The Daily Walk of Shame: Ayn Rand

This Motley Fool series examines things that just aren't right in the world of finance and investing. Here's what's got us riled today. If something's bugging you, too -- and we suspect it is -- go ahead and unload in the comments section below.

Today's subject: Economic philosopher Ayn Rand died in 1982, but her legacy remains very much alive. Unfortunately, some people in positions of power have used parts of her Objectivist teachings to rationalize their own dysfunctional, damaging behavior.

I definitely agree with the benefits of the "rational self-interest" Rand advocated. As a society, the individual drive for achievement inspires us onward and upward. However, some of her adherents seem more keen on the "self-interest" part than the "rational" part. Their ruthless selfishness and soulless narcissism have torpedoed our economic well-being and polluted our culture. Time to face the music, Ayn.

Why you should be indignant: Ayn Rand defended selfishness as a virtue, and rejected the concept of altruism altogether. In other words: Every man (and woman) for him- or herself! Don't feel bad about trampling others to get what you want! It's all about you!

Um, no thank you. Needless to say, the prevalence of that mind-set has screwed us all over, big time. Here are just a few examples of the rampant self-absorption Rand's teachings may have inspired:

  • Remember the revelations from last year's Congressional hearings regarding Lehman Brothers CEO Dick Fuld? Apparently, when approached about conciliatory pay cuts to make up for poor performance, Fuld dismissed advocates of the idea by writing: "Don't worry -- they are only people who think about their own pockets." Pot, meet kettle.
  • Chesapeake Energy's (NYSE: CHK  ) Chairman and CEO Aubrey McClendon faced heat for his 2008 $112.5 million compensation package. That hefty paycheck made him the highest-paid CEO in the U.S., even though the stock fell 59%. Even worse, the company's board approved paying McClendon a huge bonus designed to help him buy back Chesapeake shares he lost in a margin call. It also OK'd paying McClendon $12.1 million for maps and artwork from his personal collection. Somewhere, Rand must be giving him a great big thumbs-up.
  • Many bailed-out bankers are doing pretty darn well, despite their companies' reliance on public funds to survive. Word of bonuses for AIG (NYSE: AIG  ) , one of the poster children for the parade of companies that committed EPIC FAILS, stirred up outrage among many taxpayers. But hey, those executives worked hard at failing! No one could have failed quite like they did! They deserve that money!

Unfortunately, the business world's current cowardly self-involvement far overshadows the executive heroes who responsibly realize that their interests extend beyond the contents of their own pockets. It's truly sad that ethical CEOs who espouse common sense and modest compensation, like Costco's (Nasdaq: COST  ) Jim Sinegal, could almost be considered eccentric mavericks in corporate America.

What now: I avidly defend individual achievement and the free market. But unless they're shaped by personal responsibility and rock-solid ethics, those ideals can't work. Unlike Rand, I believe some forms of altruism are commendable, as long as no coercion is involved. We should all be free to make our own choices, including the strong, courageous decision not to be completely self-centered. It's not healthy to shut down our capacity for compassion, or to ignore how our actions affect other people in business or our everyday lives.

When Whole Foods Market's (Nasdaq: WFMI  ) John Mackey gave the Fool his presentation on conscious capitalism, he expressed similar philosophical differences with Rand. He also pointed out that Rand's brand of narcissism generally doesn't make people happy at all.

Despite my differences with Rand, I do respect much of her philosophy. "Throughout the centuries," she once wrote, "there were men who took first steps down new roads armed with nothing but their own vision." Within that spirit lies the beauty of the marketplace, where great companies like Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) can create world-changing products.

Ruthless selfishness, on the other hand, is a path to destruction -- parasitic, maybe even sociopathic, behavior. We've seen far too much of it. Shame on Ayn Rand, and on those so enamored of her philosophy that they can't reject its weaker, less practical aspects. It shouldn't be hard to jettison the more dangerous, ill-conceived elements of a philosophy, especially when they threaten all that's good about capitalism, freedom, and our economy.

Out-of-control selfishness doesn't build; it destroys.

Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Apple, Costco, and Whole Foods Market are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. Chesapeake Energy and Costco Wholesale are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. The Fool owns shares of Chesapeake Energy and Costco Wholesale. Try any of our Foolish newsletters free for 30 days.

Alyce Lomax owns shares of Whole Foods Market and, for the record, can't tolerate Keynes, you know. The Fool's disclosure policy wonders what Steve Ditko would make of all this.


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Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 2:48 PM, TMFMarlowe wrote:

    I have a feeling that this is going to be a very interesting comment thread in a few hours...

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 3:08 PM, BigRedFed wrote:

    You get Rand wrong. Rand did not believe that altruism was bad, but that it didn't exist. She believe that no matter how "altruistic" something appeared to be, there was deep down and exchange of some kind occurring and that the "altruistic" deed is actually a selfish one. Rational self-interest means not that you only look out for yourself, but that you look at things objectively, how they function as a whole and realize that you are acting from self-interest and that your self-interest is tied into the interests of others. Go back and read Atlas shrugged again, if you ever actually read it.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 3:10 PM, globalsailor wrote:

    My question about Chesapeake is who is on the company's board? If the board properly represents the shareholders, and it's not impossible to get onto it, then the board is making their own decision and while they may be stupid they're not doing anything wrong. Anyways the company would have turned a consistent profit for the last couple of years were it not for a one time charge in the first quarter (what was it? maybe a large investment in Marcellus Shale). Stock price doesn't mean everything, so please be more specific about what the CEO did wrong.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 3:12 PM, MarkWickens wrote:

    "Ayn Rand defended selfishness as a virtue, and rejected the concept of altruism altogether. In other words: Every man (and woman) for him- or herself! Don't feel bad about trampling others to get what you want! It's all about you!"

    When one says "in other words," it's traditional to say something that's equivalent to the preceding words. Ayn Rand's virtue of selfishness has nothing to do with trampling others. Violating the rights of others is not in one's self interest. And selfishness is not about getting whatever you "want". It's about an difficult process of determining what's truly in your best, long-term interest and then acting rationally to do the hard work necessary to achieve it.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 3:12 PM, lemoneater wrote:

    I watched a very interesting biography on Ayn Rand. She was a friend of Frank Lloyd Wright, a talented egoist in his own right. I have read The Fountainhead and some of her other works. She makes it very clear that she is reacting to an impersonal, dehumanizing collectivism. Iron curtain anyone? But her heroine Dominique is quite ruthless and chilling and not a person I would wish for a friend. Rugged individualism can be cruel taken to the extreme that Ayn Rand promotes. I wonder if she was influenced at all by Nietzche with his Superman idea. I'm also reminded of the Sea Wolf by Jack London. Without compassion people act like animals.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 3:16 PM, TMFMarlowe wrote:

    lemoneater, I distinctly recall hearing that FLW couldn't stand her and went to some lengths to disassociate himself from her work. You might want to, to borrow a phrase, check your premises.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 3:17 PM, Raxer45 wrote:

    Wow - apparently you have never read, or don't understand Ayn Rand's philosophy (i am going with - never read). In a very general fashion, Objectivism is about being the best you can be - maximizing your talents and being paid for your efforts. The men you mention would cause Ayn to hang her head in shame for the way they utilized their position of power to manipulate financial gain without providing value.

    She even says it is not right to step on another to raise yourself up, if you do not have the talent, drive or plan to be successful, you do not DESERVE ANYTHING. If you are lazy or deceitful, you should not gain form others. The men above are more like the government architects in 'The Fountainhead' (another one I doubt you have actually read). They will put their snout in the trough and eat their fill even thought they have slashed shareholder value, destroyed 401K value, etc and then put their heads on the pillow at night and say - 'I DESERVE that money, I am the CEO.' Pitiful and shameful.

    Too many people confuse greed and Objectivism. Objectivists are not greedy, they want to be paid for what they contribute and WILL NOT share the results of their efforts with those that do not bring value.

    Please, before you slander a sound financial and moral principle, do your research, don't just Google for a quote.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 3:17 PM, MarkWickens wrote:

    @BigRedFed: I'm afraid you get Rand wrong, too. Rand did believe that altruism -- the putting of other people's interest above one's own -- was always bad. She didn't think altruistic actions were really selfish. She did, however, think that some actions that help others *can* be in one's own interest, and are therefore *not* altruistic.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 3:17 PM, TheRevRob wrote:

    I too think this is gonna be interesting. But, for starters, I am gonna hope to GOD that the answers are within that these moronic writers have just never Read Atlas Shrugged. If they have, then GOD BE WITH US.. You have COMPLETELY missed the point. She was NOT advocating lack a of community or caring for your neighbor, she was trying to show that if you see the vision and the goals for your WORK you will work harder and CLEAR. If you work for a company that says they need more more and more, yet at the end of the day, you get nothing.. How long will you keep really honestly working harder? Or will you begin to hide the truth of your efforts and cheat for time? Supporting people that do not want to CONTRIBUTE is vial. NOW... She was also an advocate for being rational and reasonable (you missed that chapter, i know,they are big words and lots of them), that ALL people could afford the supplies they need. FREE and REASONABLE Trade.. Does that Sounds Selfish? READ THE BOOK !!! or again, and maybe with a tutor.. Let me ask you, would most of the great inventions of our time have existed to the MASSES had it not been for this SELFISH drive you ATTEMPT to quote? Or do you think that for the most part, people would have made there own lives easier, and never bothered with the trouble of sending it out to the world? I am tiring of writing here, but you have written an article that is as much the reason for the demise of this country as the previous administrations. You just don't see clearly, and CLEARLY not the bigger picture. Give a man a fish and he eats for the day, teach a man to fish and he eats often, ALLOW a man to solve his PROBLEMS and he will SOLVE others problems....

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 3:39 PM, Tastylunch wrote:

    Fantastic Article Alyce!

    To those who are saying Rand believed in what I guess you are calling self-serving altruism

    if that's what she believed, she did a terrible job expressing it that way. And she did an even worse job explaining how it works in the real world. I think she lacked an understanding of how humanity actually behaves.

    Her books were full of the most wooden robotic characters I've ever read. I've never met anyone remotely like Howard Roark or Dagny Taggart. I've met plenty of people however that use them to justify them to trample on others.

    Her theory is just as flawed as communism. People are not rational beings, and they never will be. Both theories despite their obvious differences assume that they are.

    I've seen near pure altruism, it does exist. I've seen people nearly kill themselves to save the lives of others they don't even know. Perhaps it shouldn't but it does.

    And I've seen near pure greed. We all have.

    Both rampant greed and selflessnes are pretty common in my experience. The only thing I've seen that more common is short-termism.

    But I very rarely ever have seen rational self interest.

    Any model that assumes pure rationality is flawed.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 4:01 PM, boykos wrote:

    Everybody claims to know what Ayn Rand would thik or say if she were alive today. I have never read any of her work but I feel I can say with certainty that if she was alive right now she'd probably say something like "HELP HELP SOMEBODY HELP ME I'VE BEEN BURIED ALIVE!"

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 4:21 PM, JohnDonohue wrote:

    Before the argument about "altruism" does much further it would be useful for all to consider this:

    MarkWickens (above) gets it right. Rand believed and showed in her writing complete support for voluntary helping, generosity and nurturing of human beings for each other. She was strong that this should be an exchange of value for value, not destructive sacrifice. And yes, there is such a thing as value for value that is not in money. She rejected one person actually attempting to live for another (co-dependance) or leeching from another (dependance).

    What she opposed vigorously is the ORIGINAL, toxic meaning of "altruism" as conceived by Comte as pioneered by Kant: total self-immolation down to the level of driving out even the 'inclination' to pleasure resulting from helping, which practice leads only to soul-less duty. This original meaning has been so immensely watered down most people think "altruism" just means "be kind and care for each other."

    The Comte original "altruism-as-immolation" lurks in the culture, even one that 'likes to be nice.' And, destructive as it is if a person falls down into the dark meaning of the word, it is nothing compared to attempts to encode sacrificial altruism into law, binding on citizens. THAT is what raised the blood of Ayn Rand.

    Suggested reading on this point:

    http://hubcap.clemson.edu/~campber/altruismrandcomte.pdf

    John Donohue

    Pasadena, CA

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 4:40 PM, lemoneater wrote:

    TMFMarlowe, I checked about the friendship between Rand and Wright and it sounds like it had a rocky beginning with her being more interested in meeting him than he was her. However she did visit him at his home in 1945 according to the link I found http://www.objectivistcenter.org/cth--24-Wright_Rand.aspx so that probably is what the documentary made reference to. Also to clarify I'm more familiar with The Fountainhead published in 1943 than her later work Atlas Shrugged published in 1957 although I've read both. Dominique doesn't fit my definition of someone I admire. Don't marry someone that you have contempt for. Go be selfish by yourself, Dominique! John Galt was a much pleasanter hero. I disliked Dominique so much that I found it hard to be objective about the philosophy.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 4:42 PM, JohnnyAngel33 wrote:

    You should really READ Ayn Rand's books BEFORE commenting on them and their content. I realize this article and its featuring of Rand was just to create attention but seriously, at least do some research into what you are writing about.

