Thursday, June 12, 2014

Bergdahl was no deserter! He went Galt!

Objectivism, the philosophy developed by Ayn Rand has a very specific world view only shared by Aristotle, the classicist Thomas Aquinas and very few others in their tradition. Yet critics insist on refuting Objectivism while failing to grasp the basics

Ayn Rand explains the basics of her philosophical theory.

UPDATE: We must be doing something right! Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" has just been upgraded from a faulty or evil philosophy to the league of opponents worthy of outright smears. While an article in WaPo is subtly insinuating "Atlas Shrugged" into the story and the quote from Bergdahl's email is 'carelessly' worked into the text, almost in passing, a hit piece in Gawker makes no bones about it:

The intimation: Bowe Bergdahl is a nutter > Bergdahl read Atlas Shrugged > Kim Harrison wanted to put the record straight that Bergdahl didn't desert as a liberal peacenik, but rather that he was a liberty loving, conservative patriot who walked in the shoes of John Galt > but we still think both Bergdahl and Rand readers are total wing nuts! (Source)

Various parties will try to frame the Bergdahl swap in ways that are in the best interests of their causes. But portrying the traitor as a mentally unstable Objectivist is a curious twist, to say the least.

It is remarkable by the way that Bergdahl's 'box', which allegedly contained a copy of Atlas Shrugged, appears to be missing from the photograph.

May 7, 2014

Greenspan and the Cinders of Ayn Rand

An oldie, but goodie... the Greenspan turn. The critics picked up the rumor that Greenspan was an early 'devotee' of Ayn Rand. So it follows that when he became Chairman of the Federal Reserve he followed Objectivism to the letter, never mind if he did the exact opposite (but they can't possibly know that)

Details such as the facts of reality would only destroy a perfectly good production...

April 16, 2014

John Galt's “Nine Satanic Statements”

Just when you thought this was getting a wee bit boring, here comes the Acton Institute with an entirely new angle! A mystic one at that!
Over the past few years, Anton LaVey and his book The Satanic Bible has grown increasingly popular, selling thousands of new copies. His impact has been especially pronounced in our nation’s capital. (...) Perhaps most are unaware of the connection, though LaVey wasn’t shy about admitting his debt to his inspiration. “I give people Ayn Rand with trappings,” he once told the Washington Post . On another occasion he acknowledged that his brand of Satanism was “just Ayn Rand’s philosophy with ceremony and ritual added.” Indeed, the influence is so apparent that LaVey has been accused of plagiarizing part of his “Nine Satanic Statements” from the John Galt speech in Rand’s Atlas Shrugged . Devotees of Rand may object to my outlining the association between the two. They will say I am proposing “guilt by association,” a form of the ad hominem fallacy . But I am not attacking Rand for the overlap of her views with LaVey’s; I am saying that, at their core, they are the same philosophy . LaVey was able to recognize what many conservatives fail to see: Rand’s doctrines are satanic. (Source)

April 14, 2014

Hilarious! 5 Stupid Things About Ayn Rand

The following video is hilarious. This guy brings up every cliche in the book. This goes to the heart of faux Rand critique: no critic seems to be able to come to a valid review on Ayn Rand's work on its own merit: they are simply unable to shoot holes in the philosophy as such. So what we get is moral rejection on the ground that egoism-is-evil, mud slinging and personal attacks. And the false equivalence that Libertarianism equals Objectivism.

Steve Shives is like a chicken trying to judge a recipe for Chicken Hawaii.
"She wasn't just a shitty writer — she was a shitty writer whose work allows millions of self-involved douchebags to feel intellectually justified as they bitch about paying taxes and look down their noses at people on welfare. To read the funniest, most brutal and exhilarating takedown of Ayn Rand you'll ever see, check out MD Caigoy's 8-part review of "Atlast Shrugged" at The Beast." 

March 16, 2014

'Smart Capitalists' 4 Arbitrary Minimum Wage

After @vicbekiempis another 'former follower' of Objectivism is emerging, and on that basis is trying to lend some authority to otherwise false arguments. Both Vic Bekiempis and Lauren Windsor clearly do not have the first understanding of the philosophy.

