> So given the horrors of family life in Rand’s world view, it shouldn’t surprise anyone why she celebrates sterility as a virtue.
Damn straight. In my darker moments, I wonder if this was the plan all along, to give Cautious temperaments a nefarious enemy while taking away their actual threat to the ruling class – their power to breed massive armies of reinforcements. We talked about that here:
Occam argues for incompetence over malice, of course, and everything of Rand is easily understood from my interpretation of the DISC personality assessment. Ayn Rand was a Ci, a Cautious Incandescent. The Cautious insist that theory trumps experience, and the Incandescent abhor the humiliation emerging from the admission of error. (In this way The Ayn Rand Institute is the perfect imago of ‘Miss Rand.’)
Hank and Philip Rearden can be understood in DISC terms. Rand’s ideal man – very different from her actual character – was a Dc, the Driven Cautious temperament who is in actual reality the ideal corporate CEO (from the owner’s if not the employee’s or customer’s point of view). An older Dc brother is all but certain to push his younger brother into being an Is or an Si, since the younger brother will not be able to compete for attention by expressing Dc virtues. This is the DISC of birth order, and there is a book in here. Philip Readen is Is. Doug Stamper’s younger brother on ‘House of Cards’ is Si. Give good writers credit: They may not understand DISC, but they understand how family dynamics play out. In the same way, older brother James Taggart, as an Ic, made it easy for Dagny to take the Dc role – with the C displays being eminently important to prosperous parents.
> Dagny’s and Francisco’s characters would also make more sense if Rand had showed that they had experienced and sophisticated fathers or other senior male relatives, Warren Buffett types, who explained to them early on how the world works.
You’re right about all the wealthy parents in Rand’s books. Dominque was underfathered, which is why she was a wild child, but Dagny, Francisco and many other characters had wonderful families that Rand treats with a Ci’s scorn for anything not learned from books. In the same way, Roark, Rearden and Galt are essentially magical, since up-from-dirt is almost always quite a bit dirtier. Gail Wynand’s back-story is a much better representation of how true genius rises above extreme poverty.
> Rand somehow transmitted this hostility towards family life to Nathaniel Branden, who had few ideas of his own. I read several of his self-esteem books in the 1990’s, and I noticed how often Branden condemns parents as the enemies of children’s psychological development. Which of course makes no sense in average cases, otherwise how did humanity manage to muddle through for so many thousands of years before Rand and Branden came along?
True, but this is simply how one goes about building a cult. Molyneux does it now, but so do the Scientologists and the Hare Krishnas. First you rustle the cattle, then you hastily rebrand (ahem) them. And every teenager loves the idea that his misery is not his own damn fault.
For the benefit of inlookers: No one’s parents were perfect, but if they did the job well enough for you to bitch about them, they did the job well enough. Children who really were ruined by their parents are so ruined that they can’t function well enough to keep therapy appointments.
Note also: It’s not just Rand. All of libertarianism-writ-large is anti-family, all because of the ill-advised supremacy of the Cautious temperament among almost all libertarians:
I talked about a lot of this in the comments to my original post on this subject, from July of 2014:
The specific examples of (call it) fambivalence stand: Families are usually bad – either indifferent (Roark) or hostile (Reardon) – or pathetically neutral at best (as with Dagny’s parents). None of Rand’s heroes has children. Very few are married while the action is taking place, and marriage is represented as being both weak and fungible – which was her doctrinal position as well, and her praxis. Official Objectivism is not even weakly pro-family, so the best claim one can make, I think, is that Rand was not explicitly, overtly anti-family. But this is not damnation by faint praise, but a dismissal by no acknowledgment of the without-which-never of all of human existence.
This is a twentieth-century blindness in Rand and in many of her contemporaries, the unquestioned belief that ideas could defy nature. This is where the abortion argument comes from, as well as the casual glossing she gives to marriage and adultery. As much as she railed against ivory tower intellectuals, she was nevertheless one of them, and the idea of taking guidance from reality, rather that affecting to guide it by exhortation, was as alien to her as it was to the Marxists she railed against.
