One of the most read and commented-on pieces ever published here was called “Was Ayn Rand a Sociopath?” It’s gone now, and I doubt I would have deleted it, but it is possible. I did delete a few hundred posts a couple of years ago, extricating myself from Montana blogs and politics. Maybe that piece was collateral damage.
This came to mind recently as I have been doing a deep dive, trying to understand climate science and the pseudoscience of Anthropogenic Global Warming. I find myself in league with some Randians, and it gives me that not-so-fresh feeling.
To recap on Rand, I suggested that her real-life behaviors showed a callousness that was reflected in her writing and philosophy. She did not believe in romantic love, for example. Those of us of normal makeup know that it is real, and spectacular. She missed out. She was married, but carried on an extramarital affair out in the open, indifferent to any feelings her husband might have had.
However, keep in mind the marital selection process contains in it subconscious impulses that guide us towards an appropriate partner. A closeted gay man might choose a frigid woman, a submissive man might choose a ball-crushing woman, and a sociopathic woman devoid of normal emotion woman might select a man of similar makeup. Who knows?
In her book, Atlas Shrugged, there is a scene in which Hank Reardon finally beds Dagny Taggart. After perfunctory copulation, they discuss romance, love and marriage. It turns out that it is a completely rational process, and boring as hell. As I recall, Reardon went on for several pages as Taggart took it all in. In real life, she would be showing him the door early in his speech, saying “Good night. Don’t ever darken my door again.”
This shallowness is reflected in Rand’s philosophy, where survival is not an option for any who do not cut it in the competitive capitalist world. As she viewed it, our society was comprised of producers and consumers, black and white, and the few producers carried the world on their shoulders. Therefore, any attempt to make life easier for the common man could only be done at the expense of the John Galt’s around us. If they shrug, let go of the burden, we degrade as a society into a world of scarcity and poverty.
It is interesting that many Randians actually have this self-image, imagining themselves carrying others on their back. A few years back there was a trend among them them called “Going Galt.” The problem they had was that once gone, no one knew they had abandoned us. I imagine they reappeared, ever so shyly sneaking in the side door.
It’s bullshit. We are far more a cooperative species than competitive. Randian economics, when put in practice, quickly leads to disaster. Whatever one thinks of government, itself a corrupt enterprise in so many ways, regulated enterprise yields a better world that one run by the imagined John Galt’s. It a lousy choice we are given, but that is the way life plays out on this whackadoo planet.
Ayn Rand normally appealed to younger people of fertile mind, which led to quite an intellectual boom among her followers. As with most movements of bright people, they sought each other out, formed clubs and other groups and tried to expound on the philosophy. Some even made pilgrimages to New York to meet the muse. I have no issue with this. I do the same thing, seeking out those of similar makeup as myself.
I read Atlas Shrugged as a much younger man, and came away thinking that her writing skills were sparse. Of course, she did not write her fiction to sell it as such, but rather to exhibit her philosophy. Nonetheless, it is easy to see why the recent Atlas Shrugged movie trilogy based on the book played to empty houses. They are snoozers, worse even than The Hours.
All this is written to suggest that my alignment and infatuation with some of right-wing economic makeup is uncomfortable, but I am moving forward anyway. I suggest, in the process, to adults who are still Randian as a hangover from a youthful exploration, that she was someone we needed to go through, to ingest and then grow away from. Her utopian views are as dysfunctional as any others. The only reason we cannot dispense with them in total is that they cannot be tested. To do so would invite disastrous consequence, something that our real (and hidden) leadership understands.