In this article a group of 'Smart Capitalists for American Prosperity', clearly a collection of corporatists, are "arguing against free-market conventional wisdom, lobbying Congress and the administration to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour."

None, not one of their arguments is valid. The most frequent one heard is ethical in nature: it is morally good to have the government set an arbitrary minimum wage, independent of market conditions. Really? But on HuffPo, who gives an iota for truth? (Source)

Jan. 5, 2014

Is Objectivism a Cult?

Craig Biddle addresses the question, "If an Objectivist is someone who accepts Ayn Rand's entire philosophy as true, how is Objectivism different from a cult?" In answering, Biddle discusses the essence of Objectivism, the nature of a cult, and the absurdity of positing that the former has anything to do with the latter.

To explore more of these ideas visit The Objective Standard

Nov. 19, 2013

Cross postings from

@AynRandFan: Bogus Objectivism Part Three of Three

In the face of the 'Progressive' juggernaut threatening the world by destroying America as a constitutional republic, the works of Ayn Rand, notably her novel Atlas Shrugged have become exceedingly popular. Thrilled by bits and snatches of Ayn Rand’s work (including the kind of quotes I post on this website) many would-be Ayn Rand fans proceed to express opinions about her work. These opinions may be favorable or unfavorable, but are often gross distortions of what Ayn Rand really meant.

Regarding Nietzsche, there are two kinds of bogus Objectivism: the kind presented by Nietzsche fans who see Rand advocating a superhuman Übermensch who wants to sacrifice others to himself, and the attacks by altruistic Ayn Rand haters who also consider man a sacrificial animal. Ayn Rand herself opposed both the Übermensch and altruism. Why? Because of her principle, derived from observation and abstraction, that man’s mind is his means of survival.

By man, she meant all of humanity, and by mind she meant the kind of thinking of which all humans are capable if they make the effort, and if they are not too damaged by altruism, collectivism, and mysticism.

But what did Nietzsche mean? 

A clue is found in his introduction to the Übermensch in his book Thus Spake Zarathustra:
I TEACH YOU THE ÜBERMENSCH. Man is something that is to be surpassed. What have ye done to surpass man?… What is the ape to man? A laughing-stock, a thing of shame. And just the same shall man be to the Superman: a laughing-stock, a thing of shame.
A thing of shame. Ayn Rand did not view man as shameful; to the contrary, she stated that the whole goal of her writing was to describe the ideal man. Yes, she harshly criticized second-handers like Peter Keating and James Taggart, and power-lusters like Ellsworth Toohey and Wesley Mouch, but primarily as a means of distinguishing them from the ideal man (and ideal women like Dagny and Dominique.)

To what extend did Nietzsche describe what his superhuman Übermensch would be like? There are hints: he would be earthly, not divine; no God would be needed to create the Übermensch. Beyond that, even the Wikipedia article on the Übermensch blanks out as to the true nature of such an entity.

There are perhaps more clues in Nietzsche’s writing. In a book entitled The Genealogy of Morals Nietzsche reportedly describes a double set of moral codes, one for masters and the other for slaves. Literally, he elaborated a double standard.

An then there is Nietzsche’s concept of the Will-to-Power. Riffing on a theme from Nietzsche’s philosophical predecessors, he takes the theological idea of God’s Will (as in the Arabic phrase “inshallah,” God willing), and subtracts God, just leaving the will. This, supposedly, was a metaphysical statement, a core belief about the nature of reality. The Will-to-Power was a variety praised by Nietzsche in his writings. Does Will-to-Power mean exactly the same thing as Ayn Rand’s concept of power-lust? I am not sure, because I have difficulty imagining any kind of will or volition in the absence of any kind of consciousness.

Leonard Peikoff, an academically-trained philosopher who met Ayn Rand as a young man, and who may have learned her ideas from her directly more than anyone else, wrote about Nietzsche in his book on the origins of Nazi ideology, The Ominous Parallels
There was Friedrich Nietzsche, the prophet of the superman and of the will to power, who was acclaimed by Hitler as one of his precursors. The extent of Nietzsche’s actual influence in regard to the rise of Nazism is debatable. He is antistatist, antiracist, and in many respects a defender of the individual. Nevertheless, he is a fervid romanticist, who revels in the post-Kantian anti-reason orgy, and there is much in his disjointed, aphoristic writings that the Nazis were able to quote with relish. 
What is clear to me is that anyone who equates Ayn Rand’s ideas with Nietzsche’s concepts of the Übermensch, the Master-Slave double standard, and/or the Will-to-Power, does not have much of an understanding of Ayn Rand’s ideas.

