Explanation & refutation of Ayn Rand’s Objectivism

Jonathan Chait of the New Republic has an excellent article/book review discussing the life of Ayn Rand and the ideology she created, Objectivism. If you’re at all interested in the pseudo-religion that drives influential parts of the rightwing (like Alan Greenspan), please read Chait’s article in its entirety.

For those new to the party, Objectivism is …

… opposition to redistribution not in practical terms–that taking from the rich harms the economy–but in moral absolutes, that taking from the rich is wrong. It likewise glorifies selfishness as a virtue. It denies any basis, other than raw force, for using government to reduce economic inequality. It holds people completely responsible for their own success or failure, and thus concludes that when government helps the disadvantaged, it consequently punishes virtue and rewards sloth. And it indulges the hopeful prospect that the rich will revolt against their ill treatment by going on strike, simultaneously punishing the inferiors who have exploited them while teaching them the folly of their ways.

This is the moral reasoning that helps conservatives rationalize their reflexive call for cuts in taxes and welfare programs like Social Security and Medicare. It ignores the net benefits of a society that provides a cushion for its least fortunate members. Better to let poor people go without food and health care than take money from the rich to try and fix the problem. After all, the poor people are ignorant, and unproductive while the rich earned and deserve to keep every penny they acquire.

There is no room in Objectivism for the notion that being rich is just as likely to be a result of a luck, like being born into an already wealthy family, as it is a product of ingenuity and hard work. The same goes for being poor. For instance, former GM assembly line workers are not to blame for the bankruptcy of their company. Most of our economic fortunes are tied to events and circumstances out of our control, like global recessions or layoffs designed to boost stock prices.

One Comment

  1. Ian

    A good eviscerating of Rand’s ideals and the upcoming “Atlas Shrugged” movie can be found here: http://www.avclub.com/articles/daily-buzzkills-ayn-rand-and-charlize-theron-will,30686/

    Comments there are pretty good too.