    You gotta love journalism that skips over the process of fact checking, sourcing, and due diligence.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 4:43 PM, MichaelMolenaar wrote:

    I'm actually reading Atlas Shrugged right now. The article is off base. Ayn Rand would not support the kind of manipulative, parasitic behavior exhibited by those people. Her idea was that individuals will create the most when they gain the fruits of their labors, and society will be the best off when productivity and inventiveness are the highest priority. She advocated creating real wealth by means of individual incentive. not stealing from others.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 4:54 PM, motleyanimal wrote:

    When a neighbor has health problems and I mow their lawn for them without even asking if they need help or for compensation it may be considered altruism. But I have my own interests to consider, if their property deteriorates it lowers the value of mine. Collectively, anything I do for a weaker member of my group, family, company, or society is in my interest, since it makes me stronger.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 4:54 PM, catoismymotor wrote:

    Alyce,

    I think you are taking an oppositional stance just to stir the pudding, to cause debate. If this is not the case I urge you apply more DD on on Mrs. Rand. I believe you can do better work than this.

    Cato.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 5:09 PM, TMFLomax wrote:

    Hello everyone,

    Just for the record, I have read both Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.

    I'll concede that sometimes supposed altruism can be a cover for something negative, in other words, the will to wield power over others (and push them down), but I do not believe it's always the case. Meanwhile, the sort of harsh emphasis on self interest/self-oriented behavior always did bother me about Rand; it was always the impression I took away from her work although I did admire the individualist/freedom themes.

    I still argue plenty of people could rationalize some of the behavior that has been going on in corporate America, and almost institutionalized as normal, as those individuals' "self-interest." One of the main thrusts of this piece is how easily it is to use that particular part of the philosophy to rationalize all kinds of destructive behavior, shrug your shoulders and say it's all right because it's "self interest." Perhaps some people don't find it in their self interest to think too hard about accountability for performance, merit, and so forth?

    At any rate, I know a lot of folks I would generally agree with on many things probably disagree with me strongly on Rand. With all due respect, of course. I know she has a lot of fans. I just don't happen to be one of them.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 5:56 PM, footej wrote:

    The "Daily Walk of Shame" editorials make me wonder if the Motley Fool staff is getting bloated with too much time on their hands. Can we get back to the Fools core competence of investing and spare the political and moral diatribe?

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 6:01 PM, fokcal wrote:

    I was shocked seeing a photo of Greenspan w/ Ford, etc. standing next to Rand! I couldn't believe ANYONE with a rational mind would be seen next to her!!!!... however it helped me understand their NARROW view of EVERYTHING!

    Let me start from the beginning. First off... I have read both the "Fountain Head" and "Atlas Shrugged". It was many years ago when I was in NY. In fact I went to meeting of Rand fans where Nathanial moderated the meeting. I could not believe it when he said RIGHT OFF THE BAT, "if anyone does not agree with our ideas, please leave the room!" That is not a joke. She was there also. She sat on the stage and never engaged in anything... questions, answers, etc. It was very strange. On the way home after the meeting I asked my friend if he knew of anyone who fit the "profile" of a person Rand described. When he answered "Bruce Goff" (a brilliant archtect, and my teacher for three years), I saw that my friend had missed the boat!... and his conclusion was false.

    At the end of one of the books, she has all these "individuals" leave their current society to set up a community according to their criteria. I asked my friend, so what do they do when they get there???? Won't they have the same problems any society has???? He did not have an answer, and I doubt that any of the Randers have an plausible answer either. As an aside, my friend had a baby boy, without a name, and my friend insisted that the boy name himself!!!! (Good grief!,,,,, that was taking her ideas a bit too far for me.)

    Wright is one of my heroes, but is in no way shares in the expression of her beliefs. After quitting (?) Russia, I think she had an axe to grind! It really is as simple as Psychology 101. "Get those SOBs that chased me out of my own country!"

    Can we please let her rest in Peace? Together with that idea I hope i don't have to read the Randers ever again.

    Thad

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 6:08 PM, rocketraman wrote:

    Alyce,

    Of course people can "rationalize" anything. That people can rationalize something is in their self-interest doesn't actually make it so. See here for some of Rand's comments about rationalization:

    http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/rationalization.html

    Objectivism advocates determining, and subsequently following, one's *actual* self-interest. None of the examples you cited are instances of properly understood non-sacrificial self-interest.

    It is not intellectually honest to fault Rand's philosophy for providing a so-called rationalization tool to people who neither understand nor follow her actual philosophy.

    Furthermore, as other commentators have pointed out, true self-interested behavior a la Rand is not "harsh" -- it requires a certain amount of good will towards men and an honest accounting of what matters to one most -- including friends, family, and loved ones.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 6:57 PM, xetn wrote:

    According to Ludwig von Mises (Human Action), "human action is purposeful behavior". "To act, a person has to be in a state of uneasyness or dissatisfaction, would not act if that condition did not exist, and finally, he must believe that purposeful behavior will remove or improve the uneasyness". "All action is ration". It does not matter what your action is, you are moving to improve your individual position. In other words, every individual acts in his/her own self-interest.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 7:00 PM, johnstrobel wrote:

    You need to re-read Atlas Shrugged. We live in a society that increasingly tries to punish achievement, and her book was about those who withdrew from society as a result of that punishment. Ayn Rand once said, "The individual must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself." I don't think the idiots who wrecked our financial system were operating under these tenets.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 7:02 PM, c1992w wrote:

    Lomax sometimes gets things very wrong. This is an example. For starters, Ayn Rand was a novelist not an 'economic philosopher,' whatever that is. Her Philosophy of Objectivism was embedded in her fictional characters. Second, it is best for one to avoid topics when one is not well versed on them, and this is probably good advice for Mr. Lomax (And 'no.' reading a book review does not constitute learning about either Ms. Rand or Objectivism).

    The real question here for me is, 'Does Mr. Lomax have knowledge as shallow as this very often in his financial reporting?'

    c1992w

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 7:39 PM, knoconnor wrote:

    @ c1992w: Rand stated that capitalism without any governmental interference was the logical extension of her philosophy, Objectivism. She considered herself a philosopher who communicated her ideas primarily through novels, and regarded "Atlas Shrugged" as her greatest work. I don't know if that makes her an 'economic philosopher', but she certainly regarded herself as a philosopher with strong, very definitive ideas about economics and society.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 7:43 PM, kcalw wrote:

    Apparently Atlas Shrugged was not long enough. How many pages did she need to write to make clear that altruism is not the same as charity? Altruism is sacrificing yourself for the benefit of the moocher, which helps neither the giver or the receiver. How many more pages did she need to write to make clear that helping a person who is in temporary need would benefit both parties?

    Another mistake the Motley Fool writer made was assuming that the ceo's receiving the high salaries were person living by the morality of rational self interest when in actuality these are the very person she used as her antagonist. Do the names James Taggart or Orren Boyle meaning anything to you? If you had read the book you could never written this article.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 7:44 PM, Bonefish100 wrote:

    Dear Alyce:

    I'd be interested to learn, in a follow-up article, if you've ever actually read Rand's books. Would you mind responding to us with your answer?

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 7:53 PM, Tastylunch wrote:

    Bonefish100

    she said already she said did man in 5:09 pm response above

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 7:59 PM, TMFMileHigh wrote:

    Hello Bonefish100,

    Scroll up a bit and you'll see this from Alyce:

    "Hello everyone,

    Just for the record, I have read both Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead."

    Foolish best,

    Tim (TMFMileHigh and @milehighfool on Twitter)

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 8:02 PM, EBerg13 wrote:

    This is an interesting thread. First off, I have to disagree with the writer. Rand would be taking those execs to task. They collected money for something they did not earn. However, Alyce can't be blamed because Objectivism itself has been perverted. I heard a spokesman from the Ayn Rand institute on NPR defending oil speculation when the price was hovering around $4 a gallon because it was just the free market at work -- as if cartels and government protectionism to guarantee their profit was somehow part of that free market.

    Where you can take Objectivism to task is over regulation. Even after Madoff, Rand followers would likely argue there should be no SEC, no government oversight, no rules.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 8:06 PM, Judochop172 wrote:

    Someone kicked a hornet's nest today didn't they.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 8:13 PM, PuddinHead42 wrote:

    The problem with (most) CEO compensation is that it is not free-market based. There is a cozy relationship between the CEO and the board, he usually appoints the compensation committee. Now, Bill Gates deserves every penny he has, it is all from the stock of the company he created. He did not force anyone to buy DOS, or Windows, or Office or Xbox or Zune, he created something people wanted and was rewarded for his brainpower. That is classic Ayn Rand. Aubry McClendon got a pay off from his buddies and he is not a risk in a free market and not truly earning his worth.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 8:52 PM, kcalw wrote:

    As I re-read Alyce's article I am totally amazed at the conclusion she comes up with.

    She states in her opening paragraph that "Unfortunately, some people in positions of power have used parts of her Objectivist teachings to rationalize their own dysfunctional,damaging behavior".

    She admits that they are using "parts" of her teaching. This would be the same as saying you are a Christian but you are only going to obey "parts" of the ten commandments.

    And then she confirms Ayn Rands beliefs by stating the eventual out come of not fully following the Objective principals when she points out "their own dysfunctional, damaging behavior."

    As someone pointed out early Alyce needs to read Atlas Shrugged with a tutor.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 9:00 PM, rgperrin wrote:

    I didn't intend to "report" the comment by BigRedFed. What he wrote was exactly correct about Rand. I clicked on the "hand" by mistake. I am sorry if I caused any trouble for this obviously well-informed reader.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 9:07 PM, TMFLomax wrote:

    Yes, Judochop172, I think I did indeed kick a hornet's nest. ;)

    Thanks for the discussion here - whew. But, if I read both books and the impression I got was such that it is, and many people tell me I got it all wrong, then I suppose the topic is subject to misinterpretation in general which could be part of the point. (Although I did say in the article, I do admire her regard for individualism, achievement, and freedom, and yes, those themes were prevalent in both The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and no, I'm not a fan of "moochers" or those that coerce altruism in the least.) Perhaps she wrote The Virtue of Selfishness as an intellectual exercise to challenge us on what exactly self interest is. And yeah, what is rational self interest, enlightened self interest, or near sociopathic greedy selfishness? We're seeing a lot of the last and again, that may be the purest form of somebody's idea of "self interest."

    And for those who don't think economic philosophy relates to investing, I'd say it does. All those numbers we all watch in our stocks' financials and performance represent loads of decisions people make -- rational or irrational, selfish or selfless -- every day. Even if hardcore Rand fans are arguing that there's misinterpretation going on, well maybe there is, and it's a contagion right now. I believe in the free market, but the continued argument (made by many supposed free market enthusiasts) that out-of-whack CEO pay is just part of that is not a very intellectually sound argument either. That game is fixed, folks.

    kcalw, hmm, I don't quite understand your argument. Honestly, I think it's very good for us to challenge ourselves not to be dogmatic and to reject parts of a philosophy we might find damaging, and I do know I'm not the only one who's been turned off by certain bits of Rand's philosophy. Rand belongs in the realm of economic philosophers who I admire, but that doesn't mean I'm willing to follow her or anybody else lockstep. And sometimes it might be just as useful to question our intellectual heroes as our opponents, at least I think so.

    Anyway, folks, thanks for the discussion. I do think it's a good one to have.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 9:14 PM, minnjim1 wrote:

    Fools who want to go deeper than her novels and understand what Ayn Rand thought will be interested in two new biographies of her, "Goddess of the Market" by Jennifer Burns and "Ayn Rand and the World She Made" by Anne Heller.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 9:23 PM, TMFMitten wrote:

    I fell in love with Ayn Rand in college. I devoured "Anthem" and then absorbed myself in "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged." And then I got to "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal." Fantastic. And then, after that, "The Virtue of Selfishness." That's when I hit a wall. As much as I tried, I could not justify her belief that selfishness is good. Now, looking back, I don't know how I ever fell for allure in the first place.

    Rand's problem was that she didn't understand the difference between selfishness and enlightened self-interest. With the latter, you help others because you see how doing so can benefit the other person, as well as your society -- which in turn benefits you. With the former, you couldn't give a damn about other people, except in terms of how you can exploit them to get something for yourself. Rand saw the world in black and white. Altruists were always weaklings who enabled society's parasites. It was only those who looked out for themselves and no one else, at any cost, who were worth our praise. That's the way she wrote her novels. Her heroes were cold, wooden, and "perfect" supermen. Completely self-absorbed, egotistical, narcissistic social Darwinists. Her villains were strawmen.

    Of course, those who worship at the altar of Ayn Rand will have none of this, because if you're a Randian, you accept her entire philosophy, lock, stock, and barrel. Not surprising, since Rand herself demanded complete obedience within her inner circle -- and ended up alienating lots of people before she died.

    I find it supremely ironic that Rand railed so hard against totalitarianism that she became a mirror image of it. "I believe in complete human autonomy, and you must believe in it in exactly the same way I do, or you shall be banished." Oh, the irony.

    I'm a (small-"l") libertarian, but I frankly find Rand embarrassing. I'll find my free-market lessons from someone less odious.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 9:25 PM, dgmennie wrote:

    Having read "Atlas Shrugged" in 1960 while in high school, I definitely remember a passage where perfectly good automobiles were being dismantled or destroyed as some kind of govenment-inspired make-work program, a concept I had trouble understanding as anything but fiction.

    2009: Welcome to "cash for clunkers" courtesy of the Obama administration.

