Ayn Rand’s Best Attackers

…are sometimes her own cult enthusiasts.

After watching the 1949 film-version of Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead,” I did a bit of reading up on it. I looked into the Internet Movie Database, but then also some non-film sites, like the Ayn Rand institute. I was amused.

In the film, Gail Wynand offers Howard Roark some money when he realizes Roark is down on his luck. Roark politely refuses, saying he neither accepts nor offers help. This is because he, as the paragon of Ayn Rand’s objectvist ideals, is so principled that he will not let anything mitigate his path to success. Success in this case being making it solely on his own, acheiving his plan.

I was amused when after fishing through the website for the Ayn Rand institute I come across their donation page. It seems that the institute devoted to Ayn Rand and her philosophy of objectivism can only survive by undermining itself. It makes me wonder who holds the higher ideals, Howard Roark, who will effectively not do anything than do what he doesn’t want to do, or the cult legions of Objectivists and petty Capitalists alike, who unabashedly compromise whatever sham ideals they walk in with out of a kind of utilitarian cowardice.

Well, it doesn’t make me wonder this exactly. What I wonder is how thousands of people (some of the highest officials in our government–i.e. Alan Greenspan) can read Rand, and not realize that Objectivism and Capitalism actually don’t mix. Rather than heroically live out their ideals though, or suggest that any of us do, Objectivists mindlessly parrot Rand’s equally mind-bogglingly suggestion that laissez-faire Capitalism allows people to be free in the way that Roark is determined to be.

Roark is not the arch-Capitalist, but the anti-Capitalist. The world he lives in is the world of laissez-faire Capitalism, which is not an economic organization of individuals, but of groups, namely producers and consumers. Gail Wynand is the arch-Capitalist of the story, which is somewhat admitted when he describes his climb to and desire for power. Wynand’s downfall, when in an act of bravery inspired by Roark he decides to not give the public what it wants (a condemnation of Roark) , is the story of any and all Capitalism functioning on principle alone. It’s vaguely illuminated that this kind of downfall provides the “fertilizer” for the ostensible success of Roark, but what is kept far from the viewers attention is how such fertilizer becomes impossible in the long-run. This might be because in Rand’s time we were only peripherally approaching the material limits of Capital’s constant revolutionizing of itself.

That is no excuse today, when at least Peak Oil smacks the run-away ideals of Capitalism in the face with some reality. Of course, I hear that a market is waiting to be tapped in carbon-offsets and similar “green” products and services. I’ll let Naomi Klein explore The Rise Of Disaser Capitalism for me, and for you.

My point in this post, so it hopefully isn’t lost, is that Rand’s apparent appraisal of Capitalism is in fact a recipe for its very impossibility. It is only when we let Objectivism loose on the ground that it’s first gesture is a fundamental compromise of its principled refusal of help, including the coffers of the wealthy. For this reason, I encourage a reading of Rand, if anyone has the time, or at least a viewing of the film, which was written by Rand as well. There really is something heroic about Roark’s principles, or at least his principledness, but only to the extent that we recognize the conditions that make it possible are not so heroic as they are psychotic.

4 thoughts on “Ayn Rand’s Best Attackers

  1. I don’t know enough about Satanism to really say so, though the thought made me chuckle. I only recent took any serious interest in look at what Rand has written (as opposed to what she thinks she has to say). There’s something interesting, perhaps very powerful going on there. Not for a second, though, do I suppose this has anything to do Ayn Rand’s stated purpose in her writings or what she probably ever thought.

    As for Objectivism, I’m sure your remark hits somewhere where it should. Sometimes it is as if they are literally psychotic—so principled to believe what they want, be what they want, that they eschew anything that contradicts it (even reality). This is what’s potentially heroic about it, but there’s also something terribly wrong with it. It’s hard to say from this vantage point. I’ll have to write more on it later.

  2. One of these days I’ll have studied enough Rand and Objectivism to come to a conclusion about its tenability. As for now, I find your analysis intriguing and will keep it in mind if and when I get to study Rand & Co. more.

    Also, thanks for the comments on my site! I’ve taken them as inspiration for a “question of the day.” You’ve made my blogging job easy for the evening 😉

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