Is Ayn Rand’s philosophy compatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Anybody watching the coverage of the tea parties on April 15 may have seen pictures of Ayn Rand or references to the book “Atlas Shrugged.”  Sales of Rand’s classic apocalyptic book are soaring in these days of increasing government control in the United States, and Rand is being called prophetic in some circles.  As Latter-day Saints, can we square Rand’s philosophy with the Gospel?

The short answer is “no,” but readers may be surprised at some of the similarities between Rand’s world view and our own.

Rand was an ardent atheist and defender of selfishness.  Her 1100-page tome “Atlas Shrugged” includes multiple soliloquies on the wonders of capitalism, “reason,” and egoism.  She hates “mysticism” (ie, all religion) and any and all attempts to limit personal freedom.  In short, she is probably the single most influential philosopher on modern-day libertarianism.  (Go read the on-line magazine “Reason” or to the Ayn Rand Institute to learn more.)

In this author’s opinion, it is simply essential to come to terms with Ayn Rand’s philosophy given our current economic and political situation.  The government’s role in the economy is expanding beyond the worst nightmares of just about everybody but Rand, who predicted this very situation 60 years ago.   The entire bailout culture, involving massive government interference in the private sector on an unimaginable scale, has resulted in the unthinkable act of a sitting president firing a CEO of a private company.  Intelligent observers will recognize that the “tea parties” of April 15 were not just organized by right-wing nuts but instead were an attempt by freedom loving people to stand athwart this statist onslaught and yell “stop” before it’s too late.  There were probably more Ron Paul supporters in these crowds than there were Mike Huckabee or Sarah Palin supporters.

But any Latter-day Saint who has sympathy for Rand must also face the fact that her philosophy is, at its most obvious, directly contradictory to the Gospel.

Rand is openly and unapologetically against religion, including Christianity.  She openly and unapologetically promotes unadulterated selfishness and has nothing but contempt for people who promote giving to the underprivileged.  I imagine her rolling her eyes in disgust during the Sermon on the Mount.

But what is fascinating for this religious Christian is that “Atlas Shrugged” is literally filled with Christ symbols and various other religious references.  John Galt, her greatest hero, is nothing but a Christ symbol — he allows himself to be tortured by Pharisiacal statists for the greater good of humanity.  The people around him love him just as Christ’s followers loved the Savior.  His followers gather to a pure capitalistic Zion while the rest of the statist world falls to pieces (Isaiah, anyone?).  And check out this scene.  One character is discussing the what is missing from the world, and says that John Galt has the ideal characteristic:

“There’s something you’d want to hear from them.  I didn’t know it either until I saw him for the first time” — he pointed to Galt — “and he said it to me, and then I knew what it was that I had missed all my life…’Well done.’ “

All Rand had to do was add the statement “good and faithful servant,” and she would be re-writing the Bible.

Rand’s philosophy has huge holes that could be filled by religion.  She constantly refers to moral absolutes but apparently doesn’t ponder where those absolutes come from, because she seems to reject the idea of them being planted in us by God.  Example:  all of her most moral and heroic characters love honesty and integrity.  Well, if Rand really believed in selfishness and “reason,” above all, these virtues would be irrelevant.  The most important virtue would be their results, not the character of the people getting the results.

I always find it ironic when atheists extol “pure reason” as their guiding principles and therefore reject the idea of some kind of Creator creating this world.  Reason tells us that human beings must have gotten on this world somehow, and reason increasingly tells us that the accident of evolution could not have been the only way it happened, so reason, acting alone, would accept the idea that a Creator must have been involved.  Some pretty big thinkers from Newton to Einstein to Antony Flew have accepted that reason calls for some kind of Creator.  So how is it “reasonable” to automatically reject all religion?

Rand misses a huge opportunity, in my opinion, to develop more acceptance for her philosophy by not promoting the basic humanity of free-market capitalism.  Human experience has shown us that free-market capitalism is horribly flawed, but it is less horrible flawed than any other system ever invented by man.  In the last few decades, we have witnessed an incredible worldwide revolution:  for the first time in history, literally billions of people in Asia, Latin America and Africa have been brought from horrible poverty into the middle class, acquiring comforts and security unthinkable to any other generation.  The prime mover of this social mobility was free-market capitalism and rejection of overwhelming government control of the economy.  How can anybody claiming to love humanity not celebrate this incredible development?