    Anyhow, forget the long-winded intellectual discussions of Objectivism, altruism, rational self-interest, and selfishness as a virtue. Ayn Rand had a certain dark vision that has endured over many decades. What else can you cite from 1940s and 1950s American literature that has comperable relevance to today's headline-grabbing events?

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 9:28 PM, BMFPitt wrote:

    The problem with all of those examples is that the shareholders of the companies in question didn't pursue their own self-interest and throw out CEOs and boards that were robbing them blind.

    If my boss wanted to give me a 1000% raise and let me spend all day destroying my company, then it wouldn't be my fault for accepting his offer.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 9:45 PM, r74quinn wrote:

    "Ruthless selfishness, on the other hand, is a path to destruction -- parasitic, maybe even sociopathic, behavior. We've seen far too much of it."

    Selfishness means doing what's in your own interest. That is what you should ALWAYS do - the hard part is knowing what is actually in your own interest. That is what Ayn Rand provides.

    You want to have your cake and eat it too. Pay a little lip service to "self" then turn around and damn those that actually do pursue their own happiness.

    Just another example of the true anti-self nature of Conservatism, and how today's conservatives never could have written the Declaration of Independence, which advocates an individual's "pursuit of happiness" - his OWN happiness - not his neighbor's, not his religion's - his OWN.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 9:50 PM, JohnDonohue wrote:

    TMFMitten why didn't you seek help when you revolted against the Virtue of Selfishness and Rand's moral stance in it? On the face of it, a person championing "selfishness" unashamed is either a monster or...maybe she is trying to get the attention of the West, mired as it is in Platonic error. Admit it, did you read any of her hero characters who were shallow, conceited, self-obsessed passive/aggressive manipulators for gain? (the 'common' definition of selfish). Such a tragedy that you threw away a deep love of an idea because you failed to understand one tactic by the idea's progenitor.

    All the help you needed is in the introduction to the book. Rand wanted people to examine the trivial default acceptance of selflessness held up as a high good by religion and collectivism. Rand was out to break the back of altruism* and she deliberately used the word "selfish" because it made people afraid when she spoke of selfishness as a high moral code.

    That's what "iconoclast" means.

    John Donohue

    Pasadena, CA

    *not 'altruism' as in "be kind and help one another some." Altruism as in 'wipe yourself out and report for duty and if you don't do so voluntarily the state will make you do it because it is "good".'

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 10:41 PM, lorinloverde wrote:

    I am enjoying the intellectual passions that Ayn Rand continues to stir up. For my contribution a key to understanding the benefits and message of Rand is to realize where her philosophy is situated in terms of stages of transformation. Below is a transitional statement I made in a chapter on Rand in my forthcoming book, New Planetary Culture, Volume I, all rights reserved:

    One of the important implications for understanding Rand and the limits of her philosophy has to do with the concept of self-esteem. Many contemporary positions have consciously or unwittingly borrowed this concept as a key element. Therefore, it is very important to place self-esteem in its proper context: a diamond stepping stone in the raging river of life, which can save you, but from which you eventually must leap.

    What is Rand's concept of self-esteem and how can we go beyond it?

    Rand posits in Atlas Shrugged that there are three foundation points that man needs in order to choose life and live heroically: reason, purpose and self-esteem.

    To live, man must hold three things as the supreme and ruling values of his life: Reason–Purpose–Self-esteem. Reason, as his only tool of knowledge–Purpose, as his choice of the happiness which that tool must proceed to achieve–Self-esteem, as his inviolate certainty that his mind is competent to think and his person is worthy of happiness, which means: is worthy of living. These three values imply and require all of man's virtues, and all his virtues pertain to the relation of existence and consciousness: rationality, independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness, pride.

    Rand's argument, in brief, is that a human being is a volitional creature with consciousness. Since a human does not have the simplicity of animal instinct, a human must choose, and humans must understand their nature to choose the things that allow him to live. The argument from nature is frequently brought in to give the illusion of support for an argument.

    She argues that man must choose either life, supported by rational and purposeful activity, or else a human by default chooses death, doomed by irrational and purposeless activity. She views human rationality as the sole means by which they can determine what knowledge is true. Thereby, she rejects mysticism of all kinds, which undermine rationality. Likewise, she rejects social-governmental force of all kinds, which also undermines rational choice and free trade. What she argues in favor of is life, the fulfillment of achievements which support life, and the recognition of the most competent as benefactors to society who deserve to amass wealth because what they get personally is small in comparison to how all men in the society benefit from their capital, their productivity, their inventions, and their organization.

    Therefore, self-esteem is a key foundation because it is man's "certainty that his mind is competent to think and his person is worthy of happiness." Without self-esteem, Rand believes that man will fall victim to false values such as original sin, rejection of pride, and denigration of material achievement. Belief in one's own competence to think makes one capable of independent judgment; nothing is worse for Rand than a man who capitulates to a proposition on (religious) faith or (social) pressure or popularity. She believes that man must see himself as worthy of happiness or else he will never be happy, falling instead into self-doubt, feelings of endless guilt, and incapable of finding honest fellowship with other men and women of achievement.

    It is easy to argue against Rand's position from the viewpoint that she is too selfish. She gladly embraces the charge of selfishness and says that self-interest is the only basis for living and relating to others. Critics can almost dismiss her.

    However, an advanced spiritual critique of her position is quite another thing. As noted, the personality level of development is a necessary step on the spiritual path. At this point, it may be helpful to interpret some of Rand's celebrations of the personality so that a better understanding of it and its limitations is possible.

    Reference:

    Loverde, Lorin J.B., Dynamic Markets Leadership: a Multidisciplinary Approach to Business and the Hidden Soul of Capitalism, Volume One of New Planetary Culture: a Multidisciplinary Approach to Dynamic Fields Leadership in the Coming Eras, Los Angeles: Global Diversity Institute Press, forthcoming 2009. www.globaldiversityinstitute.org

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 10:50 PM, busterbuddy wrote:

    Individual share holders can't change the system of high pay for non performance. If the index funds that together hold enough voting power will not do anything How can small shareholder. You see the problem is management within all companies get large amounts of cheap stock and they control what is happening.

    CEO of company x is a director on Board y and is the compensation person.

    IN a democratic republic you can only fix the problem with tax law regulation and accounting standards that puts this high compensation into higher tax brackets for companies and individuals getting the money.

    Take Boeing and Ford. Wonder who has the better CEO ???? For those little fools Ford's CEO would be running Boeing today but he went to work for Ford. And to report a profit or profit increase for an automaker in this business environment is something.

    There is just nothing we can do! It is capitalism for us and socialism for the very rich.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 10:58 PM, starbucks4ever wrote:

    Ayn Rand never made any sense and her idea of a CEO strike was so ridiculous that it doesn't even need comments.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 11:01 PM, guiron wrote:

    "Another mistake the Motley Fool writer made was assuming that the ceo's receiving the high salaries were person living by the morality of rational self interest when in actuality these are the very person she used as her antagonist."

    It's fascinating to me that all these proponents of Objectivism who fail upward, such as these CEOs, are never considered "real" Objectivists by other Randians. It's telling. It seems to indicate that there are very few true Objectivists, because the philosophy can only be understood by the most sublime intellects, and you aren't it. Hard to imagine how that works in practice.

    Or could be a variation of the "no true Scotsman" fallacy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_true_Scotsman

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2009, at 11:18 PM, guiron wrote:

    "Likewise, she rejects social-governmental force of all kinds, which also undermines rational choice and free trade. What she argues in favor of is life, the fulfillment of achievements which support life, and the recognition of the most competent as benefactors to society who deserve to amass wealth because what they get personally is small in comparison to how all men in the society benefit from their capital, their productivity, their inventions, and their organization."

    I understand that you're trying to explain how this works, but I hope you understand that what you've explained there is the self-rationalization of narcissism. "Socio-governmental force" is another word for "society," and while Objectivists may feel they owe nothing to society, that is not really for them to say, like it or not. We're all in it together, you have to grow up and learn to accept that you depend on society as much as it depends on you. That is something most of us go through at, say, 19-23 years old. Objectivists seem to be stuck in arrested adolescence. Don't expect me to respect you for it.

    I have a nephew who used to say the stupidest, self-centered BS when he first got to college, totally cocky and full of it, like a lot of guys his age, and if he were a reader he would have been a Randian. But he grew out of it, and now he's turning into a mature adult and doesn't feel as if he's above the rest of society.

    It's time for this infantile selfishness masquerading as philosophy to be put to rest.

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2009, at 12:13 AM, predfern wrote:

    See the following article:

    Ayn Rand Was Right

    By Edward H. Crane

    https://www.cato.org/pubs/policy_report/v29n6/cpr29n6-2.html

    Selfishness means being true to your values. The political expression of Ayn's philosophy is life, liberty and the persuit of happiness, in other words the dignity of the individual. As Hank Rearden said, “I work for nothing but my own profit—which I make by selling a product they need to men who are willing and able to buy it. I do not produce it for their benefit at the expense of mine, and they do not buy it for my benefit at the expense of theirs; I do not sacrifice my interests to them nor do they sacrifice theirs to me; we deal as equals by mutual consent to mutual advantage.”

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2009, at 12:43 AM, JohnDonohue wrote:

    guiron, what you describe is the coming of age ritual as surrender to the collective at the point of a gun. Sorry, your paradigm is rejected with prejudice.

    Every time I see the famous "I outgrew it" cliche it I know the real meaning. Ayn Rand electrifies the young, free optimistic mind. Unfortunately a certain number of people betray their youthful sense of life and principles. They especially give up on believing free people can and will engage in a fair, healthy way without being forced. When they do, the works of Ayn Rand irritate them, reminding them of their discarded spirit. They turn away.

    Some of them begin to resent those who engage in the world but do not surrender to collective force. You get the typical attempt to shame others who are not conforming to your "all in it together" on the level of legally bound edict. You get the relentless striving to pull humans into a "contract" that they did not contract. The resentment is so strong you see denial that no bound person can engage freely, denial that free people pay/trade-for their own way, denial that high social intercourse does not flourish under compulsion, only under freely chosen values and association.

    P.S. There is no such thing as a "Randian." Show some respect.

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2009, at 1:25 AM, AvianFlu wrote:

    Whoever wrote this article apparently completely misses the concept of Adam Smith's invisible hand, which closely ties in with the Rand philosophy. I'm not sure they should be writing on a site that is concerned with economics.

    There are lots of great comments that have been posted. I can see that it is time for Atlas Shrugged to be made into a movie. I understand the Rand estate has finally decided it is time to authorize someone to get to work on it. I can't imagine where they will find a director for a project like this in Hollywood. Maybe we should force Michael Moore and Oliver Stone to co-direct. After all, as statists they seem to like the idea of forcing individuals to do things against their will and conscience.

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2009, at 1:41 AM, m0j0m0j0 wrote:

    you misunderstand ayn rand remember she lived in the soviet union before coming to america if you can read 3000 pages of very small type remember she was russian and goes on and and on she defines selfishness as every persons actions are always selfish and every person has a different values it is not me first but what is most important to you that could be running a soup kitchen or developing an invention or company whatever the point is you own your body and what it produces the idea that some other person is entitled to your property instead of you with out your permission is theft everyone does what they think is best unless someone uses force to steal your property or person it is the the concepts of the us deceration of

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2009, at 1:43 AM, m0j0m0j0 wrote:

    independence sorry hit comment before i was done

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2009, at 1:57 AM, whereaminow wrote:

    There is good and bad in Ayn Rand's philosophy, but blaming her at all for this mess is ridiculous.

    1. She's been dead for almost 30 years.

    2. Not a single institution that created this crisis (the Fed, the regulatory monster, Fannie/Freddie, etc) would be supported by Ayn Rand.

    3. If people take a good philosophy and cherry pick it to support their own vicious ends, one can't blame the philosopher.

    4. The political entrepreneurs that profited in this fiasco are the exact opposite of Ayn's view of the heroic person. She depicted them with venom in many of her works, including Atlas Shrugged.

    Alyce, we normally agree, but not here.

    David in Qatar

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2009, at 1:59 AM, whereaminow wrote:

    To follow up on point #3, Alyce, do you blame Jesus for the Crusades or Mohammed for Osama Bin Laden? Some people would. I would disagree with them.

    Just food for thought.

    David in Qatar

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2009, at 2:40 AM, srorer wrote:

    Behind the thin veneer of altruism, brightly burns the flame of self-interest.

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2009, at 3:46 AM, murfool62 wrote:

    Sorry, you need to go back a reread your Ayn Rand collection. If stepping on other people to get what you want is what you got out of her works, then you've missed something.

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2009, at 3:52 AM, Atrossity wrote:

    Great article Alyce! Very courageous of you to take on a particularly confusing philosopher. Hegel writes more clearly than she does. The comments above remind me of a Proust quote, "A book is written twice, once by the writer and once by the reader." Many of Rand's ghost writers appear to be well represented above. Here's one more below:

    I respect her intellect but abhor her rejection of humanistic concepts in favor of waving her pretentious love for the $ symbol and her belief that laissez fair capitalism lead by the pursuit of a bizarre sort of Vulcan self-realized self interest. Not to mention that her characters make the Terminator seem mushy and touchy feely.

