Monday, November 14, 2011

Is Ayn Rand's Objectivist philosophy anything more than cynical and intellectually shallow misanthropy?

I think I know the outlines of Ayn Rand's philosophy -- and I've even read Atlas Shrugged long ago, before I could make much sense of it -- but this morning's segment on NPR provides both a concise description of her philosophy and the very real ways in which the philosophy resonates in current politics.

Particularly after listening to the NPR segment, Objectivism seems to be a deeply cynical approach to governance that justifies the perpetuation of political and economic inequality and ignores the necessary and fundamental contributions that broader society and functioning governmental services provide to the general welfare (i.e., transportation & communications infrastructure, sanitation, public health, security, etc.). Objectivism ignores the fact that individual achievement is tied-up in complex ways with the strengths and weaknesses of broad society, and focuses instead on the fiction that fulling distinct individuals could possibly exist in a fully laissez faire system.

For these reasons, it's no surprise that the a significant slice of people with money and power (and their toadies) who are detached from daily knowledge of the complex iceberg upon which their money and power stands have the audacity and myopia necessary to advocate strongly for the dissolution of the very system that enables their success. From my vantage, Objectivism seems both intellectually and morally bankrupt, and it's rather frightening to me that so much of our current political debate is driven by advocates of this philosophy.

Or, am I missing something important about Objectivism, and my interpretation isn't correct?


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