If only Rand had concentrated on the basic altruism of free-market capitalism, rather than the wonders of pure selfishness, she probably would have many more followers.  Still, Rand’s greatest accomplishment is to remind us of the beauty of free-market capitalism and the dangers of government involvement in the economy.  She was incredibly prophetic regarding the muddled thinking of the statists who are taking control of the U.S. economy.  They all seem to remind me of Timothy Geithner in one way or another.  And Rand has an incredibly important point that all thinking people must ponder:  as the role of government increases in our lives, how can we possible justify confiscating so much money from producers and giving it to non-producers?  Latter-day Saints will consider that Jesus called for voluntary giving, not forced giving controlled by an overbearing state.

In short, there are some good things to glean from Ayn Rand’s message:  you just have to sift through the muddled morality.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B has had three main careers. Some of them have overlapped. After attending Stanford University (class of 1985), he worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. In 1995, he took up his favorite and third career as father. Soon thereafter, Heavenly Father hit him over the head with a two-by-four (wielded by the Holy Ghost) and he woke up from a long sleep. Since then, he's been learning a lot about the Gospel. He still has a lot to learn. Geoff's held several Church callings: young men's president, high priest group leader, member of the bishopric, stake director of public affairs, media specialist for church public affairs, high councilman. He tries his best in his callings but usually falls short. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

45 thoughts on “Is Ayn Rand’s philosophy compatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

  1. 27 Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
    28 For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.
    29 But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned.

  2. Of course, I despise the work of Rand. However, I do think that members of the Church, and disciples of Christ in general, can adhere to a wide range of political and economic views.

    Not sure why Rand is so popular. Milton Friedman and the political philosopher Robert Nozick seem to have much more depth than Rand. They also do not have some of her “selfishness” baggage. Even Hayek is much better than Rand. Ultimately Rand represents the social darwinistic wing of capitalism, the type of stuff that Adam Smith would have been appalled by. Without the “basic altruism of free-market capitalism” there is not much left to defend about capitalism (in a moral sense at least).

    BTW, you mention Einstein. He also thought that reason called for some form of socialism. Just a quick plug. Thanks for the post Geoff.

  3. I believe that if everyone fulfilled their own responsibilites to their neighbors, there would be very little need for government at all.

    Statists believe that if the government did everything it should there would be no need for charity.

  4. Geoff,

    I largely agree with your analysis of the Randian ethic and its shortcomings. As a libertarian (and a reader of _reason_), I’m uncomfortable with the Ayn Rand wing of the movement precisely because she is to libertarianism what Friedrich Nietzsche is to western philosophy — “only the strong _will_ survive because only the strong _should_ survive” (my paraphrasing). This notion is antithetical to the gospel.

    In Rand’s defense, though, _all_ political philosophies, beliefs, and parties have elements that are contrary to the gospel. There is some truth and error in what Ayn Rand argued (as you noted), just as there is some truth and error in Milton Friedman, Karl Marx, and Adam Smith. There is no human political philosophy that is wholly wrong or wholly right.

    One other thing: Not all (or even most) libertarians are followers of Rand. I think it would be tough to successfully argue “she is probably the single most influential philosopher on modern-day libertarianism” — rather, she is one of a number of voices that have influenced the movement.

  5. Craig P. Earls, I agree with you.

    Mike, thanks for your comments. I’ll take your word for it on Rand not being the single most influential philosopher in libertarianism, although I found it fascinating that so many people were carrying her picture during the tea parties.

  6. Mike, one other point that I find very off-putting about Rand’s belief system: she has absolutely no apparent sympathy for the everyday people who live their lives humbly and quietly, enjoying their family members and friends, and these are some of the people I find most inspiring.

  7. @Craig P. Earls

    This may be true, Craig, but you’re living in a dream world if you think people are going to spontaneously start being good neighbors. Some level of government care is required to make up for what most humans can’t quite bring themselves to do, i.e. care about their neighbors just as much as they care about themselves.