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2009, at 4:10 AM, coerte wrote:

    No one should forget the Rand was a vocal supporter of the gold standard. Within the framework of her economic position, the way Dick Fuld made his money should not have been possible and was, and remains, wholly irrational. Printing currency backed by nothing and spewing it out on the markets for close to nothing is and remains the root cause of the problems in the financial markets today. This is the great experiment and no one knows how it is going to end but nothing could be further from the position that Ayn Rand took on a number of occasions and in a number of writings.

    Capitalism is still an "unknown" ideal

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2009, at 4:48 AM, secjd wrote:

    TMFMitten: Amen.

    Putting things in historical perspective, it could well be argued that Ayn Rand was basically a disgruntled, disenfranchised "defector" who was hailed as a hero of sorts because she vocally championed our system over the Soviets' during the height of the Cold War. I suppose one could argue that the tediousness of her books (which tomes can be synopsized in a few sentences) was meant to underscore the tediousness of the Soviet system, but, given her narcissistic persona, I rather suspect that she in fact was just a rather cleverly packaged product of that system; a self-styled "philosopher" without much real profundity who apparently disrespected her readers enough to hog up disproportionately enormous amounts of our time and effort over a disappointingly course, simplistic message. That, to me, rings of a pompous, self-impressed beaurocrat.

    Sorry, but when I compare her to authors like Orwell, Joyce or Kafka, she basically comes out as a shallow, selfish buffoon. And, while she may have despised parasites, it all depends on what one considers as parasitic (and, I would posit that she could well be considered a parasite herself). Frankly, the character of Gordon Gecko summed it up more honestly, with a lot fewer pretenses and in three words: "Greed is Good." Anyone care to champion that character's philisophical importance?

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2009, at 8:18 AM, AxIt wrote:

    "I was shocked seeing a photo of Greenspan w/ Ford, etc. standing next to Rand!"

    Greenspan frequented Rand for many decades starting from the 50s, was in the Ayn Rand Collective in the 70s.

    His actions at the FED have been undoubtly influenced by his many decades following Rand. We all see the results today.

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2009, at 9:17 AM, TMFLomax wrote:

    Avianflu, Adam Smith also wrote "The Theory of Moral Sentiments"...

    Whereaminow, your points are well taken as always and they are good ones. And you're right, I doubt she would have supported things like Fannie and Freddie or political entrepreneurship and these are big problems (as for the Fed, I always did wonder how it was that Greenspan was supposedly a philosophical fan of Rand and ended up at the Fed at all... maybe there's an argument about the nature of self interest right there).

    But... when it comes to philosophies I do believe elements can be construed in negative ways and then be rationalized to people's own ends. I think the questions are always important to ask, point out, discuss. We do agree on many, many things, but when it comes to Rand, I think we may have to agree to disagree, but the rebuttals are a good conversation to have, too. If some of us have the wrong impression of her work, it's good to hear the opposing arguments and think it all through.

    secjd, I wonder sometimes if some people thought the Gordon Gekko character was considered to be a hero by some. ;)

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2009, at 9:32 AM, whereaminow wrote:

    TMFLomax,

    Thanks for the kind response. It's a good sign that you and I don't agree on everything. People will start thinking all Libertarians are just robots.

    Have you ever heard of Garet Garrett? He was a financial journalist and author from the first half of the 20th century. Anyway, I just finished up his early work "The Driver" about a railroad speculator (full circle: Justin Raimondo and some at the Mises Institute believe Ayn Rand plagiarized The Driver for Atlas Shrugged. Having read both, it is pure nonsense.) Anyway, Garrett makes the best case in support of insider trading that I've read. Basically, the main character Henry Galt (yes, Galt) owns a railroad and an investment company. He sells shares of the railroad for cash to finance his operations and he pushes shares of the same railroad as investments for his investment company customers. Talk about your conflict of interests right? Well, in the Congressional hearing that follows, Galt presents the best defense of such a practice you'll ever read. Very good stuff.

    And since I'm on the subject, Garrett's book "Harangue" was one of the best political/historical books I've ever read.

    David in Qatar

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2009, at 9:43 AM, dynamo111 wrote:

    ridiculous writing from the fool--very disappointed

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2009, at 9:54 AM, RHaganC wrote:

    I HAVE THE SOLUTION!

    Read Bastiat's works. It talks about how now law or man should detract from another man’s pursuits and freedoms. It solves the issue on both sides. You are rewarded for your work ethic and drive (my thought on what Rand is driving at). The other side is solved because the role of govt is only to stop others from treading on other individuals freedoms. Therefore, if you are greedy to the point of determining others, THAT is when (and ONLY when) the gov't interferes.

    These yahoos who were greedy may still have made some serious $, but as long as dumb shareholders were willing to pay them that or people are willing to buy the product. People's stupidity is their problem.

    Where it ENDS is the tax payer bailouts. Freedom of choice is removed. You can chose to be stupid and participate in this evil people's greed; that's what freedom is all about!

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2009, at 10:21 AM, Joelshann wrote:

    “Every man builds his world in his own image... He has the power to choose, but no power to escape the necessity of choice. If he abdicates his power, he abdicates the status of man, and the grinding chaos of the irrational is what he achieves as his sphere of existence… " (Atlas Shrugged, 791)

    Seems the altruistic men (and women) of Wall Street and Capital Hill made their choice--a reflection of their own image.

    Not a world I want to live in. Makes a strong case for the fact that life is "not the way it's suppose to be" (Cornelius Plantinga Jr.).

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2009, at 10:50 AM, waldokeywest wrote:

    This is not a debate on altruism, but governance. Boards of Directors are hired, and paid, to provide "unbiased" governance. When they fail to do so, the results can be abandonment of corporate governance. There are too many successful leaders to allow those who failure to reign. Chains of command that are unfaithful to wealth-creating governance must be self-purging or accept the clean out by shareholders. Failure to mind the store leads to government involvement which is the absolute worst of alternatives.

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2009, at 11:25 AM, bubbasuth wrote:

    I guess everyone takes a little bit different message away from _Atlas Shrugged_. If I get it wrong, I'm sorry. I'm not a devout follower of Objectivism.

    Ayn Rand wrote with POLAR characters. Extreme, but almost always flawed in some obvious way. They fell roughly into two groups: Creationists and Parasites. Those that created through their own efforts benefit themselves as well as those around them. Those that feed off others damage those around them, and also tend to favor destruction over construction.

    The driving force for both was self interest, yet the Creationist is portrayed as 'selfish' by the Parasite!

    In the context of AIG and CHK, did the people of interest 'create' value? No. They are parasites.

    Ayn just didn't have a good example of a business parasite. She used Political and Media (_Fountainhead_) parasites as examples.

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2009, at 12:43 PM, dahabes wrote:

    Read the 50 page John Galt monologue at the end if Atlas Shrugged. There is nothing about "ruthless selfishness" in it. I keep a log of famous quotes. My John Galt (Ayn Rand) quote is the following: "I swear --- by my life and my love for it --- that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine." The latter part is the antithesis of "ruthless". There is also a significant difference between Rand-like self-interest and selfishness.

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2009, at 12:44 PM, dahabes wrote:

    Read the 50 page John Galt monologue at the end of Atlas Shrugged. There is nothing about "ruthless selfishness" in it. I keep a log of famous quotes. My John Galt (Ayn Rand) quote is the following: "I swear --- by my life and my love for it --- that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine." The latter part is the antithesis of "ruthless". There is also a significant difference between Rand-like self-interest and selfishness.

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2009, at 12:59 PM, dcharles01 wrote:

    About Ayn Rand: You could not have been further from reality with your take on Ayn Rand. She would have slapped Alan Greenspan’s face, who was once her friend. Ayn Rand was a capitalist and stood for capitalism against communism/socialism in all it forms including fascism. George Bush with his TARP and Obama with everything he does are fascism, government and private ownership in combination with the freedoms of the free market no where to be seen. What these people have done claims to be altruism, which is that myth about people living to serve others. Ayn Rand hated altruism, which is a big lie because people always act in their own self interest by pursuing and promoting something or someone they value; the opposite of altruism is selfishness, which she defended as good because in a capitalism selfishness produces freedom and prosperity.

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2009, at 1:02 PM, JohnDonohue wrote:

    If I may suggest....

    discussion about "today's tycoons" and the current situation might well profit from the perspective posted above

    November 05, 2009, at 4:10 AM, coerte

    ...in which the fact we are not dealing with actual money, actual free exchange, actual values is noted. If you think these pirates are capitalists or that in an actual hard money free economy they could have gotten as far as they did, you are mistaken. They would have gotten nowhere.

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2009, at 1:44 PM, Racerg75 wrote:

    Long live Ayn Rand!

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2009, at 2:16 PM, kertch wrote:

    Alyce - Read a book!

    You obviously have never read anything by Ayn Rand since you don't understand her philosophy. You seem to have Rand confused with Nietzche. Start with Introduction to Philosophy, then come back and make comments.

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2009, at 2:18 PM, catoismymotor wrote:

    Alyce,

    You've always had my respect even though we fail to see eye to eye on some things, including this. But today you are to be elevated to the Pantheon of Fool writiers for this accomplishment: http://www.fark.com/business/ . Look carefully under today's date.

    Cato

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2009, at 3:05 PM, badnicolez wrote:

    @EBerg13:

    The SEC investigated Madoff three separate times and failed to even check that the accounts in which he claimed to be making trades were legitimate. Ridiculous!

    Rand would rightfully argue against regulation in this instance. Government oversight only works if the government is not corrupt and the system doesn't provide former regulators with big, fat paychecks on Wall Street at the end of their stints as "public servants."

    Regulation and oversight utterly failed to prevent the Madoff scandal, Enron, WorldCom, etc., or the need for TARP, bailouts of Fannie and Freddie and the automakers and AIG, and soon the FHA.

    It's not capitalism that has caused our problems, it's a corrupt government that has twisted capitalism to suit its own greed for money and power.

    Let's start by voting them all out of office every term (but it's never your congressional representatives, it's always somebody else's, right?), because we all know they won't ever set term limits for themselves.

    If that doesn't work (since when the politicians go, the bureaucracy stays), then what would happen if those of us who support the ever-growing number of parasites all stopped paying both our taxes and our mortgages at the same time?

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2009, at 3:14 PM, pacificwaters wrote:

    You really must reread Ayn Rand. She would have disapproved of Madoff et al and others of his ilk.

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2009, at 4:44 PM, TMFMitten wrote:

    JohnDonohue, yes, all of her characters were exactly like that. I think it took "The Virtue of Selfishness" to wake me up to what I'd been reading. When I went back to reassess Rand at that point, I realized how cold and heartless her philosophy really was. There are no shades of altruism in her philosophy -- if you help others, you're weak, and you're supporting the parasites of society. I'm no fan of confiscatory taxation and government mandates, either, but that doesn't mean I have a character flaw if I want to treat others the way I'd want to be treated. In Rand's twisted world, the Golden Rule is anathema. I see people here saying Rand wouldn't have approved of Madoff et al., but where's the evidence of this assertion? I read three Rand novels, and with hindsight and maturity, I see nothing *but* that type of behavior being rationalized to no end.

    I didn't really throw any ideas away, since I'm still a libertarian. I just think Rand is terrible spokesperson for libertarianism. She embodies every bad stereotype that people have about the movement. She's like a real-life Gordon Gekko.

    A new story at Slate can articulate all of this much better than I can:

    http://www.slate.com/id/2233966/

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2009, at 5:13 PM, two1955 wrote:

    Posters here should view Frontline's "The Warning" that tells the story of Alan Greenspan's clash with Brooksley Born, then CFTC chair in the Clinton administration.

    When Born warned Greenspan, Larry Summers and SEC's Arthur Leavitt of the dangers Dark Money investment pools and unregulated derivative trading, she spoke of attempting to ferret out intentional wrongdoing -- fraud -- in the industry.

    Greenspan fought back. Why? He didn't believe there was any reason to attempt to regulate against fraud. Why? He believed enlightened self-interest, as expressed by the market, would self regulate fraudulent conduct. He and Leavitt, at least, now say differently. Apparently, Larry Summers does, too.

    Who was influential in Greenspan's thinking. Ayn Rand. Don't believe me? What the show at the following link:

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/warning/view/

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2009, at 5:29 PM, jvillaveces wrote:

    I understand and respect that Ms Lomax doesn't like Ayn Rand, but she is completely misrepresenting her philosophy. Rand never said, or implied, that dumb, blind greed was good, or that it could be better than altruism. She did say that honest self-interest was far more powerful and purer than the drive to get the fruits of others' labor or to prevent them from getting those fruits, hypocritically cloaked as altruism. She insisted that when most people say "share", what they reaaly mean is "give me", and that very few people have what it takes to break that mold.

    The executives mentioned in the article and the effects they cause in society are precisly the sort of people and constructs against which Rand wrote, rather than any stereotype of her ideal person.

    Ms Lomax' interpretation seems so far of the mark that one has to wonder if she ever read The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged, or even The Virtue of Selfishness - or less charitably, if she understood them.

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2009, at 6:15 PM, AKrakovsky wrote:

    There may be plenty wrong with Objectivism, but you missed the point entirely. In fact if the investment community understood that there is no altruism and was a little bit cynical about the self-righteousness of the corporate insiders, it would not have allowed CEOs to pay themselves. It would have insisted on pay oversight, proxy access and all other shareholder rights a long time ago.

