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Rationalism Of Ayn Rand

5 Things the Right Can Learn from Ayn Rand


1. The crucial importance of reason.

In 1957, when Atlas Shrugged was published, it was still radical to argue that the economy is moved forward by inventors and thinkers and people with ideas, rather than the brute muscle of unionized factory workers (which is basically the Marxist view). Today, in the information age, this observation has practically become a cliché.

2. The pathology of altruism.

Crucial to any defense of freedom against government controls is an understanding of how the supposed “good intentions” of planners, regulators, and welfare statists can produce pathological results—how wanting to “help others” becomes a mask for paternalism, power-lust, corrupt political patronage, and the perpetuation of dependency.

3. The meaning of work.

Hunter Baker is wrong to criticize Ayn Rand for “materialism” and the “reduction of the human being’s value to economic productivity.” I would refer him particularly to The Fountainhead, where most of the good guys aren’t businessmen but artists and intellectuals, and where the hero spends a good portion of the story enduring poverty in order to maintain the integrity of his artistic vision. That doesn’t fit any definition of “materialism” that I know of.

4. A third alternative in the culture wars.

The biggest thing that prevents people from giving a fair reading to Ayn Rand’s books is the fact that she doesn’t cooperate with a lot of the standard categories we’re usually offered—yet people keep trying to shove her back into those false alternatives. If she champions the rights of the rich, she must hate the poor. If she doesn’t believe in altruism, she must believe in exploiting the weak. And so on.

Probably the most important category she defied is captured in the expression, “If God is dead, all things are permitted.” Which means: if there is no religious basis for morality, then everything is subjective.

5. The importance of big ideas.

Ayn Rand is often criticized for the big philosophical speeches she puts into her novels, but the critics might want to pause and think about how many people actually read all of that heavy philosophy and become interested, even impassioned, about big ideas. Ayn Rand didn’t just inject big ideas into her writing. She believed in the importance of those ideas as a force that changes minds and moves history. And she also believed in the importance of dramatizing ideas in art. The idea that “politics is downstream from culture” is something she understood and advocated long before Andrew Breitbart stumbled upon it.

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