This article was inspired by a friend who recently said:
I hate Ayn Rand for being a bigoted, hateful person with a eugenics boner you could see from space. I hate her for writing a book thick enough that college kids who read it think it’s actually meaningful instead of just long winded twaddle. I hate her for directly influences the Rand Pauls and the Paul Ryans of the world who took her shitty story and extrapolated it into a very shitty world view towards the poor and the helpless.
This isn’t a case where I hate her for her fans, though. I hate her as a horrible horrible person. I hate that she somehow has a legacy that’s more prevalent to the US people and government than Gandhi or MLK. I hate her smug self righteous attitude that was so evident that it seeped into every single word she wrote and infected, forever, anyone who dare read it.
My friend, you are right to be concerned about Ayn Rand’s words and their effects on the world. However, you are wrong to hate her for them.
Any Rand’s Objectivism was an extremist reaction to Russian Communism. And Russian Communism was an extremist reaction to centuries of Tsarist control. But neither of these philosophies are inherently bad.
Objectivism is not inherently wrong or evil.
Communism is not inherently wrong or evil.
Capitalism is not inherently wrong or evil.
These are all socio-economic philosophies that will all work, in theory. However, none of them have ever been practiced in the real world.
Russian Communism was never really communist to begin with, the leaders of the communist revolution merely replaced the Tsar’s oligarchical control with their own.
There has never existed a “pure” free market capitalistic system, no matter what some Founding Father worshippers may try to convince you of.
And obviously, there has never existed a real Objectivist society, at least until Galt steps out of the realm of fiction and carves out a Gulch.
So none of these have ever actually existed in their pure form.
So, what causes the problems when these systems try to permeate our world? Two interrelated things: emotions and differences/conflicts of interest.
If everyone was rational, and everyone agreed to follow the same rules, ANY of the aforementioned systems would work in our world.
In a perfect capitalistic world, everything would be an equitable transaction between uncoerced parties. However, in the real world, transactions are seldom equitable, and one side of the transaction always has some sort of advantage over the other which compounds the inequity of the transaction. Thus in modern day America, the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.
In a perfect communistic society, the resources would be properly redistributed from those that have excess to those that are in need, until all things were equalized. (I realize that this is a gross simplification of Marx’s theory.) However in the real world, whoever obtains the power to enact the “equalization” process becomes the arbiter of what is fair and equitable and what is not, and that concentration of power always leads to an oligarchy. See the USSR, or modern day communist China.
In a perfect Objectivist society, all persons would do what is in their own rational self interest. They would know what that precisely is, and they would execute that, and no one would be forced to do anything against their will. Families would take care of their own, and poor without families would be safeguarded by those who enjoy taking care of the poor and being magnanimous, similar to the Carnegies and Rockefellers of old. In reality, people rarely really know what is in their own best self interest, and thus make a constant parade of mistakes and misjudgment that hurt them and those around them.
And central to all of these problems are emotion and differences/conflicts of interest.
Capitalism, Communism, and Objectivism never exist/last in our world in a true or pure form because there is always someone that doesn’t agree with it and disrupts the system, or tries to rig the system in their favor.
Either way, emotion is not the proper response to failures of these systems, because it usually causes more problems than it solves. As with Newton’s laws of motion, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Against autocratic rule, there rises Communism. Against Communism rises Objectivism. Against Capitalism rises Socialism or Facism.
Socio-economic systems and the people that espouse them are not the enemy, my friend. The enemy is extremism of any form, especially extremism of emotion, which drives some of our greatest minds to do terrible things.
Emotion, within moderation, is a beautiful thing and helps drive us forward, but when you have so much emotion that it becomes either utter devotion, or the converse of utter hatred, then your logic is overridden by that emotion and bad things start to happen.
Moderation, in all things, is the key to happiness, and the key to the successful progress of society.