The Choice: Ayn Rand versus the Status Quo
March 22, 2015 by Paul McKeever
One of my “facebook friends” recently posted an article that a clinical psychologist wrote about Ayn Rand’s influence in the United States. Penned by someone named Bruce E. Levine, the article was titled: “Clinical Psychologist Explains how Ayn Rand helped turn the US into a selfish and greedy nation“. I quickly glanced over the article, which was full of the usual ill-informed ad hominems. On my facebook friend’s wall, comments to the article were numerous and sympathetic to the views of the article’s author:
“Horrible selfish woman. Her personal life bears it out.”
“One of the worst people to emulate.”
“I got that she thinks people who are good looking have the right to walk over everybody else.”
“Her Objectivism was simply adolescent fascism.”
I replied as follows:
Rand’s metaphysics: Existence exists. What exists exists independently of your mind. Life is not a dream, and buildings don’t stand because you *think* they do. If you were to die, the sun would still come out tomorrow. Silly, right?
Her epistemology: Your senses provide you with the evidence of what exists. If a claim/assertion is illogical it is false. If a claim/assertion is not ultimately supported by physical evidence, it is arbitrary. If a claim is a logical conclusion ultimately supported by physical evidence, it is true. Insane, right?
Her ethics: Dead bodies don’t value anything. Only a living thing can value things. Therefore, your life is your highest value without which nothing could be a value to you. Given that your highest value is your life, your highest purpose is continuing to live by pursuing the material and spiritual values that make your survival and happiness possible: things like food, shelter, love, admiration, etc. Those values don’t land on one’s lap: one has to take the steps that – in reality, in the long run – prove to be the steps that work. The only steps that work, in the long run, are *rational* steps: rationality is one’s highest virtue. Rationality involves honesty, integrity, justice, independence, productiveness, and pride. Attempting to get material or spiritual values through dishonest, unjust acts (lying, cheating, stealing, etc.) will fail in the long run. The liar will be tangled in his webs, etc.. Moreover, no happiness comes from winning a footrace by cutting across the course: wearing a first place medal by cheating will bring you not happiness, but guilt. What a bunch of evil nonsense, right?
Her politics: Every individual has the right to live and to pursue his or her own happiness. Therefore, every individual has rights of life, liberty, and property. The right to life implies that no person be murdered. The right to liberty implies that no person be enslaved or raped. The right to property implies that there be no theft. The difference between say, doctor-assisted suicide and murder: consent of the person who will die. The difference between, say, making love and rape: consent of the people involved. The difference between theft and charity: the consent of the person who earned the stuff changing hands. And, because there needs to be a single, objective system of laws that everyone has notice of and that applies to everyone in the same way, there needs to be one lawmaker: a government. Classic villainy, right?
Of course, there are alternatives to Rand’s philosophy:
Metaphysics: We can all just believe that life is but a dream; that nothing really exists except that which we imagine. We can believe, for example, that there is an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient god, and an afterlife, and that no matter how badly we screw up this life, it’s all going to be fine in the afterlife, where everything will be the best, and everything will be free.
Epistemology: We can choose to believe things that are illogical, or for which there is no evidence. Why? Well, ’cause, gosh darn it, it feels so good to believe that stuff just pops into existence if we pray, or agree it into existence.
Ethics: We can choose to make our neighbour our personal slave or milch cow. Let that fucker work for your lunch. You’ve got a bum leg, and he’s a rich bastard anyway. He can afford it. Besides, NetFlix just added Get Smart: you’ve got some binge watching to do this week. Hey, and maybe you and another fella can drug that what’s ‘er name and have your way with her because she’s way out of your league, right? Or skip the drugs. Just break into that bastard’s house, grab a suit and the keys to his bimmer, and tell what’s ‘er name that you’re an agent looking for models for the cover of Vogue…maybe, if you play on her hopes, she’ll sleep with you. It doesn’t matter how she’ll feel, or that she’ll discover you to be a fraud because, in the short run, you’ll get what you wanted.
Politics: On second thought, why go to all of the trouble of breaking in to that bastard neighbour’s house. Vote for that guy whose going to tax the living hell out of your neighbour, and give you all of the freebies you’re looking for. Who knows, if the politician gets desperate enough, maybe he’ll promise hooker vouchers and free Netflix.
So much easier, right? And not at all silly, insane, evil, or vile.
In fact, the alternative to Rand’s philosophy? Well, it’s pretty much status quo, right? Who needs Rand when you’ve got the Pope and Obama?