Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Ayn Rand: engineer of souls

Something for Kevin:

Ayn Rand: engineer of souls by Anthony Daniels - The New Criterion

Ayn Rand was never, in fact, much appreciated or very influential in Europe; at the height of her fame in America, where her books sold by the million, her name was not one to conjure with on the other side of the Atlantic. She was much read by middle-class young Indians of the time, however, as well as by Americans, and she is now coming back into fashion globally. I confess that enthusiasm for her is to me utterly mysterious, and the excellent new biography by Ann C. Heller does not clear up the mystery but, rather, deepens it.[1]


Grant said...

Pfft. What do the Europeans know? They don't even know how to read Camus properly.

Kevin Scheunemann said...


Very interesting post.


Anonymous said...

I still love her essay on racism, and her money speech in Atlas Shrugged is excellent. She was against imperialism as practiced by Kennedy and Nixon preferring the U.S. take an isolationist approach. Though vehemently anti-communist, she did not advocate the pacifying measures the U.S. took toward communist countries nor did she approve of the U.S. making deals with other, sometime more, oppressive countries to create alliances against the Soviet state.
I respect the philosophy of absolutism, which she cited. In my understanding, it allows followers to grab the best parts of working philosophies and connect them while dropping non-working parts of philosophies. She did love Aristotle, and she did quit smoking instantly when doctors told her she had cancer (despite having advocated smoking for years).

Her asking permission of her husband and her lover's wife to have an affair was eye-opening to say the least.

Her non-militant but pronounced atheism leaves me always to wonder why so many who honor this women ignore her stance on atheism and her essays on the faults in people who worship supernatural beings. She repeatedly slams them as ignorant people who ignore logic to follow witchdoctors.

I admit I am still taken with her. I have read all her works except the latest biography; however, I do not respect the posers who use bits and pieces of her ideas while ignoring the whole person (and that's not in line with Absolutism because they tend to ignore the necessary logic bits).


Kevin Scheunemann said...


great post.

When you say "Soviet state", you should say "leftist Soviet state."

Modern day liberalism, which advocates heavy central state economic control from afar, like the Soviet Union, is the precise collectivist advocacy Ayn Rand railed against.

Modern day liberalism is still in denial, to this day, of the human atrocity the Soviet Union/Eastern Europe was under Stalin. Fortunately, Ayn describes life and leftist oppression under Stalin it in great detail.

Also read David Horowitz on this issue. He and his parents were socialist/leftists advocates in the U.S. in the 40's, 50s' and 60s and he recounts the denial (and heartbreak) by his parents when Stalin's atrocities came to light (his parents believed the Soviet Union was a personification of their leftist/socialist ideals).

Mpeterson said...

This is, of course, complete and utter nonsense -- and an example of Ayn Rand's ground for everything: Stalin was bad.

Which he was. But referring to Stalin as if he were just another "leftist" is the same as saying that Hitler is just another "right winger"... you know, like Kevin or Mark Belling. No biggie.

Bull hockey.

Moreover, modern day liberalism is not in denial about what a lunatic Stalin was -- or about whether Stalin's policies could, in even the most ideologically distorted mirror, be called "liberal." They weren't. They were totalitarian.

The denial among American and European Communists which was part and parcel of the worship of the "Soviet ideal" during the 40's, and especially after Khrushchev's de-Stalinization speech, immediately unraveled in Europe and the US about the time of the Gdansk shipyard organizing in Poland. Once the truth started trickling out, people who had been apologists for the USSR did a 180.

This is unfortunate because it makes it more difficult to paint anything "liberal" as the worst kind of offensive fascism.... and hence the cognitive dissonance among the Tea Partiers for whom socialism and fascism seem to be the same.

It is possible that one's ideals aren't always met in reality Kevin.

Grant said...

You should learn to speak Tamarian, Mark.

clay barham said...

At 105, it is not that Ayn Rand is bigger, but what she gave us that justifies what our founders described that is bigger. It is because we have all left things to chance and are now paying the price that makes what she said bigger. The Changing Face of Democrats on Amazon and claysamerica.com describes the 19th century Democrats who followed Jefferson and Madison, contrasted with modern Democrats who follow Rousseau and Marx, as is done in Europe, that being what Rand found of no worth as was the Old World. claysamerica.com

Kevin Scheunemann said...


That is one of the best left wing denials of the human atrocity of socialism in practice I've seen.

