Monday, March 23, 2009

I've Been Reading

For the last couple of weeks while sitting in the guard shack I have been reading Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. As I have said before I respect Ayn Rand's intelligence and consistency, but have limited respect for her philosophy. I believe it is morally superior to socialism but still not the best we can do. Part of my disagreement with her might be semantics as I do not believe that wanting what is legitimately yours can be properly called selfishness. Selfishness is demanding what isn't yours or what you haven't earned. I think it's selfish for a welfare recipient to have so little goodwill toward those whose taxes fill their bellies. I think it's selfish to demand $25+ an hour to do next to nothing without a lot of goodwill toward the employer. If you work hard at difficult and exacting work and deserve it, well that's different. (I admittedly do not work very hard in the guardshack but I am not getting outlandish pay either.) I think most people are willing to share but most people also don't like being threatened or guilt-tripped into giving.

One thing I note in her book is the, almost comic-book, quality of her characters. Like another writer I don't always agree with but enjoy the writing of, Robert Heinlein, her main characters are super-intelligent, almost Nietzshceistic, over-achievers. I see a sequence of flow to individualism from the truth to the absurd with Heinlein closest to the truth, Rand a bit further out, and Nietzsche being all the way out at the point where the extreme left and right become the indistinguishable. The characters are just unrealistic. There are great men and women but supermen of the sort who appear in these novels are a myth. All men have weaknesses and often the greatest of men have the greatest weaknesses. (Also I note that Heinlein's supermen still had a sense of humor while Rand's work has very little real humor - unless you count sarcasm as humor; maybe Rand, for her intelligence, failed to understand humor.)

I did enjoy the scenes where the "looters" were talking amongst themselves and, speaking in private, how ruthless, cold-blooded and uncaring they really were. As one Dr. Ferris (one of the looters) said "We are after power and we mean it." Most modern leftists know that their policies will never work but they don't care; it's nothing but a path to power for them. If the state has total power and they are the state then they have what they want. The state controls all and they control the state.

Another disturbing thing is her reference to Robin Hood. Now the historical Robin Hood was nothing but a common bandit around whom air of romance was developed. Now the mythical Robin Hood was, in my opinion, a right-wing hero. You see in those days the rich and the government were one and the same and they got rich through excessive taxation. The Robin Hood of the romantic legends brought about the first tax refund by stealing from the taxman and giving it back to the tax-payer. Of course that's not how the historical Robin Hood functioned, but that's another story.

My biggest concern is her arrogant Atheism. Without God it is impossible to set moral absolutes. You may speak of what is good for the masses but why should I give a rip about the masses? You may speak of earning everything you have, as Rand does, but why should I if I can do it some other way? You can speak of the survival of humanity as the root of morality -as Heinlein does - but why should I care about what happens to humanity after I die? Morality requires a foundation otherwise it becomes meaningless. I recognize all of these things because there is Something bigger than me, or all of humanity, that has set an end and purpose to it all; you can choose to ignore or reject God but that has a terrible price. You can seek a moral foundation but without God there really isn't one.

I furthermore wonder if she realized how close she was to the Protestant Work Ethic which was born of Christian principles.


Blogger Ducky's here said...

They're over achievers all right. Start building a motor that runs on static and defies several laws of physics and you've got an over achiever.

4:32 PM  
Blogger Ducky's here said...

Also look at how close she was to the labor theory of value.

In fact when you get down to it she had a lot of the qualities of a Marxist.

She just substituted the fairy tale John Galt for the politburo.

4:35 PM  
Blogger Bloviating Zeppelin said...

Ayn Rand is interesting for one reading and for some discussion. That's about it.


4:38 PM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

I furthermore wonder if she realized how close she was to the Protestant Work Ethic which was born of Christian principles.

Odd that you should mention that!

Just today, a student asked me for some info about Ayn Rand. I told him, almost word for word, what you said above.

With the exception of only a few, most objectivists I've met or chatted with online are so arrogant about their atheism. I find that off-putting and contradictory to objectivism's strong position on individual rights.

Someone else is welcome to his atheism, but I am a follower of Christ.

4:48 PM  
Blogger Z said...

Many bloggers are reading Rand, it seems. I can't find the copy I read too many years ago to admit here!
A friend's about finished with his and will bring it over.
I will hope to find this post when I'm reading it to remind me as your input's always so spot-on, Shoprat, thanks.
I always thought Lauren Bacall would have been a perfect Dagney Taggart if they'd made the film..,.I do remember that.

12:51 AM  
Blogger Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

You nailed it, Shoprat. Rand's characters were not human because she denied her own humanness as most athesists do. She was all mind and no soul.

1:20 AM  
Blogger Ducky's here said...

z, have you seen the Fountainhead?

How do you feel about Rand's permissive attitude towards rape?

8:32 AM  
Blogger dons_mind said...

i tried reading rand once...have to admit, i only made about half way through the book! and have never had the urge to pick it up and restart or finish it. sometimes her stuff comes off as overly simple, then all of a sudden she was way over my head...difficult reading at best...

9:12 AM  
Blogger dmarks said...

Randism is better than socialism, for sure. Most of the worst mass murderers since the invention of socialist have been socialist.

I defy you to find one of these genocidal monsters who was a Randist or anything like it.

There's something about socialism that inspires people to "improve" society by butchering a large proportion of the people in it.

10:46 AM  
Blogger shoprat said...

dmarks One of the advantages of Rand is that she does value the individual, but she follows Darwin to his inescapable conclusion, which is Social Darwinism.

d_m I didn't find any passages particularly difficult but I did find much of it to be BORING.

Ducky I didn't see Galt so much as politburo as I saw him as a Walter Reuther like character. A man who took a valid complaint to an answer that created all new problems. Also if we demand that fiction to stick to devices we know are possible what would become of Star Trek?

PJC you're right and she talks so much about spirit yet denies its true existence except as a metaphor.

z It is a good read provided you read it with a mind that is both critical and open. She has a lot of very good points and a lot of nonsense.

AOW a humble Atheist is almost, but not quite, an oxymoron. I remember reading a speech that Isaac Asimov gave as he received some sort of humanist award and he was actually proud of his arrogance and said that humility is a false virtue.

bz agreed.

1:15 PM  
Blogger Gayle said...

I read it so long ago I don't even remember it, Shoprat. All I remember is that I read it. I don't know that I want to read it again. I've had about all I can stand from atheists already!

3:10 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

A movie version is supposedly in the works.

But I can't image Hollywood getting it right.

4:05 PM  
Blogger christian soldier said...

I look at the 'in general' aspects of Rand's body work...
She illustrated that socialist-communism did (does) not work...but the default alternative for her had no moral high ground...
Excellent post-shop-rat...

12:46 AM  
Blogger christian soldier said...

..body of work..

12:46 AM  
Blogger Z-man said...

Atlas was a good read but John Galt's speech went on way too long. If I wrote it I would have changed a few things but it is what it is as they say.

3:53 PM  

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