Sunday, December 16, 2012

Ayn Rand's Philosophy

I'm trying to plow through the complete works of Ayn Rand.  I thought "Anthem" was brilliant.  "The Fountainhead" was ok, but only redeemed by the wonderful speech at the end. 

This is probably my 3rd attempt at "Atlas Shrugged".  I think my first stab at it was in high school, where I skimmed it thinking it was a novel about railroads.  The second time was when I started working at Bookstop, almost 25 years ago, at the recommendation of a few employees (Tim Lebsack, maybe??) but life intervened.
I picked it up for the third time a few days ago.   
It's been sitting there like a time bomb. 

I've read several critiques of the novel which state that it is best appreaciated by 17-year-old boys.  That's horsecrap.  I'm about 2/3rds of the way through it, and now believe it can best be understood by 51-year-olds living under the Obama Administration. 

"When the student is ready, the teacher will appear."  All of them.  Barack Obama, Harry Reid, Elizabeth Warren, Jimmy Hoffa, Jr.,  The Texas Department Of Transportation, The Texas Unemployment Commission, and Ayn Rand.  Rand wrote the play, and the rest are clumsily acting it out. 

When I finish this book, I'm going to instantly go back through it with a highlighter, and bore the shit out of everybody on this site and on Facebook with quotes from the book, illustrated with pics from 2013.  As events develop. 

Here's Rand's general philosophy, a set of beliefs now in opposition to everything most voters stand for or believe in.  Think of the misery all over the U.S. and the world if governments were to adopt this:

At a sales conference at Random House, preceding the publication of Atlas Shrugged, one of the book salesmen asked me whether I could present the essence of my philosophy while standing on one foot. I did as follows:
  1. Metaphysics: Objective Reality
  2. Epistemology: Reason
  3. Ethics: Self-interest
  4. Politics: Capitalism
If you want this translated into simple language, it would read: 1.”Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed” or “Wishing won’t make it so.” 2. “You can’t eat your cake and have it, too.” 3. “Man is an end in himself.” 4. “Give me liberty or give me death.”
If you held these concepts with total consistency, as the base of your convictions, you would have a full philosophical system to guide the course of your life. But to hold them with total consistency—to understand, to define, to prove and to apply them—requires volumes of thought. Which is why philosophy cannot be discussed while standing on one foot—or while standing on two feet on both sides of every fence. This last is the predominant philosophical position today, particularly in the field of politics.
My philosophy, Objectivism, holds that:
Reality exists as an objective absolute—facts are facts, independent of man’s feelings, wishes, hopes or fears.
Reason (the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses) is man’s only means of perceiving reality, his only source of knowledge, his only guide to action, and his basic means of survival.
Man—every man—is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.
The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire capitalism. It is a system where men deal with one another, not as victims and executioners, nor as masters and slaves, but as traders, by free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit. It is a system where no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force, and no man may initiate the use of physical force against others. The government acts only as a policeman that protects man’s rights; it uses physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use, such as criminals or foreign invaders. In a system of full capitalism, there should be (but, historically, has not yet been) a complete separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.
The Taggart Transcontinental Comet just blew up inside the mountain, killing everyone aboard including the idiot politico who demanded that they go through the tunnel.  Dagny has come back to take over the railroad.  Hank Rearden is torturing himself for putting his zipper problem ahead of his company. 

I want to find myself some Rearden Steel to make fruitstands that will last forever. 

Great book so far, and John Galt hasn't said a word yet. 

If you love the book and think that's a cool painting, go here to buy a poster


Tim said...

I shall be interested to read your forthcoming posts about comparing the book to today.

You may also want to read Garet Garrett's The Driver. I think Rand may have borrowed some of the plot from The Driver.

Dave K. said...

I read it for the first time sixteen or seventeen years ago. I was a Dem at the time but I could see even then that it seemed to be almost prescient.