You ignore the main point and lesson from Stalin....when government controls the resources, (whether by nationalization or taxation) its difficult for poor and beaten down citizens to maintain control of that government and have the resources to oppose that government.

De-centralizing power and making everyone wealthy is the solution. Modern day liberalism constantly proposes centralizing power in Washington D.C and wasting the wealth of this nation with gross government incompetence.

How do we make the average person wealthy with taxing and spending by government? Or are you making the argument, Stalin would not happen if a kind and compassionate ruler like yourself had absolute economic resource control?

Mpeterson said...

Nice Kevin, but then how do you explain Denmark?

Kevin Scheunemann said...

According to the Heritage Foundation, Denmark is the "11th most freest economy in the world".

These are the factors Heritage uses:

Business Freedom
Trade Freedom
Monetary Freedom
Government Size
Fiscal Freedom
Property Rights
Investment Freedom
Financial Freedom
Freedom from Corruption
Labor Freedom

If you are sticking up for these principles, doesn't this make you a free market advocate?

My next question is: are you a closet member of the Heritage foundation?

The "success" Denmark has is because of market freedom, respect for property rights, and its respect for individual rights, and it works despite its huge welfare state. The Denmark welfare state is not what makes Denmark a great country.

Mpeterson said...

So taxes higher than any Kennedy ever dreamed, and social welfare programs the guarantee everyone a full education, free medical care, and a job *are* okay with you? Welcome to good guys Kevin! I knew we'd bring you over eventually.

Anonymous said...

Kevin, there were no unions in the U.S.S.R. - There was only THE party. My wife is from Kazakhstan and grew up under the "communist" state. Her family went through the whole shpeal. I am also well read. The U.S.S.R. never reached communism, they reached a form of socialism by name only under a tyranny of old boys who put people in prison or killed them or raped them if they didn't fit in. Perhaps you are viewing the former U.S.S.R. only through their imperialist occupation tactics: Frankly, they built a hell of a lot more foreign schools and put a hell of a lot more foreign women into doctor and engineering schools than any Western occupation ever did.

Modern day liberalism is not in denial of the dead nor the Soviet war machine nor the tactics of the KGB. Obama has not made one cut to the overall bloated Pentagon budget, and I doubt he will. His international military forays are in line with every president since at least 1941: We are Rome, for now.

Drop the "left" rhetoric with me. Thank you. Obama, the democrats, Bush, and the Republicans will, as a whole, not meet my ideals for a while.


Kevin Scheunemann said...


Obligating one to pay or provide services to one's fellow man is not "freedom". This is why Denmark is only the "11th freeest" country.

When you obligate someone to serve their fellow man with the force of government (whether by taxation or nationalization), you are, at some level, advocating a form of economic slavery.

I know your motives are "pure"...to help one's fellow man. However, at the same time you detest and treat with contempt one of the biggest voluntary sources of charity in our society...Christianity. Sure, you like that religion is charitable, but you want them to shut up in the public square while doing their acts of kindness.

So your argument is: charity should be mandatory?

Is it "charity" at that point? Why is it not "slavery" when the so-called charity is mandated?

Does one cease to be "charitable", when the social attitude becomes: "That's the government's job to help my neighbor", "that's why I pay taxes"?

I trust you have this paradox figured out.

Free Lunch said...


Every society in the world has imposed obligations on its members to perform service for the community since the first tribes. Your definition of 'freedom' is silly. If you don't like the society you live in because you don't think it is 'free' enough, no one here is stopping you from leaving the country.

Kevin Scheunemann said...


Point taken. (that is assuming there is a country that wants me.)

So can we comfortably say that today's liberalism advocates increasing economic slavery through government mandate? (aka health care reform)

Mpeterson said...

If by economic slavery you mean people will no longer be tied down to their current jobs because they're afraid of losing their health care, and will thereby be able to follow better job offers and open up the free market from the labor side, then yes -- liberal health care policies promote economic slavery.

Kevin Scheunemann said...


Lets start by letting insurance companies compete across state lines.

Malpractice reform.

HSA reform.

Getting rid of mandatory arbitration for government unions, so government entity can change health insurance policies.

Why does the answer have to be bureaucrats in Washington DC? Last I checked, that is NEVER reform!

Mpeterson said...

I agree with all of them except for arbitration... it's a better option than returning to the strikes of the 30's.

Free Lunch said...

Insurance companies can and do compete across state lines. The proposal that is being made by the GOP is to let insurance companies sell whatever policy they want in whatever state they want. The result of their proposal will be to gut consumer protection.