Ayn Rand at 100.
No more than 10 percent of Cathy Young's condescending article ("Ayn Rand at 100," March) describes what Rand successfully accomplished in her years as a philosopher and novelist. Instead, readers apparently needed to be told in detail about the oddity of Rand's persona, whom she slept with, the fundamentalist piety of her followers, and her lack of enthusiasm for writing on such subjects as charity, children, and community.
If a libertarian were to reflect on reason on its 100th birthday, one would not require uniform agreement with all of its articles, or approval of its writers' personal lives, in order to arrive at a complimentary judgment on net. Rand should have been judged in the same manner--and reason should be humbled by her performance. While the politicians are consulting with the reasons and the Cato Institutes of the world behind closed doors, these same politicians are spewing more and more populist, egalitarian, Judeo-Christian, altruist philosophy to a marginally conscious public. The public policy battles are not enough. The ultimate fight for freedom can only be held in the arena of philosophy and there has been one lone woman who has taken the fight on this front and met with unheralded success.
On her 100th birthday, from one of the most prominent of libertarian voices, Ayn Rand deserved to be honored. Where a tribute was in order, you only found it in yourselves to call her "relevant." Shame on you.
Boca Raton, FL
If reason is serious about becoming a venue for attacks on Ayn Rand, why not hit her where it hurts? Identify up front the ideas she actually espoused: that man must choose his values and actions by reason; that the individual has a right to exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing self to others nor others to self; and that no one has the right to seek values from others by physical force, or impose ideas on others by physical force.
On these three points and these three points alone is there any real controversy about Ayn Rand's ideas. A competently written rebuttal would at least attempt to show that each of these ideas is wrong, evil, socially dangerous. By instead hiring a hack to sweep together a dustpan load of irrelevant cheap shots, personal attacks, and shopworn smears, reason makes a convincing case for its own cowardice.
J. Henry Phillips
Call me a Rand sycophant or zealot, but I think reason could have done a lot better in honoring Rand's 100th birthday than the article by Cathy Young. Her comments on Atlas Shrugged seem to repeat the long tradition of critics who misstate and trash the concepts so clearly spelled out in the novel.
Take the passage Young found "troubling ... in which bureaucratic incompetence and arrogance lead to a terrible train wreck." According to Young, Rand treated political and ideological debates as "wars with no innocent bystanders, and the dehumanization of 'the enemy' reaches levels reminiscent of communist or fascist propaganda."
I suggest that there is much more at work in this passage than attempting to dehumanize or show the guilt of the passengers. It was demonstrating that it was not some sort of retribution for their sins, ideological or political or otherwise, that resulted in the tragedy of their destruction. Were many of the victims of the wreck guilty of errors? Yes, certainly. But it was not a case of someone looking at their lives, judging them wanting, and purposely condemning them for their errors. It was the reality of their epistemological mistakes that put their lives in the hands of the inept bureaucrats.
This, of course, is one of the primary themes of Atlas: that of giving power to evil and incompetence by default by not recognizing, choosing, and rewarding the good.
I feared that reason's March cover story would be a fawning piece on Rand by one of her Kool-Aid-drinking toadies. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to see the balance that Cathy Young put into her article.
Still, Ayn Rand is not one of the "most widely influential figures in American thought and culture," as reason claims. Rather, she's famous like the Edsel or Charlie Manson are famous. And perhaps the best indication of Rand's lack of staying power is that her prize pupil, Alan Greenspan, in his role as chairman of the Federal Reserve, acts in contradiction to her philosophy of Objectivism.
Rand always was irrelevant; her philosophy is alien to human nature. This is why no society on Earth has ever mimicked it. And in fact, even on an individual basis, people who adopt Objectivism tend to crash and burn, as Rand herself embarrassingly did in her affair with Nathaniel Branden.
I was disappointed that Cathy Young did not mention the resemblance between Objectivism and Social Darwinism. Because there is no natural brake on the tendency of self-interest to degenerate into an obsessive narcissism, both doctrines, if followed to their logical extremes, would lead humanity into a Hobbesian war of all against all.
We see a hint of what Objectivism has in store for the human race in the down who, according to the Los Angeles Times, criticized the government for using tax-derived funds to provide relief for the victims of the tsunami that swept over South Asia last December.
That isn't even "Let them eat cake!" An Objectivist society would be a cold, vicious place, very much like our own during the age of the Robber Barons.
Los Angeles, CA
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|Article Type:||Letter to the Editor|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2005|
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