertarian or Randian personality is rare and that's why the movement never grew beyond the small percent of people who have a "libertarian" or analytic means of thinking.

As for the altruists, it's only natural that beggars preach charity.
Eric M. -- My thoughts entirely. You cannot dismiss these issues with just a wave of a hand and without evidence. If there isn't enough room to address this in a book review thoroughly and one resorts to a "anyone who has looked at the historical evidence knows..." appeal to authority, then that should be brought up in a different context or maybe even a long-form essay.
What utter crap.
Unbridled free market champions and Tea Party neanderthals would have us all reduced to 3rd world poverty levels with enclave of privileged gated communities. What happened to founding principles such as the common good and basic human compassion for our fellow man? Must we all be reduced to the depravity of seeing "the other' as an object of exploitation?
Radian Objectivism is so enduringly powerful because it is so self-evident. The idea that man should reject earthly happiness for some irrational dream or myth of an incomprehensible, arbitrary happiness in an unknown future after death is simply absurd and impenetrably unbelievable to rational man. Yes, it has to be accepted on faith as there is no other way to believe it than to render oneself blind and irrational and simply have "faith" that the promise will become the reality. Surely, if there is a God he would want/expect man to embrace the life he had given him - now and in this world - otherwise he would in fact be a very sick and perverse God: "Man is an end onto himself, not the means to the end of others, - man's life, his freedom, his happiness, are his by inalienable right." Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged.
@ Eric M.:

>The ultimate goal of Christian ethics is not flourishing on earth, but sacrifice for God in order to have salvation in heaven. The basic means by which this is to be accomplished is faith.

Dante Alighieri thought differently. In "De Monarchia" he writes:

"Ineffable Providence has thus designed two ends to be contemplated of man: first, the happiness of this life, which consists in the activity of his natural powers, and is prefigured by the terrestrial Paradise; and then the blessedness of life everlasting, which consists in the enjoyment of the countenance of God, to which man’s natural powers may not attain unless aided by divine light, and which may be symbolized by the celestial Paradise."

Production, trade and the enjoyment of the fruits thereof seem to fall in the realm of the activity of man's natural powers, and therefore part of god's plan for man's earthly happiness, according to Dante.
Fact is that free-enterprise simply accords with human nature - selfish, predatory, pleasure-seeking, greedy. Christianity extolls the opposites altruism, and an admonition to seek the transcending Kingdom of God: As such Rand cannot encompass the core values of Christianity. Where she gets it right, is the insistence on individual freedom - in this she (unwittingly) underscores the paramount Christian norm. It is pecisely because we are granted freedom to pursue our own ends that we are admonished to remember a sense of community, of mutual responsibility and reciprocal need
People fear that some derivatives were deliberately made too excessively complex, not for improvements to quality, but to avoid prosecution, when they were found to be worthless.
I have worked for over twenty years in education and training,and I have worked in public and private education. I have worked in private universities that seek to create a high price and high quality product, and I have worked (when there was no other job) in private institutions that debase and devalue the qualifications to make profit, they pass the unpassable. They are seen by their owners as quick money makers.
Let be give an example of a government owned exam, let us say the Advanced level in the UK or the State Government Certificate of Education sat at 17 or 18 years of age. A set known value, private and public then prepare students for this exam, and like any competition the best man (or woman wins). Plain and simple government invertention aids competition.
In other cases such as new drugs, the competition is soley private and this model works best here, but regulations check the validity. The short-termism in the banking crisis was not capitalism, Christian or otherwise it was rip off and then those that did the riping off were baled out.
As a British citizen now living in Australia, the great US capitalism was that which sort to do more than just make money, or to misquote Ford "a business that only makes money is a poor sort of business". His passion was to make a car that was the best he could make for the price, this is morality tied in with profits.
I worked for a Japanese bank, now bankrupt and gone, Sakura Bank, we knew the loans were marginal and so did our bosses. We had X amount to lend each month, and if we failed to lend we were sacked, if we lent we were rewarded with bonuses. Hell yes we lent. I had a US student in Australia that had worked for a loan company at 18 and stayed to 21, then came overseas to do his degree. made a fortune in commission, but even at 18 he knew he was lending to people that had more chance of seeing it snow in hell, than repay their loans when the interest reset.
The West, I believe will not succeed again until we get back to the concept of offering value for money. High priced, high value added quality, that takes advantage of our capital and land advantages, to counter our labour cost disadvantages. Look to Coke, P&G, Intel and myriad of market leaders that offer global quality products, that is the capitalism I prefer to the get rich boys of spin. I of course could be completely wrong!
All very edifying. If there were an exercise in scholasticism, this dialectic would doubtless resolve the tension between lefties and capitalists, and the economy would in due course right itself.

But the lefties are not involved in rational argument...they are not listening to the other side, and you can bet they're not reading Free Market Revolution. They are using the Alinsky playbook, demonizing, tautologically repeating lies, hurling accusations, and generally reprobating anybody who is in the business of free enterprise. Their goal is to crash the economy and install a socialist regime, with their "elites" running the show and taking a nice slice for themselves.

In Atlas Shrugged, this dynamic was well understood by Francisco d'Ancona, John Galt, and Hank Reardon. They eventually withheld their managerial talents and eventually ceded their operations to the statists, who were (and are) patently incapable of making them function efficiently.

Are today's industrialists and financiers ready to take such a drastic step? I think not. Therefore, this country will bumble along without "muddling through" -- ever descending to lower levels of productivity and output, until our collective lot is very much like that described by Ms. Rand. Only without a happy ending. The gates of Avernus await.
"Randians" (Objectivists) hold that there are two fundamental issues that differentiate the Aristotelian approach to ethics from the Christian approach: the ultimate goal of ethics, and the basic means by which the goal is to be achieved.
The ultimate goal of Aristotelian ethics is eudaimonia (happiness/flourishing) for oneself on earth. The basic means by which it is to be achieved is reason. (See the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Aristotelian ethics.)

The ultimate goal of Christian ethics is not flourishing on earth, but sacrifice for God in order to have salvation in heaven. The basic means by which this is to be accomplished is faith.

“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” — Jesus, Matthew 10:37

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” — 1 John 2:15-17

If the author of this review wants to support his assertion of "callow philosophical and historical braggadocio," on the part of Objectivists, I request that he provide evidence of significant and *explicit* repudiation of the "ethics-are-sacrifice-for-heaven" approach, in favor of the "ethics-are-for-earthly-eudaimonia" approach from Christian intellectuals prior to Rand.
(Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff hold that Aquinas pushed respect for Aristotle, reason and this earth back into Western culture and thus sparked the Renaissance. But he also praised faith and charity, and the explicit basis of morality remained sacrifice for others and for God.)
Brian, the major reason that Rand's actual influence today is so circumscribed is the prevalence of the morality of altruism, which is the opposite of rational self-interest. Another reason is that hand-in-hand with altruism, the making of sacrifices is still considered to be a "plus," a "virtue." So much loss-worship is really why the advocates of reason, profit, self-esteem and rational selfishness are finding it hard to "sell" laissez-faire capitalism. Given the bounty produced by freedom, especially when contrasted with the ample evidence of the failure of all forms of statism to produce real wealth, the only explanation is a morality that holds "loss" to be of value. Until more individuals acknowledge that holding loss to be not just of value but of the highest value, they will reject any philosophy that tells them they have a right to enjoy their lives, to seek their own rational happiness, and to create the wealth necessary to sustain and further their lives and the lives of their loved ones.