Tag Archives: ayn rand

“I am challenging the cultural tradition of two-and-a-half-thousand years.”

This is from an interview Rand gave to Playboy in the early ’60s. A small digression before I link to the same.

In one of the appendices to his book that I wrote about a couple of day back, entitled “My Competition,” Friedman lists many authors. Rand finds a mention a couple of times. This, a recommendation for her two major novels, is one of the better comments-

Rand’s novels upset some people because her heroes are all handsome and the villains nauseating, with names to match. She did it on purpose; she did not believe art should be realistic and wrote The Romantic Manifesto to prove it. When someone told her that her work was not in the mainstream of American literature, she is supposed to have replied that “the mainstream of American literature is a stagnant swamp.” She has a point.

Here’s the interview.



A commentator at reddit leaned on my post that carried an excerpt from Rauschning’s book in support of his (I presume) anti-socialism position. The reply he got-

The article you present fails to mention that the book is considered plagiarized and fabricated. According to Wikipedia, “Historians generally regard this book as discredited.” It’s plausible that the author would want to discredit Socialism with his book due to his Conservative views.

But let me humor you for a moment and assume that the book is completely genuine. I fail to see an endorsement of the idea that people ought to democratically operate the means of production, which is what Socialism is. I doubt Adolph Hitler subscribed to that idea…

I have no intention of arguing over trifles. I only wish to say that to maintain that only an economy wherein the state nationalizes the “means of production” can be said to be a socialist one is to intentionally ignore the big picture. In the end, it all boils down to control

If “ownership” means the right to determine the use and disposal of material goods, then Nazism endowed the state with every real prerogative of ownership. What the individual retained was merely a formal deed, a contentless deed, which conferred no rights on its holder. Under communism, there is collective ownership of property de jure. Under Nazism, there is the same collective ownership de facto.

This is what Peikoff writes in his book. And, if one believes Rauschning, Hitler says something very similar-

“Why bother with such half-measures when I have far more important matters in hand, such as the people themselves?” he exclaimed. “The masses always cling to extremes. After all, what is meant by nationalization, by socialization? What has been changed by the fact that a factory is now owned by the State instead of by a Mr. Smith? But once directors and employees alike have been subjected to a universal discipline, there will be a new order for which all expressions used hitherto will be quite inadequate.”

…They themselves are changed. What are ownership and income to that? Why need we trouble to socialize banks and factories? We socialize human beings.”

Even if all this is fabricated, I doubt if anyone would argue that Nazi Germany was a country where businessmen were free to take any business decision they wanted without worrying about what the State would do to them.

Control is key.

To wrap this post up, here’s a Rand quote from the comments to the “control” post-

I have stated repeatedly that the trend in this country is toward a fascist system with communist slogans. But what all of today’s pressure groups are busy evading is the fact that neither business nor labor nor anyone else, except the ruling clique, gains anything under fascism or communism or any form of statism—that all become victims of an impartial, egalitarian destruction.

Depressing reading

The last two weeks, “Climategate,” left me with a sense of deja vu—it seemed as if the financial crisis and the pigheaded response to the same was being replayed all over again. It was depressing to see the same kind of cynical politics being used to take advantage of the sentiments of gullible people, and only strengthened my conviction that politics is the only thing that really matters. Caught between religious zealotry, socialist tendencies and the primitivism that is the fuel for the environmentalist movement, one doesn’t have much hope for the future.

Brendan O’Neill writes in Spiked

Time and again, the story of global warming – and, yes, I do mean story: that combination of scientific findings, political prejudice and hysterical future predictions – is pushed forward to promote some very contemporary values. It expresses, neatly and instinctively, an array of concerns to do with human agency, morality and the future. The idea of the ‘eco-footprint’ subtly demolishes the idea of human ownership of the Earth, which held from the Book of Genesis through to the Enlightenment, re-presenting us as guests in a ‘warehouse of resources’. The notion of ‘sustainable development’ speaks to our lack of vision for, or even comfort with, the future, so that the idea is that we ‘sustain’ the small-scale things that we have right now rather than seeking to overhaul them with big, mind-expanding breakthroughs. The notion of ‘The Science’, the authority most frequently cited in relation to the global warming story, speaks to the demise of political contestation, of politics itself, so that there becomes only one way of seeing the world and where anyone who questions it is a ‘denier’. Even the past is now interpreted through the prism of climate change and catastrophe, speaking to humanity’s alienation from its own gains and breakthroughs.