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2009, at 9:28 PM, TomBooker wrote:

    Wow. It can never be said Ayn Rand didn't stir thinking, and wouldn't enjoy that she can still motivate it from the grave. let's get something in line here... ;)

    Greenspan was not a friend, he was to be her economic legacy to the world. For years he was in her inner circle. An example of her influence on him... Greenspan never took doctoral level courses. His degree was awarded without thesis. (That is not to say his career hadn't far surpassed such a certification at the time)

    The reason had to do with Ayn Rand talking him through it. In "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal", it was starkly clear she had great disdain for the capitalism being taught in the day. Her thesis had to do with it having barely gotten off of the ground, and it was polluted by government and intellectual-economic thugs.

    She saw no point in Greenspan wasting his time and genius on such "morally bankrupt" teachings.

    Ayn Rand's conceptualization of capitalism was as the only moral commerce of exchange between people within a democratic republic. In their untainted forms, they are inextricably philosophically coherent and symbiotic.

    Read the book for a couple of reasons. It makes TMFLomax's characterization of Rand as an "economic philosopher" quite viable for general consumption. Only Ayn would take exception to its imprecision. How could you have a rational philosophy without constructs of exchange between individuals?

    Another reason is because it contains a collection of articles, and I believe that is where I first ran across Alan Greenspan (1970?). He was a contributor. (As I remember it, there is also a mention of Ronald Reagan in it. Ayn was a big fan of his, and then he started to behave like everybody else in politics.;)

    Keeping track of Greenspan would prove out to be one of the biggest conundrums of logic in my life.

    It was clear that Ayn had no time for a fiat money system and Greenspan was pretty much in her camp. Of course, the Central Bank's whole reason for being is to manipulate that monetary system to its best service.

    As Ayn would put it "And by whom, and by what standards would "best service" be decided?"

    This was (I believe) a sound principle of thought. She believed the role of government was to protect the individual's rights. The manner in which they do this is by rule of law. Not some powerful opinion and person(s) of the moment.

    Buffett runs along the business lines of this philosophical gem. He is a huge believer in firm and effective business processes within a company. The reason being that it is statistically probable you will get idiots running a company during some business cycle. You want processes in place which will minimize the damage they can inflict.

    We the People are currently facing this philosophical fork in the road with market regulation. IMHO, we're going to screw it up. As example, somebody, or some group of people, are going to be responsible for overseeing the big picture of the entire financial community.

    This is an excellent situation for robbers and thugs. They will get the opportunity to influence subjective decision-making. It's an entirely new dominion.

    We always skip over the hard part. You create the laws first, then you hand out the power to enforce them.

    My simpleminded solution to this is to reinstate Glass-Steagal and the regulation which put a cap on leveraging. They worked for many years, but are still a sucky solution. But, we start there. Too much complexity, too fast, led to the destruction of third-party property.

    Rational self-interest morally precludes selling misvalued assets, by accident or intention. By Ayn Rand's standards, we all should be trying to crawl out of the first year of financial system collapse with the single up-side that everybody in The Big House Banks would be going to jail. Everybody shares the pain, because we were all in on it, by action and inaction.

    "Reality is the ultimate judge."

    I'm off topic here.. so back to Greenspan...

    So, he takes the job at the Fed??? You gotta be kidding me. He should be fighting to abolish it.

    There-in lies the tragic flaw of the exceptional human. It's a hubris to duty. Greenspan took the job because the Fed has almost arbitrary power (when you look at it historically). He didn't want that power misused. So he felt he was the best man for the job. To protect us all from bad decisions and the Fed itself. He saw minimalism in everything he would have it do.

    And he can't understand the conclusion. "I don't understand why they didn't consider the interests of the shareholders."

    If you are going to go the rational self-interest way, that has moral responsibility, too. Expanding just a little bit, Howard Roarke's buildings didn't fall on anybody. John Galt never took anything which belonged to others, nor did he deceive them.

    And neither would want the slightest subjective power over anyone else.

    IMHO, although it was in there somewhere, Ayn never often got to the compelling mathematics of John Nash. Sometimes it is in your rational self-interest to join forces, rather than suffer your intransigence.

    I have a similar painful affection to the Bible, Ayn Rand's work, and the compendium which makes up the origins of Capitalism. They all are wonderful, and even beautiful, in thought. But they all have the same problem.

    As soon as you put them in the hands of mere men, they completely screw them up, and often the abuse of some surrounding others is involved.

    So ya go with what ya got, somehow cobbled together over a lifetime.

    Ayn Rand wouldn't tolerate this lack of singularity in thought. You could plead adaptability, but she would kill you on her own turf.

    "Are you telling me there are no absolutes?... Where is the logic in the thought that there are absolutely no absolutes?"

    And down the rabbit hole you go. ;)

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2009, at 9:51 PM, mtnrunner2 wrote:

    Motley Fool indeed:

    >However, some of her adherents seem more keen on the "self-interest" part than the "rational" part.

    You don't seem to know what Rand meant by self-interest, which is that which actually contributes our long-range well-being. Your comment makes it sound like you are using the conventional derogatory definition instead, which is roughly: trampling others to get what you want, i.e. Bernie Madoff. Sorry, not the same thing.

    >Their ruthless selfishness and soulless narcissism have torpedoed our economic well-being and polluted our culture.

    Are you referring to the actions of the Fed, a government-controlled central bank? The actions of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? The CRA, which extorts high-risk loans from banks into local communities? These are the things that caused the recent economic bubble/burst, and they are not rational and they are not capitalist (capitalism is always the next whipping boy in line after "selfishness"). The rest of what happened is the result of overly lax credit standards; it is not the cause.

    > In other words: Every man (and woman) for him- or herself!

    See, I didn't think you understood. You have *no idea* what Rand advocated. Read "The Virtue of Selfishness" and learn.

    Your economic examples are irrelevant, since Rand advocated laissez-faire capitalism and would never have sanctioned the type of bailouts we have had recently.

    >[John Mackey] also pointed out that Rand's brand of narcissism generally doesn't make people happy at all.

    Huh? You need to read the primary source material, rather than listening to what others say.

    >Ruthless selfishness, on the other hand, is a path to destruction -- parasitic, maybe even sociopathic, behavior. We've seen far too much of it. Shame on Ayn Rand

    Again, you have absolutely no idea what she stood for. Read the books and try again.

    >Despite my differences with Rand, I do respect much of her philosophy.

    Then you should finish learning what it is.

    Jeff Montgomery

    http://funwithgravity.blogspot.com

  • Report this Comment On November 05, 2009, at 11:07 PM, TMFLomax wrote:

    Kertch, it's Nietzsche, by the way. And thanks for the advice but I assure you I have read plenty of books.

    Whereaminow, we do mostly agree! And I know one area where we definitely agree is on rejecting intellectual robotics that sometimes take place. ;) After all, sometimes it doesn't have to be this or that, but maybe that other. :) And thank you for the recommendation -- I still need to read the last recommendation I got from you, I have it here and it's on my list... I got a little stalled out reading Schumpeter. I need to get this show on the road! Although I should probably tackle Keynes and then put him on a Walk of Shame too.... ;) Between us (and all the people commenting on this), from my understanding of his economic philosophy makes me think that he deserves it more than Rand. ;)

    Cato, you have my respect too, I always enjoy your comments even if we disagree here or there. And thanks for the heads up -- I had to ask somebody what Fark was. ;) Sad!

    TomBooker, wow. Thanks for the food for thought, rabbit-hole indeed. ;) But it is good food for thought. The Greenspan association is interesting (and never made too much sense to me given his later position which you mention...)

    Thanks for all the comments, everyone. Like I said, I am enjoying the thought and the debate.

    Alyce

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2009, at 7:59 AM, Clint35 wrote:

    Good article Alice as usual. Unfortunately, as usual a lot of people are missing the point. It doesn't matter a bit who's right about Rand's philosophy and who isn't. The point is a lot of CEOs are making way more than they're worth. They're spending shareholder money on things that should come out of their own pocket. And apparently board members are often just agreeing to the CEOs every whim. Aubrey McClendon should be fired, and he's just one that comes to mind. How'd he get the job in the first place? He can't be too bright. Only an idiot would buy millions of dollars of stock on margin.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2009, at 8:04 AM, Chromantix wrote:

    Perhaps it's just me, but this article reads like you (Alyce, who I see is good enough to follow up) picked a name off the shelf and tried to use it as inspiration to write an article.

    Nothing personal, but this is not your best work. My opinion is worth as-much-or-less-than anyone's, so I'll give it:

    It would take an entire volume to make the case you are trying to build in a single article. As an author, you should have seen this and simply abandoned what you could not hope to defend.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2009, at 8:27 AM, pberardi wrote:

    My my, have you gotten Rand wrong. You equate competing successfully in a free market with "trampling" your competition.

    All of her characters gave back to society by being successful. They created wealth in the form of assets, jobs, technology, equity ownership, taxes for government and so on.

    The difference here is her characters, the American Industrialist, didn't do it for the good of society, they did for self interest. That's capitalism!

    Don't equate Hank Reardon with some Goldman Sachs executive. In Atlas Shrugged, GS and GM would have gone bankrupt.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2009, at 11:31 AM, Physics309 wrote:

    You miss one of the fundamental teachings of Rand, being responsible for one's own actions. The instances you talk about are completely contrary to what Rand wrote about. If you read her books, these kinds of people are actually the villians in them. That's because they take, without giving anything in return and are not held responsible for their actions. If Ayn Rand's philosophy had truly been applied to industry, CEOs of companies that lost millions of dollars would have been forced to sacrifice their pay.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2009, at 12:13 PM, apachecav wrote:

    That’s it I am cancelling my fools subscription, you guys are a bunch of socialists in sheep’s clothing yah, Ayn got it wrong on a number of levels, but what she got right was the Govt. is the problem the Govt. can't solve a damn thing, your bloody attitudes will enslave us all ... good reddens you fools...

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2009, at 1:30 PM, fogahead wrote:

    Physics309 ... "fundamental teachings of Rand, being responsible for one's own actions."

    But this fundamental premise of the philosophy is wrong. It is not the world we live in.

    If we cannot depend on CEOs to be responsible, how can we reduce gov't regulations?

    Totally agree that Federal gov't is too powerful, getting too much tax revenue, isn't spending wisely, etc. Doesn't make Rand correct though.

    Problem with current system is actually the voter. We are voting in ideologues instead of statesmen. Really, why are people still voting down party lines?

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2009, at 1:35 PM, AnnefromBelgium wrote:

    Frankly, I HAVE read Ayn Rand's Books, and I do not recognize anything Alyce tells here about her philosophy. Please DO read some books first, take into account the real context and only then jump to conclusions dear. I really find this article in total contradiction with the fine Motley Fool's basic viewpoints. Rebels for a cause... Suppose even the Founding Brothers do appreciate Rand's 'Foolish' view on economy, entrepreneurship and individual responsability.

    The fact that this article gets reactions from so many Foolish readers may be an indication about the parallel viewpoints. Anne

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2009, at 1:42 PM, Doccus wrote:

    Hah! Despite well considered reticence diving into this pool i nobly forge through...

    This sounds to me almost like the kaffuffah that erupts when someone comments on John Keynes' postulates.

    ... I think the moral outrage that weaves through the article... flawed in it's (IMHO) analysis of Rand tho it may be, is one of the things that seems to be pervasive in the Fool... not only is it GOOD advice, there is a strong moral centre.. so I am willing to forgo what to me seems an uninformed analysis of her writing.. and say... so what?

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2009, at 1:48 PM, FunHater wrote:

    Wow! Was this really published? Has the writer of this peice read Rand?

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2009, at 1:58 PM, bradw2k wrote:

    Alyce, trampling others has nothing to do with Ayn Rand's ethics. She even wrote: "The moral cannibalism of all hedonist and altruist doctrines lies in the premise that the happiness of one man necessitates the injury of another." She wrote this in the article "The Objectivist Ethics", which is free online, and which you probably should have read before publishing a criticism of the Objectivist ethics. Because then you would have a chance of knowing what you are talking about.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2009, at 2:04 PM, JCoeur100 wrote:

    Rand opened herself up for all the vituperation by trying to be provocative and use the word "selfish" as a term for praiseworthy behavior. In fact, her heroic characters do not come across as primarily selfish. But the fallout from her wordplay is that a lot of truly selfish people are enabled to think they are acting honorably when they are simply scum.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2009, at 2:15 PM, NoFearNoWay wrote:

    DITTO...RAXER45

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2009, at 2:33 PM, Ironbob wrote:

    To quote the poster:

    "Why you should be indignant: Ayn Rand defended selfishness as a virtue, and rejected the concept of altruism altogether. In other words: Every man (and woman) for him- or herself! Don't feel bad about trampling others to get what you want! It's all about you!"

    It's painfully obvious that the author of this drek does not have even a passing fancy of what Rand's philosophy is or was. In fact, it's almost staggeringly ignorant to assume any of this about Rand. Shame on you for being so dreadfully stupid about the entire philosophy.

    What she did stand for was allowing a system of cohabitation between individuals in that individual freedom would not be trampled for the good of the collective! She was thoroughly and utterly against any form of collectivism.