If the viewpoint that Ayn Rand is a cheap knockoff or a spinoff of Nietzsche is presented in order to destroy her reputation and intimidate readers from understanding her ideas, as Whitaker Chambers intimated in 1957, it is a merely a vicious attack.

If the Nietzsche-Rand equivalency is presented in order to claim expertise in Objectivism, that is even worse.

It is bogus, counterfeit Objectivism.

Nov. 18, 2013

@AynRandFan: Bogus Objectivism Part Two of Three

In the face of the 'Progressive' juggernaut threatening the world by destroying America as a constitutional republic, the works of Ayn Rand, notably her novel Atlas Shrugged have become exceedingly popular. Thrilled by bits and snatches of Ayn Rand’s work (including the kind of quotes I post on this website) many would-be Ayn Rand fans proceed to express opinions about her work. These opinions may be favorable or unfavorable, but are often gross distortions of what Ayn Rand really meant.

In 1957, the National Review, a conservative political journal founded by the near-legendary pundit William F. Buckley two years earlier, published an article by an ex-communist turned conservative named Whittaker Chambers. The article was a ranting attack on Ayn Rand and her ideas, especially her novel Atlas Shrugged. The line from that article, which has acquired its own legendary status, is this: 
“To a gas chamber — go!” 
The gas chamber, of course, was a reference to the Holocaust perpetrated by the Third Reich of Germany, and the intent of the National Review article was to spread the rumor among Conservatives and others that Ayn Rand was basically a Nazi.

Now let us look at what Ayn Rand herself wrote; in her famous explanation of Objectivism while standing on one leg, she said: 
“Man—every man—is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.” 
[Emphasis added by myself. Link:]

Bogus Objectivists and the overt enemies of Ayn Rand’s philosophy find it convenient to ignore the part about not sacrificing others to self, which is crucial to Ayn Rand’s idea that selfishness is a virtue.

Ayn Rand’s critique of altruism, of course, is what sets off blind rage in Leftists and right-wing religionists alike, and is, I believe, at the root of a tendency to refuse to make, or to blur, a distinction among Nazis, Objectivists, and the innovative German Romantic philosopher Nietzsche.

Chambers’ attack on Objectivism mentions Nietzsche as a source of ideas for Ayn Rand, and undoubtedly Ayn Rand was familiar with Nietzsche’s work. To what extent she derived inspiration from Nietzsche I do not know at this time, and that would be a topic for more research. What I consider important here is the difference between Ayn Rand and Nietzsche, which I will now attempt to clarify:

To begin, Nietzsche, the Nazis, and Ayn Rand all took a keen interest in human nature (in Objectivist terminology, the Metaphysical Nature of Man.) All three also speculated about beings who functioned above or below the human level.

Nietzsche is famous for his idea of the “Übermensch,” a German word for a superhuman which is often translated as “Superman.” To avoid confusion with the comic book hero from Krypton, I will use the term “superhuman.” Ayn Rand, by the way, as far as I know, never wrote or spoke about superhumans.

Neither did the Nazis, but they loved the idea of “Untermenschen,” their own German word for subhumans. The term is overtly, unabashedly, and specifically based on racism, which the Nazis proudly sponsored. (For Ayn Rand’s view of racism, click here.)

The Nazi idea of the Untermensch was an excuse for enslaving Slavs, Asians in general, and in fact anyone who did not fit their race-anthropologists’ ideal of a Nordic Aryan. It was, of course, also an excuse for the genocidal mass murder of Jews and Gypsies.

It takes a pretty extreme stretch of a very weak or lazy mind to compare Nazi gassing of Jews to Ayn Rand’s hopes for a philosophical renaissance, but that was obviously the kind of mind embodied by Whittaker Chambers, and — worse in my opinion — to the National Review editor who approved the publication of Chambers’ screed.