No family, no future. It’s that simple. Any moral philosophy that puts the family anywhere but first among social entities is objectively wrong – wrong as to the nature of human beings – but in being wrong it is both self-extinguishing and, if consistently practiced, anti-human-thriving.
The death of Tony the Wet Nurse is as close as Rand comes to admitting that human beings exist prior to the Freshman year of college. The only children she wrote were Dagny, Eddie and Frisco, and then only as back-story gloss. Rand was a paleo-feminist in her ground-state conviction that raising a child is relatively automatic but is in any case a menial and uninteresting task.
Family life is simply not on her radar at all. Romantic love is evaluated far above storgic love, and the only storgic relationships I can think of in her novels are Roark’s friendships with Mike and Mallory. The only storgic events I can recall are the scenes in Mallory’s tenement and in his shack on the site of the Stoddard Temple.
DISC it: Rand is a high-C with a big-I neediness (Anthony mentioned her father, which is interesting). Roark and Wynand are both high-Ds (INTJ and ESTJish, respectively, just on the fly). [Roark is Dc, Wynand is Di. –GSS 04/16/2016] Mallory is a high-S, and Rand portrays his social needs as a weakness – a very high-C thing to do. And yet Mallory is all the family love there is in Rand’s two major works. I’m judging her fiction by my values, but its interesting for me to see how completely absent my values are from her idealizations.
> Also, I’m pretty sure Leonard Peikoff and Yaron Brooke have children.
Check. Optional but not celebrated, and yet hugely absent from the lives of most prominent big-O Objectivists. Like other Bourgeoise Bohemians, they are often married for life, but they typically have one or fewer children per couple. To have children, in the libertarian world at large, is to confess failure, since – per Roark and by unrelenting examples from history, in art and in contemporary role models – what matters most is your career and what you achieve in it. Whether it’s work, paleo, weight-training or defoolishness, a libertarian life is all but certain to be an unbalanced life, all led by a short stout needy woman who wanted more than anything to be a tall slim indifferent man. (Her father here, too?)
> But I always wondered why Rand never did.
‘Elegy for a Soprano’ hints that she aborted or adopted out or abandoned a child in Russia, but that doesn’t even rise to the level of gossip. Her marriage suggests that she was either incapable of empathy or unwilling to change her behavior in response to it. The lifelong torment of Peikoff argues pretty loudly that the kids Rand didn’t have were lucky not to have her as a mom, but high-Cs make thoroughgoing but distant parents. (Her father again?)
I annoy a lot of smart people, but every one of those annoyances consists of me throwing off thesis-bait, colorable questions that can be propitiously researched, even though I don’t ever intend to do anything like that (the difference between Ds and Cs). There’s a Master’s in Literature for some bright kid in this thread.
Here’s another one, which I touched on in the interview I did with Anthony last Summer: TF is Rand wrestling with her own past Nietzscheanism. Dominique is the change character, the Byronic paleo-individualist. She is married, by turns, to Max Stirner, to Friedrich Nietzsche and then to Rand’s idealization of a non-predatory egoism – not quite atomism, but a very emphatic solitarism. It’s that yearning to be free from all bonds – even chosen bonds – that makes Rand’s fiction (and philosophy) so unfamilial.
Another: TF is also an unadmitted encomium to the works of Henrik Ibsen, with Ike’s Play being a very clever pastiche on ‘The Wild Duck.’
And another: I think Hank Rearden is a rejection of Howard Roark’s egoism-of-indifference, and that this is why their names are so similar, as authorial telegraphy.
Because of both Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard, the modern freedom-seeking movement has been consistently anti-family. This is stupid for tactical reasons, since movements breed their best recruits, but it is stupid for this much more consequential reason: Because our families are what make us human.
You wanted to know what explains the Incandescent/Cautious female harridans and the Cautious/Incandescent male involuntary-celibates of the libertarian movement: It is this formula for human misery concocted by Ayn Rand.