Since the publication of Man Alive, I’ve tried to go easy on Ayn Rand. She got me to the questions that got me where I am now, and I owe her for that. But still, the woman was great at integrating ideas but lousy at defending them. Her rationalization of the vicious adultery she inflicted upon her husband (allegedly her “top value”) and her slavishly-devoted acolytes takes first prize in the self-serving “arguments” contest, of course, but her callously utilitarian defense of intrauterine infanticide has been unconscionably consequential – especially to her slavishly-devoted acolytes.
Here are some questions that have occurred to me:
1. How did Ayn Rand herself and her many supplicating minions not see how poor the official-Objectivist pro-infanticide arguments are?
2. How did Leonard Peikoff not notice the ‘ominous parallels’ of Rand’s specious pro-abortion arguments to those put forward by Marxists?
3. How did none of them see that, by advocating romantic ‘affairs’ while dismissing storgic familial love, by indoctrinating Rand’s followers to value their careers above their families, and by stridently preaching abortion as a sacrament, official-Objectivism destroyed its philosophical legacy?
4. Most significantly, how could it be that seemingly not one of the millions of people who have read Ayn Rand on abortion noticed that her position is a gross violation of her own putatively-rational-egoist philosophy, representing instead the kind of “I got mine!” self-absorption associated with Friedrich Nietzsche or Max Stirner?
For what it’s worth, I have trouble calling any of those three egoists. Stirner was a champion of everyday amoralism, Nietzsche of exploitative amoralism and Rand, ultimately, of anti-amoralism. The arc of Ayn Rand’s intellectual history consists of the less-than-perfectly-successful recovery from a youthful infatuation with Nietzsche. A philosophical summary of her three major novels would look like this:
We The Living – Nietzscheanism versus Leninism (in the original 1936 edition; in the 1959 edition Rand tries and fails to excise the über-manly Nietzscheanism).
The Fountainhead – Individualism versus Nietzscheanism. (Dramatis personae: Keating = Stirner, Wynand = Nietzsche, Toohey = Marx, Dominique = Byronic Classical Liberalism, Roark = putatively-rational-egoism.)
Atlas Shrugged – Industrial Capitalism versus Marxism.
Because Rand, like her nemesis William F. Buckley, was much more an anti-Marxist than an egoist, The Fountainhead ends up being a substantially more egoistic book than Atlas Shrugged. Even so, Ayn Rand’s arguments for egoism are largely other-centric: What I ought not do to other people, but most especially what other people ought not do to me. If so many followers of official-Objectivism come off like a petulant five-year-old glaring at the other kid’s slice of birthday cake, this is why. Hers is the egoism of a proudly-asserted attestedly-enviable anti-envy.
This is not egoism at all, of course. It has nothing to do with identifying, prioritizing and attaining the true, objectively-discernible, rationally-defensible interests of the self. It would be hard for Rand’s doctrine to do this, in any case, since she never defined the self (conflating it without distinction with the mind or the intellect), nor did she offer any idea of what its long-term interests might be.
Ayn Rand was herself an INTJ in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and a highly-Cautious personality in the DISC assessment – ultimately a Cautious Tyrant. The advice she gave – mainly to Sociable people – was based in her assumption that they were – or should have been – just like her. This was hugely erroneous, with the result that the more-closely people aligned themselves with official-Objectivism, the more enduringly miserable they became. Rand and her rent-seeking minions promulgated a dogma they called egoism that turned out to be hideously anegoistic in practice for almost everyone who tried to practice it.
How could it be otherwise, given that Rand herself failed of her own moral ideal, the INTJ who is highly-Driven and throws Caution to the wind with his windswept hair? Ayn Rand was miserably depressed for much of her life, yet her depression did not lead her to question a putatively-rational-egoist philosophy that turned everyone who tried it into a full-time kill-joy and a raging misanthrope. How did her minions learn to ignore the obvious so assiduously? By the big boss’s bad example.
But the official-Objectivist argument for abortion is so much worse. Witness:
As I have said before, parenthood is an enormous responsibility; it is an impossible responsibility for young people who are ambitious and struggling, but poor; particularly if they are intelligent and conscientious enough not to abandon their child on a doorstep nor to surrender it to adoption. For such young people, pregnancy is a death sentence: parenthood would force them to give up their future, and condemn them to a life of hopeless drudgery, of slavery to a child’s physical and financial needs.
If that “argument” sounds like it could have been cribbed from the secret diary of an inadvertently-knocked-up teenage girl – that’s because it could have been. This is Rand ‘package-dealing’ utilitarianism as egoism: The words “conscientious enough not to abandon their child on a doorstep nor to surrender it to adoption” imply that the child would rather be dead than alive and that, accordingly, assassinating it for the sake of your family-free career is the only true act of virtue. Yes, this is exactly the same “logic” Peter Keating used to rationalize his “accidental” assassination of Lucius Heyer in The Fountainhead. There are by now millions of dead could-have-been Objectivists who cannot point out this childish error – and a vast host of official-Objectivists who either can’t or won’t.
How could the Ayn Rand Institute’s massively-credentialed minions have missed a mistake this egregious and this obvious? I can think of three reasons:
1. They’re as thick-witted as they seem. I’m an easy sell on this proposition.
2. All they really care about is sucking at the still-dribbling teats Ayn Rand left for them in the form of her literary assets and her fund-raising machine.
3. They know how bad Rand’s arguments are, but they can’t or won’t do anything to fix their house of cards – not even to rid official-Objectivism of its inevitable auto-annihilation in the abortuary.
Here’s what’s certain: In the days since the release of the first video documenting Planned Parenthood’s atrocities, The Ayn Rand Institute – official home of the cowardly minions of official-Objectivism – has had nothing to say on the subject.
Surprised? I’m not. They don’t want to live. They want you to shut up and write another check. Why don’t you help them find a job they can handle, instead?