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This blog used to be about politics. Not so much anymore as I have worked through my fascination with that subject. It now seems appropriate that with a new president and the end of the Bush nightmare that I move on to new subjects that are more in line with my current interests. I may still occasionally express an opinion about political matters but for the most part I will be commenting on music, photography and personal observations. Thank you for reading.

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Heretical Ideas » 100 YEARS OF AYN RAND

I completely missed that yesterday marked what would have been Ayn Rand’s 100th Anniversery.

I'll explain my contempt for Rand and her writings.

Years ago I was really into the progressive rock genre. I had an older brother that listened to "classic" rock and I was exposed to such bands as Rush, Genesis and ELP and through further exploration of the genre, bands like Dream Theater and Fates Warning. So it was that when the internet came into my life at the start of college one of the first things I did was sign up for a few email groups devoted to those bands.

It was through those email lists that I heard about the connection between Rush and Ayn Rand. I'd never even heard of Rand but many of the people there seemed to refer to her writings as inspirational. So I checked Atlas Shrugged out of the school library and began to read, prepared in every way to be enlightened. As I plodded through page after page of heavy handed rhetoric I began to see the appeal to many on the email lists. The "problem" with the world was that exceptional people like you and me were being held back by mindless bureaucracy, and the source of all mindlessness originated from government.

A understandable reaction to the heavyhanded mess of the Soviet Union. But so terribly blind to the other side of reality, that handing control over to the wealthy elites of a capitalist society will just create another variety of tyranny.

Objectivism in Rand's own words.

1. Reality exists as an objective absolute—facts are facts, independent of man's feelings, wishes, hopes or fears.
2. Reason (the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by man's senses) is man's only means of perceiving reality, his only source of knowledge, his only guide to action, and his basic means of survival.
3. Man—every man—is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.
4. The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire capitalism. It is a system where men deal with one another, not as victims and executioners, nor as masters and slaves, but as traders, by free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit. It is a system where no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force, and no man may initiate the use of physical force against others. The government acts only as a policeman that protects man's rights; it uses physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use, such as criminals or foreign invaders. In a system of full capitalism, there should be (but, historically, has not yet been) a complete separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.

In my humble opinion its at number three that she jumps ship and starts to swim with the mermaids.

I started to see the appeal of her writings with the progressive rock crowd. I could see a strong parallel with the "Look how smart I am because I listen to complicated music! Everyone else is a mindless simpleton trapped in their own bad taste." and the concept of the "heroic figure" being held back by the government. I've seen the same mindset in some punk rockers that think that listening to poorly composed three chord screaming provides them with greater insight into the injustice of the world.

By gosh and by golly, I am the exceptional one destined to rise above the rest!

"Oh if only we could get the terrible evil government out of our way I could pursue the exceptional life I was destined to lead. I would have fame, fortune and success."

Of course it only stood to reason that if you were smart enough to be reading Rand then you were smart enough to rise above the masses and become one of the great ones. Its actually quite a compelling theme if you are prone to delusions of self-importance, and maybe feeling a little like people are trampling on you.

Read through this exerpt from Atlas Shrugged to see what I mean: "She stood, hands in pockets, coat collar raised, the wind beating her hair in strands across her face." Just like a superhero...

Ayn Rand on Apollo 11's launch:

Frustration is the leitmotif in the lives of most men, particularly today—the frustration of inarticulate desires, with no knowledge of the means to achieve them. In the sight and hearing of a crumbling world, Apollo 11 enacted the story of an audacious purpose, its execution, its triumph, and the means that achieved it—the story and the demonstration of man's highest potential.

Um yeah, a great event, but hardly the hallmark of Laissez-faire capitalism.

I suppose what upset me the most about Rand's writing were that even though she is right in assuming that individuals should be free, that we should use reason and not superstition to guide our lives and that the state should not control the economy, in the context of the times I was reading her books it seemed that the Dagny Taggerts and the John Galts of the world were the problem. The capitalists had won, and they had created giant buildings full of page shuffling cube dwellers. The reality does not change, there will always have to be people to actually do the work of society. As much as a society full of entrepenuerial titans sounds appealing, at the end of the day somebody has to do the labor required to make society function.

Still my favorite cartoon ever!

"Waitaminute - NOBODY remembered to bring along an inexhaustible labor force of ROBOTS???"

I couldn't help but think that the "great men" and the "heroic figures" turned out not to be the management types with whom she seemed so enamored. Worse still was the nearly cult-like devotion to her philosophy that arose during her life and after her death.

Go ahead, read through the The Ayn Rand Institute website

It is the value of his own time that the strong of the intellect transfers to the weak, letting them work on the jobs he discovered, while devoting his time to further discoveries. This is mutual trade to mutual advantage; the interests of the mind are one, no matter what the degree of intelligence, among men who desire to work and don't seek or expect the unearned. - Atlas Shrugged

And my favorite:

Anarchism is the most irrational, anti-intellectual notion ever spun by the concrete-bound, context-dropping, whim-worshiping fringe of the collectivist movement, where it properly belongs." - [Ayn Rand, "Brief Summary," The Objectivist, September 1971]

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