    And I am a bit of a statist, and I absolutely do not believe that if the government did all of these wonderful things there would be no need for charity. That’s just silly. Besides, charity is not defined as willingness to give up one’s goods to feed the poor; it goes much deeper than that. Read your Corinthians.

  8. Geoff,

    If I may make another comparison, Ayn Rand is to libertarianism what Bruce R. McConkie is to Mormonism. Most Mormons have one McConkie book in their homes, but it’s usually the same one (Mormon Doctrine). McConkie provides many Mormons with an easy reference for difficult subjects, but his books represent his opinions, and most Mormons who have thought about and read LDS belief and history don’t always agree with him.

    Similarly, most libertarians have Atlas Shrugged (and maybe The Fountainhead), and are aware of what’s in it, but don’t agree on all the finer points of Randian thought.

    And I agree with you about the majesty of the quiet, simple people who love their neighbors but never contribute what the world considers to be “great things.”

  9. Geoff,

    The entire bailout culture, involving massive government interference in the private sector on an unimaginable scale, has resulted in the unthinkable act of a sitting president firing a CEO of a private company.

    Unthinkable? Not really. First of all, Wagoner’s exit was based on GM accepting the terms of help from the government. It was GM’s choice. They could choose to fail, or to get aid from the government. The government set the terms of the deal (like any bank would do, or heck, like Jesus Christ does with us—he sets the terms of our salvation, not us), and they were perfectly within their rights to do so. Frankly, asking Wagoner to leave was a mild rebuke to GM. Wagoner was a small fry to the real problem GM has—its organizational culture that “bigger is better.” That’s not going to change simply because the CEO was fired. But I like the terms the government set to GM in order to save GM. I think it will work. But that’s a side point to your main point. I just get frustrated by inaccurate statements about what truly goes on in the world. I think it harms your overall point. It is what makes these tea parties so ridiculous. They share nothing at all with the original Boston Tea Party (which was about taxation without representation). They don’t know what they are protesting against. Some against Obama. Some against high taxes (even though their own taxes were just cut by the government). Some against over spending.

    Intelligent observers will recognize that the “tea parties” of April 15 were not just organized by right-wing nuts but instead were an attempt by freedom loving people to stand athwart this statist onslaught and yell “stop” before it’s too late.

    But that’s not what “intelligent observers” will recognize. In fact, “intelligent observers” will recognize the very opposite, that these tea parties were organized by right-wing nuts. For it to be the other way, examples must be shown of tea parties organized in the period of 2001-2008 when Republicans were in charge of the government, when our national debt DOUBLED. Having paid fairly close attention to the political world during this time period, I am at a loss of examples. If you can show me one, I’d be happy to reconsider. Otherwise, “intelligent observers” will recognize that these tea parties were organized by right-wing nuts.

    Now, on to Atlas Shrugged,

    John Galt, her greatest hero, is nothing but a Christ symbol — he allows himself to be tortured by Pharisiacal statists for the greater good of humanity.

    Are you sure about that? Does he really care about the greater good of humanity, or about his talents not being raped by the rest of humanity? For it to be “nothing but a Christ symbol” as you describe it, Mr. Galt would sacrifice himself to those “Pharisaical statists.” But that’s not what he does. He forces them to come to him (or at least that is the highly unlikely scenario Rand fantasizes about). Jesus Christ died on the cross for us whether we liked it or not, whether we approved or not.

    His followers gather to a pure capitalistic Zion while the rest of the statist world falls to pieces (Isaiah, anyone?).

    Out of curiosity, could you describe to us exactly how Galt and his compatriots fed themselves in Galt’s Gulch. Who cooked the food? Who created enough latrines for everyone to go potty?

    If only Rand had concentrated on the basic altruism of free-market capitalism, rather than the wonders of pure selfishness, she probably would have many more followers.

    That is a very fair point. I certainly would consider her better, but alas, selfishness is at the heart of her Objectivism. To reject that would be like Mormons rejecting revelation. Can you do that?

    And Rand has an incredibly important point that all thinking people must ponder: as the role of government increases in our lives, how can we possible justify confiscating so much money from producers and giving it to non-producers?

