The dirty secret of Ayn Rand's philosophy is that it not only feels contempt toward the state but toward the vast majority of humanity as well. As even some libertarians have uncomfortably noted, Ms. Rand's contempt for The People was so strong
February 21, 2011

The dirty secret of Ayn Rand's philosophy is that it not only feels contempt toward the state but toward the vast majority of humanity as well. As even some libertarians have uncomfortably noted, Ms. Rand's contempt for The People was so strong that she felt many of them deserved death for taking advantage of government-funded public transportation. This sort of moral calculus helps us to understand why Rand's followers are less about supporting individual liberty and more about promoting the rights of the economic elite to pummel the less fortunate (a.k.a., the "looters") even further into the ground.

All of these delightful qualities are on display in Nick Gillespie's recent remarks on the evils of Social Security:

How much, when, and in what form one should provide for retirement is highly individual--and is properly left to the individual's free judgment and action. Social Security deprives the young of this freedom, and thus makes them less able to plan for the future, less able to provide for their retirements, less able to buy homes, less able to enjoy their most vital years, less able to invest in themselves. And yet Social Security's advocates continue to push it as moral. Why?

The answer lies in the program's ideal of "universal coverage"--the idea that, as a recent New York Times editorial preached, "all old people must have the dignity of financial security"--regardless of how irresponsibly they have acted. On this premise, since some would not save adequately on their own, everyone must be forced into some sort of "guaranteed" collective plan--no matter how irrational. Observe that Social Security's wholesale harm to those who would use their income responsibly is justified in the name of those who would not. The rational and responsible are shackled and throttled for the sake of the irrational and irresponsible.

And here we see the charming influence of Ms. Rand on one of libertarianism's most prominent "thinkers." Gillespie takes the same framework set up by Ms. Rand that divides the world into two camps: The productive economic supermen who pursue monetary gain as a matter of rational self-interest and the mooching, looting, thieving underclass that is always trying to tear down the magnificent work of our Galtian overlords.

What I've always found especially weird about Rand is how she frames economic success as a matter of moral virtue. That is, the only virtue that exists in the world is the pursuit of monetary gain through the maximizing of one's natural talents and abilities. Or as John Galt himself put it in the opening of the Atlas Shrugged trailer, the ideal person is someone who "works for himself and [does] not let others feed off the profits of his energy."

The trouble with this, of course, is that it's a ridiculous pile of bulls***. In reality a person's success has nothing to do with their inherent "morality" and a lot more to do with genetics, education and just plain luck. There are plenty of people in life who work hard and are not successful. There are plenty of people who are successful but who are then hit with a catastrophic illness that sucks up their life savings. There are people who are extremely rich who have never done one godd*** useful thing in their entire lives (Helllloooooooo, Richard Mellon Scaife!).

The point is, if someone retires rich it ain't because they're a virtuous, rational self-interested individual and if someone is broke in their old age it ain't because they're a lazy, unscrupulous "looter." And this is sort of the point of Social Security: The goal is to say, no matter how lucky or unlucky you are in the rest of your life, here's some cash to make sure you don't spend your final days freezing to death on the street (or, as I'm sure Gillespie would prefer, sewing Nike sneakers for five cents a day). This is why it's called Social Security, Nick. Because people who have matured beyond the age of three know that sometimes bad stuff happens in life that is completely out of our control.

At any rate, it's stuff like this that makes me confident that Randianism as a philosophy will never make anywhere outside of corporate boardrooms and smoke-filled libertarian dorm rooms. After all, most people will have trouble embracing a doctrine that holds all of them in hostile contempt.

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