But most of all, the story of global warming has arisen to express uncertainty. Our world is fragile and unpredictable, apparently, to the extent that we don’t even know if our civilisation will be completely flooded or only a little bit flooded (them are the choices, apparently). Science might be exploited to deepen this story, and greens might be brought into international conferences to give it some youthful campaigning gloss; but fundamentally it comes from a society at sea (no pun intended) in which new forms of thinking and ideology have emerged to express deep self-doubt and even self-loathing. If climate change hadn’t provided the story, something else would have.

And Andrew Orlowski of The Register

From Climategate, we can now see why the most apparently authoritative rhetoric crawls with weasel words: coulds, maybes, balances of probabilities, and think-it-likelys abound. The Royal Society’s much-quoted position on climate change is a good example.

We can also begin to explain the increasing reliance on anecdote, and on computer modelling. The former suggests recent changes are anomalous, and substitutes for causation; the latter makes claims to predict the future, but only at the exclusion of other forcings. Critics of the theory were obliged to discard observations, and defer to the models.


Politicians have also outsourced their authority, finding in climate a risk-free way of restoring their moral superiority. Unable to articulate a political vision of their own, they ceded judgement and then policymaking to the scientists. Yet the politics is prior to the science – apocalyptic environmentalism posits a prior relationship with nature in which man is at best, a nuisance. The phony ‘urgency’ which gives rise to the precautionary principle arises not from science, but from the view of man as an unwelcome intrusion on the ‘natural’.

Imagine an approach to scientific enquiry which demanded that we know how much mankind effects the climate – through greenhouse gases and particulates – in sufficient detail that it could be handed to an engineer. The ability to manipulate our climate for the benefit of humanity will almost certainly come in useful. But the approach requires a positive view of humanity; the Climategate years show how little faith in our inventiveness and ability to organise our media and political elites have had in us.

Rand was one of the fiercest critics of environmentalism. She knew what it stood for, not love of nature, but hatred of man. What follows is the story—the concretization of the idea that environmentalism relies upon—which stands at the head of the title essay of her book “The Anti-Industrial Revolution”-

Suppose that you are a young man in the year 1975. You are married, have two children and own a modest home in the suburbs of a large city. Let us observe a normal, average day of your life.

You get up at five a.m., because you work in the city and must be at the office at nine. You always had a light breakfast, just toast and coffee. Your electric percolator is gone; electric percolators are not manufactured any longer, they are regarded as an item of self-indulgent luxury: they consume electric power, which contributes to the load of power stations, which contributes to air pollution. So you make your coffee in an old-fashioned pot on an electric—no, an oil-burning stove; you used to have an electric one, but they have been forbidden by law. Your electric toaster is gone; you make your toast in the oven; your attention wanders for a moment and you burn the toast. There is no time to make another batch.

When you had a car, it took you three-quarters of an hour to get to the office; but private automobiles have been outlawed and replaced by “mass transportation.” Now it takes you two hours and a half. The community bus can make the trip in a little over an hour, when it is on time; but you never know whether it will be on time, so you allow for half-an-hour’s delay. You trudge ten blocks through the bitter gusts of a cold morning wind to your community bus stop, and you stand waiting. You have no choice—there are no other means of transportation—and you know it; so does the bus company.

When you reach the city, you walk twelve blocks from the bus terminal to the office building. You make it on time. You work till noon, then eat, at your desk, the lunch you have brought from home. There used to be six restaurants in the two blocks around the building; but restaurants are notorious sources of pollution—they create garbage; now there is only one restaurant, and it is not too good, and you have to stand in line. Besides, you save money by packing your own lunch. You pack it in an old shoe-box; there are no metal boxes: the mining of metal has been severely curtailed; there are no plastic bags—a self-indulgent luxury; there are no Thermos bottles. Your sandwich is a little stale and your coffee is cold, but you are used to that.

