Posted by on 18 May 2005 at 7:45 am  Uncategorized
May 182005

My Google News Alert on “Ayn Rand” does often bring oddities into my mailbox. Consider this editorial. It begins with a random, scattered collection of comments on Objectivism and Ayn Rand. Then it offers its criticisms:

Like many “isms” that are built around a particular point of view, followers of Objectivism have a hard time giving rational explanations for the variations in the human experience. To give one example: United Airlines is in the process of seeking to default on the pension system of its employees. Objectivism would say such an act was necessary to keep the company going. But that is hardly a consolation to the employees who are losing out, especially when they perceive there could be other ways for the company to get out of its financial difficulties.

A major problem with Ayn Rand’s approach is her emphasis on what she considers to be intelligence. In her view, the world’s problems are solved if intelligent people are allowed to have their way. But that ignores the fact there is no absolute definition of intelligence, despite her attempt to do so by introducing characters in her novels who follow similar thinking patterns.

Some people said Mussolini was intelligent because he made the trains run on time. What else he did on the country he ruled was something else again. A case could be made for the intelligence of Mao Zedong, but the condition of the country he ruled turned out to be anything but an Objectivist’s dream. If altruism is a weakness, as Ayn Rand suggested, leaving the poor to live or die on their own abilities — or lack thereof — is logical only by the application of strict authoritarian principles that fly in the face of claims that authoritarian regimes are a hindrance to the development of man.

An “ism” that insists on a specific attitude on the part of everyone is an “ism” that ignores the reality that there is — and should be — a wide variety in the minds of individual human beings.

Really, I do wonder whether our educational system is so bad that it prevents even the rudiments of thought in those subject to it.

How could anyone think that the basic difference between Peter Keating and Howard Roark is one of intelligence? Or how about that Eddie Willers is a better man than Robert Stadler because between he’s smarter than him? Or that Hank Rearden ought to have his way over Orren Boyle because he has more brains? Or that Lillian Rearden failed to control Hank because she just wasn’t smart enough? Nowhere in Ayn Rand’s fictional or philosophical universe does raw intellectual might make right.

And just how is the supposed intelligence of Mussolini and Mao Zedong supposed to enable them to impose their will upon a nation, in total defiance of reality? How are absolute principles the same as authoritarian regimes? How is the flowering of a multitude of opposing views supposed to constitute respect for reality?

The mind boggles.

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