    I suggest logging into You Tube and watching her interviews with Mike Wallace and Phil Donahue. In them you will see that she was far from preaching "me-ism" but rather she had faith in humanity to realize that we don't need a collective or a government thug to beat or cheat our charity out of us.

    She proved this by taking care of her husband while he pursued his artistic ambitions and when asked whether that goes against her objectist ideas, she replied that it did not because she was doing it because she WANTED to and it made her happy and not that she was being guilted into it.

    The bottom line for charity is that the majority of it, ESPECIALLY those that are on TV, do everything in their power to make the entire world GUILTY for having done nothing and therefore must seek repentance by giving to their charities or that we are somehow responsible for the state that people live in when it's their collectivist governments that are the real perpetrators.

    When was the last time you saw a "Save the Children" commercial that featured someone in the United States? You won't. Nor will you ever see one for any "free" peoples. ALL of them are from countries that run collectivist societies that are diametrically opposed to everything Rand stood for.

    The anti-Rand lives in a world steeped in jealousy, envy and avarice. They are opposed to honest returns for honest labor, choosing rather to dictate what that should be rather than allowing that to be the domain of the employed and the employer.

    It is there desire not to play God but BE God that is their downfall. Those that are of this ilk love the collective because they can remain comfortable in their laziness and foolishness with the strong support that their collective forces on everyone for their upkeep.

    I'm sorry but this reading of Rand is without a doubt the most ignorant I've seen yet. There is nothing in Rand's philosophy that allows one to "ruthlessly" trample on others, to practice and preach one's self-centeredness nor does she ever preach selfishness to the detriment of society.

    Let's get real. The author of this article is a rank and file socialist and Rand is socialism and collectivism's mortal enemy thus this c0ck-eyed recital of Rand. You should be ashamed to insult the reader's of these forums with this utter tripe.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2009, at 3:01 PM, jnoneiliv1 wrote:

    Ugghhh........

    This has to be the worst manipulation of Ayn Rand's theories I have read to date.

    The iron is that Ayn Rand distilled a lot of moral, social, and economic thinking into a set of very clean but absolute philosophical principals. While simple to state, these principals are often misunderstood in application as demonstrated so well by the author.

    By no stretch of the imagination do Ayn Rand's principles support the raping of our economy by large, well connected, tax dollar and monetary policy supported, banks and corporations.

    Ms. Lomax, John Galt won't be inviting you to the party. Of course you wouldn't want hang out with a bunch of individualists who earn a living by creating real value without altruistic handouts anyway.

    Whewwww.....I feel just a little bit better.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2009, at 3:13 PM, MariaFolsom wrote:

    Like many astute readers have already commented, Ms. Lomax has grossly misunderstood Ayn Rand's position on altruism. Perhaps she did not even read "The Objectivist" or "Atlas Shrugged."

    To repeat what others have said, Rand did NOT advocate stomping on others to get whatever you want. She continually restricted her brand self-interest to actions which do NOT infringe on the rights or property of others.

    This difference is crucial in understanding Randian objectivism. Ms. Lomax does a disservice to a great philosophy by not addressing this difference.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2009, at 4:23 PM, ktchacall wrote:

    If you're interested in a contemporary description of Ayn Rand's philosophy, take a look at Andrew Bernstein's "Objectivism in One Lesson". If you're interested in a contemporary understanding of Objectivism as applied to life, take a look at Craig Biddle's "Loving Life". Both of these books are quick reads, and assess Ayn Rand's philosophy in a 21st century viewpoint. And if you're interested in more articles about Objectivist principles being applied to contemporary issues, check out www.theobjectivestandard.com

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2009, at 6:20 PM, ktchacall wrote:

    Oh, and if you're interested in a decent description of economics, please take a look at Henry Hazlitt's "Economics in One Lesson."

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2009, at 9:07 PM, maertzcp wrote:

    Clearly, this is a simplistic and ignorant misreading of Rand, and quite common! Values are what Objectivism is all about. See the part about NOT violating other's rights. Rand was all for helping people out - people you know and love. She was against the government or any group telling you that you had to help other who you have never met in order to be a "good person" or using coercion to see this done.

    Bad actors in business will always exist; don't blame Rand, and read more carefully before you start taking pot shots!

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2009, at 9:34 PM, vintroadracer wrote:

    For instance: a man has the right to live, but he has no right to take the life of another. He has the right to be free, but no right to enslave another. He has the right to choose his own happiness, but no right to decide that his happiness lies in the misery (or murder or robbery or enslavement) of another. The very right upon which he acts defines the same right of another man. and serves as a guide to tell him what he may or may not do.

    Do not make the mistake of the ignorant who think that an individualist is a man who says: "I'll do as I please at everybody else's expense." An individualist is a man who recognizes the inalienable individual rights of man -- his own and those of others.

    An individualist is a man who says: "I'll not run anyone's life -- nor let anyone run mine. I will not rule nor be ruled. I will not be a master nor a slave. I will not sacrifice myself to anyone -- nor sacrifice anyone to myself." Ayn Rand

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2009, at 9:54 PM, physicsmba wrote:

    I read an article Ayn Rand wrote about B. F. Skinner. It was one of the stupidest things I've ever seen, and I teach high school. She criticized Skinner's scientific findings as if they were a philosophy, and she totally missed the point. Skinner found out by means of science that Rand was wrong...humans are emotional beings and benefit from some "regulation" that looks to their long-term well-being. That humans behave this way may have been distasteful to Ms. Rand, but that is the scientifically-proven reality. Alyce Lomax is right. Ayn Rand's philosophy is overly self-centered to the detriment of humankind as a whole. That's not socialism, which is another flawed system that I am not advocating. It's just reality.

  • Report this Comment On November 06, 2009, at 10:20 PM, orthoo wrote:

    1) Alyce needs to come clean as to whether she ever read Atlas Shrugged. If not, I hope this is not representative of the informed decision-making this site is supposed to represent.

    2) None of the protagonists of her books were dirtballs like the CEO's described. They were dedicated to their sense of ethics above all. The arrow is misdirected.

  • Report this Comment On November 07, 2009, at 12:04 AM, Citellus wrote:

    For the record, I read Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, and Anthem a few decades ago.

    Mor importantly, it should be noted that scientists have demonstrated that altruism has a biological basis in passing on one's genes. Altruism is stronger in those more closely related, but it has even been demonstrated in distantly related organisms. As a biologist, I could never understand how economists and Rand could believe that humans would/should be rational. That is only a part of the biological basis of mammals. Emotions have always played a major role in economics because they are a fundamental part of our make up. The same with altruism. Some people think they can operate without emotion, and it is even easier to think one can operate without altruism although most such people would provide for those who would pass on portions of their genes. Rand supporters look at things one way; Gandhi supporters look at things another way. Who is to say who is right or wrong in the comprehensive scheme of things?

  • Report this Comment On November 07, 2009, at 8:18 AM, ElRemaro wrote:

    I have found this discussion very interesting, and I have moved Ayn Rand to near the top of my books to read list. While I am not familiar with Ayn Rand, I believe those interested in this discussion would also be interested in Jared Diamond's book "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed". Diamond contends that societies recover from economic difficulties if the leaders suffer as much as the masses. He does not believe our leaders are suffering enough to give him confidence in a strong recovery.

  • Report this Comment On November 07, 2009, at 10:28 AM, rainphakir wrote:

    I read Atlas Shrugged and the Fountainhead perhaps 15 years ago. The Fountainhead was shear druggery and I don't remember much about it.

    Atlas Shrugged was an interesting, well written story, and I was able to identfiy with Gault. I find it interesting, though, that the ONLY things that have stayed with me about Atlas Shrugged is that the protagonists were selfish, self-centered, narcisistic...

    The other thing is that it's FICTION and therefore the plot, although based on reasonable economic principles, has little bearing on the real world where people HAVE to inteact with each other.

  • Report this Comment On November 07, 2009, at 11:42 AM, johndburger wrote:

    @David in Qatar

    Re insider trading, Donald J. Boudreaux recently argued for it in the Wall Street Journal:

    http://bit.ly/mkSed

    The basic idea is that laws such as are currently on the books are largely unenforceable, and also greatly impede the information efficiency of the market.

  • Report this Comment On November 07, 2009, at 1:01 PM, classof68 wrote:

    It seems to me that the ideal proposed by Rand was more akin to Warren Buffet than Fuld or McClendon. Perhaps the biggest problem with this entire intellectual exercise is a failure to understand the definition of terms that Rand uses. Rand did not consider altruism to be synonomous with charitable or benevolent. As she defined altruism, it was coercive and dictatorial and thus the polar opposite of freedom. She essentially equated Kant's altruism with slavery. It is difficult to fully comprehend Ayn Rands philosophy of Objectivism from reading her novels. Her characters exhibited many nuances. Unfortunately, Rand did not set forth her philosophy in a treatise that placed it all together for a singular stem to stern read. A fuller understanding of her philosphy can be obtained by reading Leonard Piekoff, "Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand."

    In this work he has explained Objectivism to the satisifaction of Ms. Rand.

    "Until or unless I write a comprehensive treatise on my philosophy, Dr. Peikoff's course is the only authorized presentation of the entire theoretical structure of Objectivism, i.e., the only one that I know of my own knowledge to be fully accurate."

  • Report this Comment On November 07, 2009, at 4:52 PM, ktchacall wrote:

    From Citellus:

    "As a biologist, I could never understand how economists and Rand could believe that humans would/should be rational."

    Uh, as a biologist, are you rational? Should you be rational? Can you understand how being rational is a benefit to a biologist? Or is biology irrational?

    Ayn Rand (don't know about economists, but there are enough irrational ones of them [Paul Krugman, J.M. Keynes] to make me accept that there is some lack of rationality in the group as a whole) did not believe that humans were automatically rational; she stressed that humans have to intentionally choose to be rational. Along those lines, if the science experiments run by psychologists indicate that there is a benefit to being "altruistic" (sacrificing oneself to benefit the "tribe"), that doesn't automatically lead to the conclusion that sacrificing oneself is the way to live as a human being. Besides, one hole to poke into the theory of altruism-as-nature is that the only experiments done on animals-being-naturally-altruistic have been done in recent history (i.e., *now*). That only indicates that *maybe* our genetic forebears (some umpteen gazillion years ago) were altruistic and the species survived as a result. That's quite different from saying that we're better off *today* doing the same thing. Besides, there's no way to prove that the animals upon which the altruism-as-nature experiments were run have been following that behavioral pattern forever. And even better: given that the experiments were run on organisms that do not think rationally, why would altruism-as-nature consequently be a benefit to a species that has the capacity to think rationally? It's clear to me that your statement is intended to conclude that altruism is part of human nature/genetics and therefore it's built into each and every one of us, and therefore we cannot (and should not try to) escape it. I disagree. The experiments (an article of which I have read, but the data - regarding the experimental methods used, the control tests, even the subjects - I have almost zero knowledge of, aside from the fact that the subjects were not human beings) provide answers to certain questions, but by no stretch of anyone's imagination (except perhaps that of the reporter who reported it) can the results dictate that as humans, we should embrace altruism.

    Ayn Rand explained clearly why altruism - the idea that sacrificing yourself for others - was evil. I can point you to the articles she wrote, but "Atlas Shrugged" explains it exceedingly well. Ayn Rand also has pointed out that a "sacrifice" is only when you trade a higher value for a lesser one, or for no value. She also provides examples of what she means. Saving your money by shopping for groceries instead of eating out every night is not a sacrifice. Shopping for groceries instead of eating out every night is only a sacrifice if you take the money you save by doing so and hand it to someone else. Shopping for groceries instead of eating out every night because the Government is taking so much of your paycheck to hand over ("redistribute") to people who don't work, is theft, no matter how many times the Government tells you we all have to sacrifice.

  • Report this Comment On November 07, 2009, at 6:09 PM, FoolyOut wrote:

    Thank You for proving to me that there is at least one other human who knows that selfishness is a vice like any other and when used as the only guide in life, things become out of balance, out of control and unhealthy(sometimes deadly). Your very eloquent and nuanced truth is what I have strived for, though you found the perfect words which have eluded me. In other words: you took the words right outta' my mouth! Thanks and I hope you can get through to "the many".

  • Report this Comment On November 07, 2009, at 8:50 PM, dc46and2 wrote:

    It makes me sick to see Rand's philosophy misrepresented this way. To shame Rand for the behavior of these men is the height of absurdity.

  • Report this Comment On November 07, 2009, at 10:04 PM, JohnDonohue wrote:

    TMFMitten I am now doubting you understand Rand at all. I even question your original claim to have read her early and been thrilled. You are now saying all her heros are deliberately portrayed as "shallow, conceited, self-obsessed passive/aggressive manipulators for gain" and she did nothing but rationalize the behavior of fraudulent pirates such as "Madoff et al."

    Look, you have some reason (we are clueless what) for rejecting Ayn Rand. Fine. But it cannot be for the reasons you state. No reading of Rand can claim her characters have those traits.