In the later hours of the afternoon, you begin to watch the clock and to fight against the recurring attacks of your enemy: boredom. You have worked for the company for eight years; for the past three years, you have been office manager; there is no promotion to expect, no further place to go; business expansion has been arrested. You try to fight the boredom by telling yourself that you are an unusually lucky fellow, but it does not help much. You keep saying it because, under the boredom, there is a nagging fear which you don’t want to acknowledge: that the company might go out of business. You know that paper consumes trees, and trees are essential for the preservation of life on earth, and forests must not be sacrificed for the sake of self-indulgent luxuries. The company you work for manufactures paper containers.

By the time you reach the bus terminal again, on your way home, you reproach yourself for being exhausted; you see no reason for it. Your wife—you keep telling yourself—is the real victim. And she is.

Your wife gets up at six a.m.—you have insisted that she sleep until the coal furnace, which you lighted, has warmed the house a little. She has to cook breakfast for your son, aged 5; there are no breakfast cereals to give him, they have been prohibited as not sufficiently nutritious; there is no canned orange juice—cans pollute the countryside. There are no electric refrigerators.

She has to breast-feed your infant daughter, aged six months; there are no plastic bottles, no baby formulas. There are no products such as “Pampers”; your wife washes diapers for hours each day, by hand, as she washes all the family laundry, as she washes the dishes—there are no self-indulgent luxuries such as washing machines or automatic dishwashers or electric irons. There are no vacuum cleaners; she cleans the house by means of a broom.

There are no shopping centers—they despoil the beauty of the countryside. She walks two miles to the nearest grocery store and stands in line for an hour or so. The purchases she lugs home are a little heavy; but she does not complain—the lady columnist in the newspaper has said it is good for her figure.

Since there are no canned foods and no frozen foods, she starts cooking dinner three hours in advance, peeling and slicing by hand every slimy, recalcitrant bit of the vegetables. She does not get fruit very often—refrigerated freight cars have been discontinued.

When you get home, she is trying not to show that she is exhausted. It is pretty difficult to hide, particularly since there are no cosmetics—which are an extra-self-indulgent luxury. By the time you are through with dinner and dishwashing and putting the children to bed and a few other chores, you are both free. But what are you to do with your brief evening? There is no television, no radio, no electric phonograph, no recorded music. There are no drive-in movies. There is a movie theater in a town six miles away—if you catch the community bus in time. You don’t feel like rushing to catch it.

So you stay at home. You find nothing to say to your wife: you don’t want to depress her by discussing the kinds of things that crowd your mind. You know that she is keeping silent for the same reason. Junior did not eat much dinner: he has a sore throat; you remember vaguely that diphtheria had once been virtually eliminated, but epidemics of it have been recurring recently in schools around the country; seventy-three children died of it in a neighboring state. The last time you saw your father, he complained about pains in his chest; you hope desperately that it is not a heart ailment. Your mother died of a heart ailment at the age of fifty-five; the old doctor mentioned a device that could have saved her, but it was the product of a very, very advanced technology, which does not exist any longer: it was called a “pacemaker.”

You look at your wife; the light is dim—electricity is rationed and only one bulb per room is allowed—but you can see the slump of her shoulders and the lines at the corners of her mouth. She is only thirty-two; she was such a beautiful girl when you met her in college. She was studying to be a lawyer; she could have combined a career with the duties of a wife and a mother; but she could not combine it with the duties of heavy industry; so she gave it up. In the fifteen hours of this day, she has done the work of a dozen machines. She has had to do it—so that the brown pelican or the white polar bear might not vanish from this earth.

By ten o’clock, you feel a desperate longing for sleep—and cannot summon any other desire. Lying in bed, by the side of your wife who feels as you do, you wonder dimly what it was that the advocates of return to nature had been saying about the joys of an unrestrained sexuality; you cannot remember it any longer. As you fall asleep, the air is pure above the roof of your house, pure as arctic snow—only you wonder how much longer you will care to breathe it.