For the record, though Ayn Rand never wrote or spoke of Untermenschen (she could read German) she did write about concrete-bound, anti-conceptual humans with lazy or weak minds, in an article entitled The Missing Link. My interpretation is that her “missing link” was a full human with a mind capable of reason, but who refused to use that mind; Peter Keating, the Fountainhead character would be an example.

But what about Nietzsche and his superhuman Übermensch? More about them in Part III of this three-part blogpost.


Nov. 18, 2013

@AynRandFan: Bogus Objectivism Part One of Three

In the face of the 'Progressive' juggernaut threatening the world by destroying America as a constitutional republic, the works of Ayn Rand, notably her novel Atlas Shrugged have become exceedingly popular. Thrilled by bits and snatches of Ayn Rand’s work (including the kind of quotes I post on this website) many would-be Ayn Rand fans proceed to express opinions about her work. These opinions may be favorable or unfavorable, but are often gross distortions of what Ayn Rand really meant.

How do I know, then, what she really meant? By reading and re-reading her work, all of it, and listening and re-listening to her recorded lectures.
I have my own opinions, then, about what she meant, and the opinions which you read here are mine, not necessarily Ayn Rand’s.
In an attempt to reduce Ayn Rand’s views to three principles, I offer the following:
  1. Man’s mind is his means of survival. 
  2. Reason is the tool by which man uses his mind as his means of survival. 
  3. A pro-reason philosophy is necessary for man to apply reason to a complex universe in a consistent, predictable, non-contradictory way. 
Bogus Objectivism, therefore, is the practice of cherry-picking bits and pieces of Ayn Rand’s writing to prove a point, while ignoring any one or a combination of those three principles, followed by attributing the point made to Ayn Rand herself.

One example of such bogus Objectivism consists in picking Ayn-Rand’s pro-capitalist, limited government political philosophy out of context, then using it to justify anarchism, mindless street brawling, or drug abuse. Some of those who perpetrate that version of bogus Objectivism like to call themselves 'libertarians.'

However, there is another form of bogus Objectivism which I believe to be even more dangerous than the one just mentioned: the equation of Ayn Rand’s ethics of rational egoism (“The Virtue of Selfishness”) with the philosophical views of Friedrich Nietzsche, specifically his ideas of the “Übermensch” (Superman) and the Will-to-Power, one or the other of which are all too frequently, and disastrously, attributed to Ayn Rand.

In Part II of this three-part blogpost, I will write more about the Rand-Nietzsche moral equivalency theory, one which, like Count Dracula, never seems to die.


Aug. 23, 2012

Galt, Gold and God 

By Paul Krugman

So far, most of the discussion of Paul Ryan, the presumptive Republican nominee for vice president, has focused on his budget proposals. But Mr. Ryan is a man of many ideas, which would ordinarily be a good thing. In his case, however, most of those ideas appear to come from works of fiction, specifically Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged.” For those who somehow missed it when growing up, “Atlas Shrugged” is a fantasy in which the world’s productive people — the “job creators,” if you like — withdraw their services from an ungrateful society. The novel’s centerpiece is a 64-page speech by John Galt, the angry elite’s ringleader; even Friedrich Hayek admitted that he never made it through that part. Yet the book is a perennial favorite among adolescent boys. (Source) H/t fantasy writer Paul "Bertram Scudder" Krugman by @BoschFawstin

June 17, 2012

Meta Review: a Paradigm Shift in Objectivism Hit Pieces

(...)Since comprehension of Ayn Rand's theory requires an ethics program, directly opposed to the prevailing morality, to true adepts these unfortunate lapses stand out like a soar thumb. Victoria Bekiempis in an article in The Guardian is no exception. But she distinguishes herself by the claim to have been a former student of the theory, turning the review into a personal testimony in order to lend weight to the critique: a fallacy called the Argument from Authority. In "Confessions of a recovering Objectivist" she goes to the point of stating to have become an officer of her university's Objectivist club. But she repented and she now sees the error of her former ways: "what a pernicious philosophy rational egoism is – and how dumb!"  (...) (Source)