We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

John Galt says hi

It appears the story that a number of Conservative MPs are thinking of breaking off from the main Tory party and are part inspired by the views of novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand has triggered some comment. In the right-leaning weekly journal the Spectator, writer Michael Harrington attacks the late Miss Rand and all she stood for in an article so full of bile that he succeeds in raising her in my estimation, even though I have problems with bits of her philosophy.

Let’s take a look:

She is still a hero on the Libertarian Right in the United States but it is rare to hear her name in English Conservative circles.

True (heroine actually). But the libertarian meme is spreading in the UK, and Michael, be very afraid.

Margaret Thatcher never really meant to say that there was no such thing as society, but Ayn Rand would have said it and meant it.

And your point is?

Though few people noticed it, Atlas Shrugged is a long, inverted and malevolent parody of the New Testament. (John) Galt convinces his followers, without much difficulty, that they have been working too hard on behalf of others instead of spending all their time on their own interests. They are being exploited by a corrupt semi-socialist polticial system. And by allowing themselves to be used they are enabling the system to continue.

Eh? I am not aware Rand thought of the novel’s essential structure as being an inversion of the Bible. What exactly is malevolent about her doctrine of Man’s right to live for his own sake rather than sacrifice it to others? Come on Mr Harrington, don’t be shy. Give us some reasons why you think Miss Rand’s brand of ethical egoism is wrong. After all, an egoist could justly claim that benevolence towards others is in fact often very ‘selfish’ since it still means doing something of value to the actor as well as the beneficiary. Ultimately, the rational (as opposed to non-rational) egoist believes life is not zero-sum, either in a material or non material sense.

I fear that Harrington has missed the essential point of what Rand is about and why she continues to motivate libertarians, and Conservatives, to this day despite any criticisms we may have of her views. The essential point is that she made it clear that the case for liberty cannot just be won showing that it produces X more GDP than socialism or some other ‘overall good’. Ultimately, the case needs a moral foundation, and Rand provided a pretty powerful one.

Comments are closed.