    You did not respond to my suggestion to look in the introduction to "The Virtue of Selfishness" where it clearly explains that for Rand "selfish" does not mean cold, heartless Gordon Gekkos. She deliberately uses the word "selfish" in order to provoke awareness of the latent and totalizing acceptance of sacrifice in the culture. She makes sure that you know "altruism" (which you seem to think a good thing), actually means virulent self-immolation and acceding to government power to force people into immolation. That is the original meaning of altruism. It does not mean "be kind and help one another once in a while."

    http://hubcap.clemson.edu/~campber/altruismrandcomte.pdf

    As for the false definition of "altruism", namely 'helping?'

    Rand deliberately shows her heroes in "helping" mode. Roark attempts to help Keating when he finally faces the error in his soul. Dagny does the same for Cheryl. Reardon champions the transformation of Tony. Notice that all of these three not only hated Roark/Dagny/Reardon, but actually performed acts of deliberate destruction against them. So Rand has them practice -- perhaps not the golden rule in this instance -- a famous Christian edict: turn the other cheek. They each help someone who hated them and sought their destruction. In true Objectivist fashion, this does not take place while the three unfortunates are actively attacking; only when they see the truth and turn neutral.

    [TOTAL SPECULATION: Miss Rand studded Atlas Shrugged with subtle ironies/jokes that reflected her awareness of the icons of the Judeo-Christian ethic she was smashing. I speculate she was aware that these three instances (and others?) were in the vein 'see, that's how you do 'love your enemy'; as a trader, not a victim or ruler.']

    As for the "golden rule" I believe Miss Rand would be inclined to say, with irony: 'I should take it as a success if my influence pulls the current ethos of treating others and self as either victims of or candidates for legalized sacrifice back to even ground.'

    As for that Slate article, yes I read it. Did you look into the comments (The Fray)? While much of the typical collectivist Slate demography threw its own stinking gasoline on the fire of that truly awful article, you will notice that the Objectivist community is on the job ripping it to shreds, successfully. I did not bother to post there myself. The article is just a bag of odious psychologizing.

    TMFMitten, the only thing you've said so far that rings true is: " . . Rand is terrible spokesperson for libertarianism." This is true. So very very true.

  • Report this Comment On November 08, 2009, at 10:33 AM, CoyoteMoney wrote:

    Michael Schermer was right, Rand has become just another cult. You can learn to think critically without resorting to works of fiction to back up your arguments.

    Back to the economics, I'm a customer of Chesapeake Energy. I've tracked their stock through mergers and spin offs as we struggle with just how regulated we think our energy supply should be. The executive compensation package was one of the reasons I decided not to purchase this stock. One of a CEOs foremost duties is the proper allocation of capital for the company's long term health. $100 million dollar plus pay packages universally fail that test.

  • Report this Comment On November 08, 2009, at 10:35 AM, jnoneiliv1 wrote:

    There is so much confusion about the fundamental axiom's of Ayn Rand's philosophy and their application.

    At its core, Objectivism argues for the rights of the individual, among other things. ALL Individuals.

    Ayn argues that individuals should be able to freely exchange their knowledge, labor, whatever with other individuals or groups for value. Again ALL individuals.

    By extension Ayn argues Capitalism is the only economic system where the basic human right to exchange our efforts for value can occur freely. By extension personal property rights are necessary and so on.

    But really, all you need to know, and ask yourself is whether a policy, government, business practice, etc. allows an individual, (again ALL individuals) to freely enter into the exchange.

    Governments, regulations, police, etc. can all contribute to free exchange, or potentially inhibit it.

    Taking snippets from Ayn's few public comments, assignation of opinion by association, referrential commentary etc. to attempt to interpret the conclusions and application of objectivism is just intellectually lazy.

    It's a simple premise, but very difficult to apply. Just ask yourself if all individuals have a moral right to their own existence, the right to freely exchange their labor for value, and how best to enable these basic human rights for EVERYONE.

    This is really all you need to know about Ayn Rand and Objectivism. Everyone will not agree to these basic premises or accept the logical extensions, but the philosophy is clearly articulated in Ayn's essays. The books are great, but the same idea's in novel form.

    Ayn argues that there is an objective truth that can be known to anyone willing to use their own ability to reason. Period.

    To blame Ayn Rand for the faulty reasoning of others is just intellectually lazy.

  • Report this Comment On November 08, 2009, at 10:38 AM, jnoneiliv1 wrote:

    Repeating the same phrase in a post due to poor proofreading is also a bit lazy. My apologies.

  • Report this Comment On November 08, 2009, at 11:34 AM, tkell31 wrote:

    The newspapers were filled for months with stories about serial killer called William Hickman, who kidnapped a 12-year-old girl called Marion Parker from her junior high school, raped her, and dismembered her body, which he sent mockingly to the police in pieces. Rand wrote great stretches of praise for him, saying he represented "the amazing picture of a man with no regard whatsoever for all that a society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. A man who really stands alone, in action and in soul. … Other people do not exist for him, and he does not see why they should." She called him "a brilliant, unusual, exceptional boy," shimmering with "immense, explicit egotism." Rand had only one regret: "A strong man can eventually trample society under its feet. That boy [Hickman] was not strong enough."

    Seriously? this is the person people are adamantly defending? Go read the Bill of Rights, or maybe we should just become a society of wolves.

  • Report this Comment On November 08, 2009, at 1:10 PM, thndrbill wrote:

    The very idea that people actually act in their own self interest is laughable. The vast majority of us do just the opposite. Eating another twinkie when you are already 20 pounds over weight is not in your self-interest it is simply caving in to an immediate desire. Smoking, excessive drinking, remaining in bad relationships, all these behaviors are common and self-destructive. I could name many more, but you get the point.

    Being nihilistic and selfish and rationalizing it as "self-interest" is as healthy for the soul as that twinkie is for your waistline.

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2009, at 6:41 AM, jbcarithers wrote:

    Rather than take the diatribe approach, let's break down the ethical facet for the people who believe that the "good vibes" they get from altruism isn't selfish value from the supposedly altruistic act itself.

    The one-liner of her philosophy is "A is A". When put in the context of ethics, the logical conclusion is that Rational Objectivism has no place for cheating and stealing. What the perpetrators of the economy's demise did was convince those not in power of lies. Telling them that A (ARMs + inflated prices + crazy securitzed debt schemes + pyramid robbery, etc...) is B (stable returns, lasting value, investments backed in true wealth which I argue can only come from two sources, ingenuity of the humand mind, and the efficient and responsible utilization of real natural resources)

    Looking back, clearly a lie. A is Not B. It is A, chaos, cheating, stealing. Craziness like we haven't seen in decades.

    As for Dominique being ruthless? Rational Objectivism doesn't make any qualifications I know of for human personality. Only respect where it is due, and the embodiment of the US Bill of Rights. I wouldn't drink a beer with her either, but I can respect the pure ethics of her decisions.

    QED. Ayn, you reputation is safe again.

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2009, at 2:56 PM, Mary953 wrote:

    To Alyce, whom I greatly admire, and to other younger Fools who cannot understand the reason that Ayn Rand was so very harsh in her philosophy, You do not have the proper framework from which to judge it. If you were not aware of the social fabric of American life in the 1950's and 1960's, then you are acting at an extreme disadvantage and the entire book is "out-of-context" in a sense.

    Might I interject a different perspective dealing with Ayn Rand's time? I lived enough of it to see the part that you may be missing here.

    Men were taught that it was NOT okay to have feelings, to hurt, to be just tired of supporting their families. It was their DUTY to go to jobs, even mind-numbingly boring or horribly dangerous jobs. It was their DUTY to put food on the table for the wife and kiddies. No complaining, no whining about me, me, me. You only existed as a job, a function. You were worthless without it.

    Women were taught that a lady stays quiet and in the background, the oldest child. Take a look at the dynamic between Ricky and Lucy on "I Love Lucy" or pick any sitcom, Dick Van Dyke, I Dream of Jeannie, All in the Family (Stifle it, Edith!) The man ran the family and the woman stayed home and was subserviant. She definitely did not consider a job. It put your husband iin a bad light because someone might think he wasn't supporting you. A woman's job was to clean the house, raise the kids, and have supper on the table when her husband got home. And no complaining, no wondering what else she might be capable of. Not her place.

    Notice anything? All adults were trapped in ironclad stereotypes. It didn't matter if you were a man or a woman, you put your own self-interest into a tiny mental box and pretended it didn't exist. Happiness was not really ever a part of the picture. Quality of life was not even a phrase used. Life was an endurance race. No one had depression unless it built into a nervous breakdown - which only happened to weak people. The American dream was a Rat Race.

    Enter Ayn Rand. Did you ever wonder why she pounded those same ideas over and over? Why she used the word SELFISHNESS instead of SELF-INTEREST? In the 1960's, I was still a kid, but a voracious reader. Atlas Shrugged was a revelation. It was alright to consider what I wanted! To do something that I might like with my life!

    There were women who trained to be the doctor, not the nurse or prepared to be the boss and not the secretary because suddenly they could! There were men who didn't want to be the doctor that could choose nursing and others who left the deadening jobs that they had expected to spend 40 years at because it was "expected." It was acceptable in Rand's philosophy to consider your own self-interest, happiness, and self-worth as separate from the role forced by society. A hard sell for an indoctrinated population, but one that we needed.

    Do you, if you are a woman, feel that you cannot choose a life path other than wife and mother (which is the one I wanted, by the way, but it was a choice)?

    Do you, if you are a man, feel that the first job you take is the one you must toil at for 40 years? Changing jobs will endanger your role as provided and so it is impossible?

    These are the stereotypes and this is the way of life that was shattered when Ayn Rand asked through "Atlas Shrugged," - "Why are you doing this to yourself? There is a way to take care of your responsibilities without killing your soul."

    She called it enlightened self-interest. A generation called it FREEDOM.

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2009, at 3:13 PM, citizenkaneah wrote:

    The author of this article should read Atlas Shrugged because he completely mischaracterizes Ayn Rand.

    Ayn Rand's philosophy is opposed to government subsidies to business eg. bailouts for banks. Ayn Rand believed that the people entitled to wealth are the people who actually earned it. Over the course of the last year the government has transferred wealth (ie stolen) money from people who earned it in order to give it to people who bribe the Democrat party ie. Goldman Sachs, GM, Chrysler, bureaucrats, lawyers, teachers, unions etc. Outrageous compensation to AIG and Lehman or any business that is heavily subsidized by the government is something that Ayn Rand would be totally opposed to.

    How come the people who want to keep the money that they earned are called selfish and the people that want to take for themselves money that somebody else earned are not?

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2009, at 3:44 PM, ElCid16 wrote:

    Are you sure your "Daily Walk of Shame" should be directed toward Ayn Rand, or modern day execs who are taking her philosophy to the extreme?

    Isn't that like calling out Moses or Abraham because some parent killed their family dog and decided to call it sacrifice?

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2009, at 4:15 PM, PokerDonkey wrote:

    The Daily Walk of Shame : Alyce Lomax

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2009, at 4:37 PM, jester112358 wrote:

    Frank Wright designed Rand's home for her and her wonderful husband to whom she dedicates most of her books. Rand believed man defines the meaning of his existence through his work-think about what this means. Second-raters or mediocrities (as she would call them) can never understand that persuing ones rational self-interest is the highest ideal. As to her view on capitalism, she wrote a book, "Capitalism-the unrealized ideal" which made clear the kind of government controlled, Fed manipulated economy you described in your article and cited in the comments were written by ignoramious' who have obviously never read or listened to Ayn Rand. I suggest since they may have limited literacy and could never finish nor comprehand a book like Atlas Shrugged they rent the autobiography DVD, "Ayn Rand-a sense of life" and you will understand why Rand is one of the greatest intellectuals and at the same time one of the most emotional and romantic writers of this century.

    She truly had "a sense of life" which can never exist in the false collective, which she depised. She recognized that exceptional (and rare) individuals are truly, like Atlas, the support of the world and that unproductive parasites are constantly trying to steal their work using the collective "good" as their rational.

    Finally, an equation for those of scientific bent:

    Wealth = Productivity (Mises)

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2009, at 5:24 PM, JSMBAPhD wrote:

    Not that anyone will listen, but:

    First, Alyce, thanks for a good post.

    Second, a number of people mistake libertarianism for what Rand represented. True libertarianism, as exemplified by Jefferson, recognizes the importance of shared sacrifice to community. Rand indeed represented a toxic and sociopathic brand of malignant narcissism. I urge anyone who thinks otherwise to at least read the following: michaelprescott.net/hickman.htm

    Finally, I read many comments on these boards that espouse an extreme form of anti-statism. It is one thing to say there should be as little government as is consistent with American needs and values. But extreme anti-statism is both anarchistic and totalitarian: anarchistic because it demands that any government be done away with, and totalitarian because what naturally replaces big government is big corporations and private armies... if not worse.

    Big government arose for a reason, namely that in the best tradition of the Founders, it balanced the power of money. Granted, it has been corrupted and taken over by the same corporations that it is supposed to regulate. But that happened only in the last quarter century. Prior to that, the US became the wealthiest country in the world precisely because individual rights were maximized and creativity and hard work were rewarded. We are much less free than we were a generation ago even though the Cold War is over.

    This country has the lowest taxes of any industrialized country with perhaps one exception. It has far fewer regulations than any other industrialized country. It also has much worse problems of violent crime, drug addiction, and other markers of decay. Its economy has been stagnant for a decade. Opportunity is contracting.

    We lost a lot when this toxic, sociopathic form of Randianism caught on. We lost our sense of being in this thing called America together.