    Here is where you lose your point. Who is “confiscating” from producers? How has that confiscation changed in the last few months as we transitioned from one party ruling to another party ruling? How does that “confiscation” differ today than say 25 years ago? Do those who argue against this so called “confiscation” realize what that “confiscation” for the top earners in this country were in previous decades? Say, for example in the 1980s. What was the income tax on the highest wage earners then? I believe it was around 50%. That was when Reagan was in office. Today it is at 35%. Obama wants to raise it back to the level under Clinton, which was 39%. Where is the confiscation? Let’s not forget that back in the 1950s, under another Republican, that confiscation was at 90%! The horrors!

    And taking from “producers” and giving to “non-producers”…wow, so much to unload here. Who are the producers? Are they solely those who make over $250,000? And those “non-producers” are all those who make under $250,000?

    Those who follow Rand have gotten so deep in the muck of her philosophy that they’ve forgotten what real life is like. The more we get away from Rand, the better off we are.

  10. Great topic, but I must defend Rand’s movement against some grossly overly simplistic cheap shots here. First many disciples and admirers of Rand are believers, as was also the case when she was alive. I enjoy Steven J. Gould books too. Does that mean I have to buy into his atheism and simpleton socialism to appreciate his marvelous essays on natural history? My guess is thanks to the grace of JC, Rand will have a very high place in the hereafter. Especially when you consider the forced collectivism she very effectively opposed was one of the most evil movements the planet has ever seen. Rand is one of the good guys.

    Second the promoting selfishness charge is bogus as the argument is we are all self serving by our nature. People who voluntarily serve or give to the underprivileged are doing so because they fell good about it; they can’t bear un alleviated suffering, etc. Hence they are self serving at the same time and there nothing to be ashamed of in that. Likewise if someone feels better not giving than giving, there should be no shame in that either. What is indeed contemptible are people who are cowered into giving when they don’t want to. In short, we who choose to serve others are in fact serving ourselves and disciples of Rand are intellectually honest about it.

    On a side note, it’s a shame Atlas Shrugged hasn’t been made into a movie. It’s my understanding excessive meddling from the Rand estate has cause most producers who considered it over the years to walk away. In fact, we should have had a third remake by now, a true shame.

  11. Eric, good point. I think you could make an argument that Jesus does not want us to waste the talents that are given us, and Rand feels the same way, and in fact that’s a central point of her philosophy. But I still feel that she would have been jeering during the Sermon on the Mount.

  12. Dan, I’m not going to address all your points, but if it makes you feel better a lot of conservatives like myself are coming around to the belief that Bush did a lot more harm than good when it comes to the economy and that we should have done a lot more protesting when he was refusing to veto all those spending bills. I accept the point that it makes conservatives look foolish now. Personally I believe that if Bush had been a true fiscal conservative we never would have been stuck with Obama now. So it’s our own fault for not complaining more during the Bush years. (Yes, Mike Parker, you were right about this point for many years).

  13. Objectivism is very useful if thought of as exclusively for objective reality. That is, for making rational judgements about the world based on the evidence of the senses. Latter day saints know that the world is good and evil and the commandments help us do good. It is nonetheless instructive to apply objectivism first then evaluate the remaining options from a gospel lens. Thus, the primary analysis should not rely on an appeal to faith. Act like everything depends on you, pray like everything depends on God. Of course objectivism as an institution rejects this, but as a philosophy it is terribly useful.

    And it isn’t about tax cuts, it’s about regulation, and people being willing to live in a more hectic more demanding, but more free and more rewarding world. Look at king Benjamin, he said do not allow people to go hungry who cannot eat, not establish a leisure state.

  14. I appreciate that Geoff. It still makes it hard to believe because you’re saying it now with a Democrat in office. I want you to know that on the issues I care about (torture and Iraq), I will be as harsh with Obama as I was with Bush. I really don’t care who is in power.

  15. Geoff: “…she has absolutely no apparent sympathy for the everyday people who live their lives humbly and quietly, enjoying their family members and friends, and these are some of the people I find most inspiring.”