You now know, if you didn’t already, what Ice-cube Pachauri, and those who berate the “people’s polluter,” and those who speak condescendingly about “bubba” driving his gas-guzzler while worrying about the powers of the “federal gummint” and the ban on incandescent bulbs and big-screen tvs, are after.

“Impractical laws,” Rand, integrity etc

Peter Klein writing at O&M

I hoped Christy Romer would be a voice of reason within Obama’s economic team. What was I thinking? If yesterday’s WSJ op-ed is any indication, her role has been reduced to that of cheerleader for the President’s preposterous “stimulus” program.


She knows all this. As Christy’s teaching assistant at Berkeley I saw her explain, patiently and carefully, how government programs have side effects, often unintended (she specifically used the airplane-child-safety-seat example of the Peltzman effect). All forgotten now. Some version of Lord Acton’s dictum, I guess. [all links removed]

The problem isn’t “power tends to corrupt…,” but this. (There’s a longer version of the same in the book—part 3, chapter 9—a conversation between Dominique and Wynand on honesty, integrity and power.)

The WSJ has an article on Rand and Reason has a couple of pieces on the same—this and this. Some quotes-

I have a favorite Nathaniel Branden quote I like to drag out everytime I’m in the middle of the Ayn Rand war zone, which can be found on page 542 of my book. Branden was noting that Rand’s detractors rarely deign “publicly to name the essential ideas of Atlas Shrugged and to attempt to refute them. No one has been willing to declare: ‘Ayn Rand holds that man must choose his values and actions exclusively by reason, that man has the right to exist for his own sake, that no one has the right to seek values from others by physical force–and I consider such ideas wrong, evil and socially dangerous.”

and [Branden again]-

“The luckiest beneficiaries of [Ayn Rand’s] work are the people who read her and never see her, never meet her, never have any reason to deal with her in person. Then they get the best of what she was.”

The last one’s very interesting because of this conversation from The Fountainhead

“You are Howard Roark?” he asked. “I like your buildings. That’s why I didn’t want to meet you. So I wouldn’t have to be sick every time I looked at them. I wanted to go on thinking that they had been done by somebody who matched them.”

“What if I do?”

“That doesn’t happen.”

An infuriating letter in the TOI titled “Impractical laws have their uses”-

With reference to the Times View/Counterview (Nov 28), as the late Justice Gerald LeDain (Supreme Court Canada) emphasised, the potential for social benefit of law goes beyond its restrictive, punitive or retributive capacity, having an important symbolic and educative function which is independent of the practicality of its enforcement. Law is a powerful statement of the values of society, and can provide clear guidelines for appropriate behaviour, standards of good citizenship, and perhaps even ideal goals for society as a ‘work in progress’.

Law and administrative regulation are among the defining characteristics of a culture. Making intramarital psychological abuse against the law at a national level can encourage a subtle shift in social attitudes and behaviour.

Neither the judge, nor the writer, have a clue as to what jurisprudence is all about. By treating law as “a powerful statement of the values of society…,” society is trying to shift its responsibility over to the State. So punishment is no longer meted out for actual crimes but for what society thinks you should have done, but didn’t. The totalitarian impulse inherent in “positive liberty.”

What sells

Abhishek and K.M. have already commented on this idiotic NYT “book review.” But Jeff Tucker at the Mises blog says it best

Whatever your opinion of her work, it is a great thing to encounter a figure who believed very seriously in the notion that what you believe about the world really matters. In fact, she arguably took this notion too far, believing that ideas are the foundational source of all ownership – even to the point of owning the ideas themselves. The book that draws attention to this is Goddess of the Market by Jennifer Burns. This book caused my own admiration of what she accomplished to go way up. To me, this book is a model of what a serious biography of a serious person should be like.

In contrast, there is Ayn Rand and the World She Made, by Anne Heller of Esquire and Redbook, a book that focuses on Rand’s sex life and loves and any other prurient details she can dig up at the expense of the ideological core of Rand and her life. The author apparently can’t conceive of the possibility that Rand’s life was really all about ideology and ideas and why they matter. So guess which book gets the headlines in the New York Times while Burns’s serious work is relegated to a parenthetical statement? To ask the question is to answer it.