Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Is Not A and Contradictions Do Not Exist

In Ayn Rand’s second-rate effort at creating a fictional world, “Atlas Shrugged”, the ‘producers’ (or ‘creative minds’ as Ayn would say) decide to punish the ‘moochers’ (or ‘reactive minds, as L.Ron Hubbard would say), not for actually mooching, as one might expect, but for not showing adequate appreciation for the producers’ efforts, all the while contradicting what is (or should be – according to the fantasy world Rand has set up) incontrovertible.

I’ll give you a moment here.

That is to say, if money, as the Randian ethos commands, is the most important metric[1] (Rand was known to wear a dollar sign brooch and a six-foot dollar sign was on display at her funeral[2]) in which to measure the worth of a person’s life, then the heroes of Atlas Shrugged are guilty of abrogating the most important tenet of her writing: Reason.

Reason dictates (according to Rand and her acolytes[3],[4],[5],[6]) that people must pursue their own self-interests, and that altruism is anathema[7]. Therefore ‘Going Galt’ is, in realty, an act of financial suicide (or at least, self-cutting). It also leaves the so-called ‘moochers’ control of the means of production. In other words, it is a gift.

Who then, are they really punishing? They left their railroads and all their other 1920’s era steam-punk production capacity in the hands of lesser beings, now the newly-minted next-generation of ‘productive minds’ who can’t be expected to withstand the pressure from the ‘moochers’ any better than they themselves could. The only real losers in this scenario are those occupying Galt’s Gulch.

Why any of this matters at all is because it illustrates well how distorted, and backward, many of the self-proclaimed adherents to Rand’s philosophy (particularly those holding public office, and even a few weasels too timid to run for office - yet demand inclusion to public discussions) act in real life. What’s worse, they seem not to be able to understand how wrong they’ve gotten their dear philosophy.

That’s not all their fault because Rand herself gets confused about it. If everything worth thinking or feeling should be the product of reason, how can she explain the irrational response of the ‘producers’ to go on ‘strike’, which will cost them money (the only true metric in life) just so they can punish the ‘moochers’ for not appreciating them more?

When did Rand assign appreciation value? Well, she never says it directly in any of her writings, but there it is in abundance at Galt’s Gulch. At least one pseudo-Randian values gratitude (and love), even while bitching he doesn’t get any.

That’s because despite all the chest-thumping and declarations of self-reliance and the refusal to acknowledge the need for those one looks down on[8], people, even those that inhabit Rand’s second-rate fiction, desire the acknowledgment, if not outright love, of other human beings.

As far as this silly notion that the captains of industry would ever ‘Go Galt’ – they already have – but they haven't gone all in.

After Obama was elected some claimed that this was exactly what some industries where doing – “Going Galt” was the term used[9], and it truly seemed that this was the case. If so, they were, in real life, purposefully diminishing their own worth.

I’ve noticed more than a few people talk about how they were ‘blown away’ or otherwise impressed with Rand’s work when they first encountered it, whether early in life or not, though usually the younger they were, the more they were impressed[10].

That’s exactly what happened with Paul Ryan. Though he’s tried to make the claim that his devotion to Rand is an ‘urban myth’, a Rand-style contradiction in itself.[11].

Rand’s philosophy has turned out to far more pliable and fertile than she could have meant it to be: A is A, but it is also not A. Contradictions do and do not exist.

Maybe she’s a better writer than I give her credit for.

[1] http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/fountainhead/context.html
[2] http://www.nytimes.com/1982/03/10/nyregion/followers-of-ayn-rand-provide-a-final-tribute.html
[3] http://paulryan.house.gov/
[4] http://www.paul.senate.gov/
[5] http://joshblackman.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/ayn-rand-school-tots.png
[6] http://www.atr.org/grover-norquist-a3016
[7] SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on Atlas Shrugged.” SparkNotes.com. SparkNotes LLC. 2003. Web. 30 Apr. 2014.
[8] “Ayn Rand and the World She Made”, Anne C. Heller 2009. Random House, NY
[9] http://washingtonindependent.com/32772/battling-obama-by-going-galt
[10] Ibid.
[11] National Review April 26, 2012