    And now we will pay a fearful price.

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2009, at 6:23 PM, Mary953 wrote:

    Regarding PokerDonkey's post, I was under the impression that we were discussing ideas here, not taking cheap, easy shots at people we disagree with.

    Alyce, even if this post had not received my rec for the excellent debate it sparked, your courage in choosing an icon would earn a rec, even if I do not agree with your conclusion.

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2009, at 6:42 PM, myatoms wrote:

    Looters. That is the word Ayn used to discribe people like Fuld & McClendon. Read it for the first time. Don't just read the Cliff-notes.

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2009, at 9:41 PM, TMFLomax wrote:

    This really is quite a debate! Thanks everyone.

    Mary953, I really liked your insights (and thank you for your kind words too). What you brought up is such a good point and something I absolutely have always respected about Rand (and in the article I did say that there are things I respect about her and her philosophy) but yes... she did bust through some social stereotypes/limitations in a big way, and that is an important contribution to our culture (and yes, on a bigger level that is most definitely about freedom). People having more choices and not feeling limited to traditional roles is a huge, big deal.

    I still think all of this is a good debate to have as much as I did step on some toes here. To those who called me a socialist, well, in the article I did specifically say that I don't believe in coercion. I just do believe we all have choices we make and are accountable for, and for too many people these days it has been too easy to rationalize that self interest and ugly selfishness are OK, understandable traits, that anything else might be "irrational" or "weak." Whether Rand intended it or not, I think the weakness in the philosophy (in relation to the selfishness versus altruism strain) is that it could too easily be taken that way. (And I have seen some comments trickle in that do imply that in her personal life, there were incidents where she could not support some of the pieces of her own philosophy...) And I'm sorry, I think I sound like a broken record actually.

    JSMBAPhD, thanks for bringing up the Jeffersonian angle, too. That's more good food for thought and discussion indeed.

    Sorry, there are so many good comments I can't respond to them all but it is all good reading. Thank you all. In this day and age, I do think it's a good discussion to have and ponder.... I mean, at some point, couldn't someone wake up and realize that he or she was the "looter" and not the "hero," although his or her ego had wanted to believe they were on the heroic path? I don't think it's that difficult to imagine. But maybe they might not realize it at all. I think asking the questions is important though...

    Alyce

  • Report this Comment On November 09, 2009, at 11:47 PM, tfgray wrote:

    A belated note: there are two new Rand biographies, Anne Heller's_Ayn Rand and the World She Made_ and _Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right_ by Jennifer Burns. Just for the record, Rand praised a murderer who killed a 12 year old girl and sent her body to the police in pieces as the sort of hero who let nothing get in the way of exercising his will. He was not perfect, by her lights, however. He lacked the strength to make society subservient to him. No, I think Rand was a sociopath, egotist and narcissist. He mind was deformed first by her mother, who spoke openly of hating her daughters, and later by the overreaction to imperial rule that was the bolshevik revolution.

    Want an exemplar of human freedom?

    Go with Ben Franklin, a man who thoroughly understood the concept, "A rising tide floats all boats."

    Compare their achievements,Gaultists.

    I dare you.

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2009, at 1:44 AM, neutrinoman wrote:

    Condemning Ayn Rand for the present mess is predictable, but malicious and ignorant. I expect better from the Motley Fool.

    Rand had EVERY aspect of this situation mapped out in Atlas Shrugged before many of us were born. The core problems: fiat money and artificially cheap credit from a reckless central bank; politicians insisting on subsidizing their pet projects (subprime mortgages) regardless of risk or cost; a figurehead president who acts as a rubber stamp for an out-of-control and corrupt political class; and ... there's more. Go and check for yourself. Rand was an atheist, but a prophet nonetheless.

    The strangest aspect by far is the role of Alan Greenspan, who initiated the conversion of the American and (in some ways) global financial system into a phony credit-based sham, with no backing or capital requirements for anyone, starting with the central bank itself. Greenspan wrote Objectivist articles in 1960s explaining why we need to get rid of the Fed and return to a gold standard. Then he became head of the Fed and decided, I guess, that it was a pipe dream. The rest is history: grossly inflated credit, "too big to fail," and - what did he call it in his memoir? - the "political realities" of the welfare state, meaning either money or credit inflation as a way of life.

    This "walk of shame" is ridiculous and, honestly, should be taken off the Fool.com Web site. It just feeds the ignoramuses out there who don't want to face who's responsible for the disaster and would rather chatter about overpaid bankers and "greed."

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2009, at 11:56 AM, Toodidoo wrote:

    The above comments have totally exposed the ignorance of Lomax so no need for me to pile on. I've been an objectivist for about 30 years having read everything AR wrote at least once. My issue is with the Motley Fool for publishing such low quality crap. I've been a subscriber of Motley Fool for many years. This article really impairs my respect The Fool.

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2009, at 12:51 PM, kibre wrote:

    cheap shot!

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2009, at 2:32 PM, Bruceb44 wrote:

    I have to hand it to Alyce Lomax (The author of this post), he doesn't let a little thing like never reading or understanding stand a philosopher in the way of his criticism.

    I can't say I'm surprised Alyce Lomax is inspired by the works or Marx and doesn't believe in private enterprise or property.

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2009, at 2:50 PM, tegage wrote:

    I'm not sure Ms. Lomax really understands Ayn Rand's books.

    The people Ayn Rand admired and wrote about in her books pursued, through their "rational self interestest" products and services that added value. The results benefitted society with jobs and superior products.

    Those unwilling to put in the time and personal sacrifice to create such products and services of value ran for public office and tried to control the aforementioned.

    Sound familiar?

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2009, at 5:59 PM, Ironbob wrote:

    Well Alyce, it's no wonder you're not an Ayn Rand fan. I wouldn't be a Mark Twain fan if I thought Huckleberry Finn was just an exercise in diversity.

    Someone mentioned it already, deep down we all know what is morally right and sucking the life out of someone else in the name of "compassion" is not charity but parasitism.

    And let's get something established. SELF INTEREST as Rand described it had ZERO to do with "getting yours" or "taking whatever you can get your hands on". Self interest as she described it involved actually CREATING something or actually giving VALUE for whatever one was trying to EARN or be paid for. She championed that above all else.

    I swear, what really bugs me is that you'd come back here and try to defend the indefensible! ADMIT that you are wrong about her philosophy and move on. After all just because you are off the mark doesn't mean the contribution isn't valuable. Maybe you could actually learn something from the excellent intellectuals who have repeatedly attempted to explain Rand to you.

    The real bitter pill to swallow in all this is that we could have rectified the situation we're in now had we listened to her 50 years ago but the fact is, it's way too late for that. As it stands, her work "Atlas Shrugged" will now become more about our future then we're prepared for.

    Eventually there is going to be another American Revolution. There has to be. Our politicians have created and nurtured the environment for one. It's downright frightening to think about but there is a time when the enterprise class will eventually abandon the parasites and let them eat themselves alive.

    When that happens, it's not going to be a pretty sight but it will happen. It always happens whenever you have a corrupt government relying on a printing press to give them the political power they crave.

  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2009, at 1:15 AM, jkenn21357 wrote:

    153rd !!! Do I get a prize?

  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2009, at 1:16 AM, jkenn21357 wrote:

    153rd !!! Do I get a prize?

  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2009, at 4:05 PM, cbredding wrote:

    "Out-of-control selfishness doesn't build; it destroys." Alyce, I just wondered if you considered our esteemed Congressional leaders when you wrote this comment. I have read Atlas Shrugged 3 times...and somehow I did not get the same message you did...The producers were sick and tired of being used...and frankly as a small business owner so am I. I have nothing but contempt for the CEOs you mentioned...and how do you feel about a Congress that has made PROFIT a dirty word...and who don't understand that without it...they have nothing to steal (aka tax) from us?

    You may have read Atlas Shrugged...but you missed the point!

  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2009, at 4:19 PM, catoismymotor wrote:

    I hearby declare this horse to be pining for the fjords. You may no go about your business. Go on! Yes, I mean you.

  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2009, at 5:43 PM, TBAC wrote:

    Alyce,

    Congratulations. You just wrote the worst article in Motley Fool history.

  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2009, at 7:43 PM, JustWhoIAm wrote:

    Everyone that truly believes they give their employer value for the pay they get please raise your hand. Those who did not raise their hands are the Moochers of Rand's novels. Those who did raise their hand likely fall somewhere between Hank Reardon (at the start of the novel) and John Galt. If you have a lessor ego you may be Eddie Willers (Dagny's friend and assistant). If a CEO could show that the company flourished and made 10s of billions due to the CEO's efforts, then Rand would have no issue the CEO making 100s of millions. This is evident in her books. If a CEO was responsible for the firm losing money, then the CEO should be out of a job. Again, evident in her books.

    Anyone that accepted any government bailout is a Moocher. Rand hated them and it is evident in any of her novels that she hated them.

    Warren Buffet, in his purchase/cash infusion of troubled firms, is more like Hank Reardon.

    The heroes in Atlas Shrugged did not despise paying taxes. They were willing to pay for value. They did despise taking taxes from productive individuals in order to reward the incompetence of the non-productive.

    Personally, I give to charities that I believe add value in proportion to what I give. TMF actually has been known to do the same. I do not do this out of altruism, I benefit every time I give money. I feel happy that my money can help people -- benefit to me. Many of the charities I give to are education based and make my world better -- benefit to me. Some support the military personnel in the U.S. -- benefit to me. Some research illnesses and cure -- potential benefit to me. I cannot imagine anyone giving money that they need for themselves and/or family to a cause they do not believe may ultimately benefit themselves. Rand's heroes also are seen to give under the same situations.

    They original article was off-base. The three examples given are excellent examples of the Moochers in Atlas Shrugged. Dick Fuld obviously plays the part of Orren Boyle.

    Keith

  • Report this Comment On November 11, 2009, at 8:39 PM, buntyp wrote:

    What a piece of 'gobbly gook'. It once again re-inforces the phrase that: 'A little knowledge is a dangerous thing'

    Where in God.s name & or Allah's name did you find in any of Ayn Rands writings that she suggested to reward incompetence & or failure.

    To ascribe the almost criminal behaviour of the C.E.O.s whom you mention as being part of anything Ayn Rand ever wrote is like saying that Nancy Pelosi is of the Ayn Rand school of thought.

    You have inadvertantly or not maligned an Institute whose Business Phliosophies may the only real & rational sign-posts to the way out the quagmire in which your Country has found itself.

    I love when the Atheists & or Agnostics mouth off: 'To whom much is given, much is expected'.

    Perhaps, & I hope you are one or the other, your time would be better spent explaining to folk, the part that I don't yet get, & that is, 'Given by whom'.

    Perhaps you could also research 'To whom' is the . largesse given & who selected them.

    Based on your take of Ayn Rand & or the Ayn Rand Institute, You could also suggest to the Congress to pass some laws to Tax the Chinese, The Indians, The Brazilians, & anybody else you feel is not contributing to the 'American Dream'. The I.R.S. should now consider setting-up collection offices all around the world in support of the Anti Ayn Rand conceptual notion, & that it's really everybody else's problem to support the Mega Govt. concept that is so fashionable these days.

  • Report this Comment On November 12, 2009, at 4:13 AM, buntyp wrote:

    What is Lalyce Lomax take on 'Altruism'. Has any of these 'Posts' hit the mark with your take on this particular 'Ism'.

    Perhaps Lalyce Lomax could explain to the millions of starving kids in the world, why she would do whatever is necessary to prevent hers from starving, in an 'Altruistic' fashion. The 'Altruistic' way is 'Altruism' in action.

    To those who 'much has been given' (I still can't figure out by Whom) & from who, much is being contemplated to be taken away, by the Altruistic Czars no doubt, there might be no need for anyone to receive this largesse, from whomever again, in the future, as they are all so selfish.

    I will say this one thing: If all the money in the World were to be somehow divided equally for all still alive to receive the 10,000 Dollars approx., the devaluation of that money, in whatever currency, would be Instaneous.

    At least 40% of that money is already Countefeit, & the remaing 60% would lose 1/2 it's value overnight.

    In the space of 1 Generation we would be back to be talking about the 'Haves & the Have-nots, just as we are now doing, & I am sure we would by then have also coined all sorts of new 'Isms', just so as to make it not look like History reprating itself.

    In support of the American Dream, I would however support & urge Congress to pass Laws to collect Taxes from anyone in the World who we feel is not making enough of an Altruistic contribution. However, I'd strongly reccomend that you run this by the Chinese first, to get their take on such a plan.

    If you have the ear of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, & Timothy Geithner, all very wise & Altruistic people, you could suggest that they run this by The Indians, The Brazilians, & some of those Oil Barons in the middle East, to get their take on my proposal.

    I would now suggest that you suspend all commentary until all the feed-back from these goodly folk is known, & then apply your immense scholarship to let us all know, 'What next'.

  • Report this Comment On January 28, 2010, at 9:24 AM, jsamans wrote:

    Here's a solution: let's divide the country into those who think that Ayn Rand was a visionary who knew the secret of prosperity, and those who think she was a lunatic. We'll largely be dividing it along party lines, so we can tackle two problems at once.

    We'll set up two parallel nations, and see how it goes. After fifty years, we'll have put this matter to rest.

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