    I read Atlas years ago, and I did not come away with the idea that she had that view at all.

  16. “I want you to know that on the issues I care about (torture and Iraq)”

    Prove it. Obama has done nothing different about Iraq or Afganastan and the only thing he has done about torture (and the main problems with it were taken care of before Obama) is send out a memo of his displeasure. What I hear from the radical Bush hating left about Iraq now that Obama is president is . . . silence. Even the liberal prophet/fool John Stewart made that point once and there was a collective shrug. Until I see liberals march in the streets to tell Obama to get out of Iraq NOW, then the argument that the Tea Party didn’t march during the Bush years sounds hollow.

  17. Jettboy,

    1. On torture, Obama has released the memos written by Jay Bybee and Stephen Bradbury that revealed what Bush never wanted revealed. The CIA was O’Brien to the detainee’s Winston. I’m in no rush to punish Jay Bybee and the rest of them. You gotta build up the anger against these actions, and so far, Obama is masterful at doing this. Jay Bybee better get himself a good lawyer fairly soon. He just might be impeached and then tried for war crimes.

    2. On Iraq, he is keeping with his campaign promise to get US troops out by the end of 2010. That’s good enough for me. I never expected any president to withdraw the troops immediately. That’s just an impossibility. McCain would have left them there forever, sadly. Obama is doing what I want him to do. To this point, I’m not upset at him. He’s doing what I want to see happen.

    Until I see liberals march in the streets to tell Obama to get out of Iraq NOW, then the argument that the Tea Party didn’t march during the Bush years sounds hollow.

    If Obama were to rescind on withdrawing troops in the timeframe that he promised, then you would start to see great rumblings on the left. Until that point, Obama is doing what he promised those who voted him in.

    Now can we get back to the subject, Jettboy?

  18. Dan,

    Ronan is talking about British conservatives, a very different breed. However, plenty of conservatives, and some libertarians, have disavowed Rand in the comments of this very post.

    Ronan’s post is well worth checking out.

  19. Chris, I was meaning the conservatives from the 1950s, like the one I linked to, which I found over on Ronan’s post. That review was harsh against Rand’s book. I’m still befuddled, and I guess will be to my dying breath, why on earth she has been taken so seriously for these past 60 years.

  20. I haven’t read the Fountainhead in many years but I remember the main characters. Howard Roark (sp?) was an architect and was portrayed as a genius. The whole story seemed to glorify his accomplishments and made it clear that he did it with no help from any higher power.
    Rand, to me, was a “human worshipper”, for the lack of a better term.
    I don’t think her way of thinking is compatible with the Gospel at all.
    …my 2 cents

  21. Dan,
    You might as well be asking why is the sky blue. Some us like Rand’s philosophy, some don’t.

    Regarding American conservatives and Rand, some background is in order. It was Bill Buckley who opened a big tent American conservative movement where all but haters (usually anti-Semites) and conspiracy nuts were welcome. Before that America didn’t have any serious coherent condensed conservative movement. The more mature big tent American conservatism we know today didn’t just pop out of thin air. Again, some (like me) admire Rand, some don’t.

  22. Also,

    The political climate is very different today than it was 60 years ago. That should count for something–as to why conservatives might latch onto an ideology that might have seemed a little too extreme back in the day.

    Re: The Fountain Head–

    It isn’t just that Rand is worshiping human genius, IMO. She is suggesting that social strictures tend to get in the way of it–and that maximum individual autonomy is needed in order to foster it to it’s fullest potential.

  23. “she is probably the single most influential philosopher on modern-day libertarianism”.

    That would be really sad for libertarianism if that were true, but I don’t think it is. Most of the people I’ve known who really love her are under 21. I’d say half of the libertarian-types whose opinions I know find her embarrassing.

    For libertarians of the Ron Paul persuasion the most important influence is a particular interpretation of the American founding. For those who are more into this heroic-striving-aristocratic-atheism thing, Nietzsche is more important.

    For Cato-type people it’s classical and neoclassical economic thought. That, I think, is the big problem with Rand. One of Rand’s major claims is that brave creative geniuses are the engine of economic prosperity. It’s a comic-book kind of idea where the crazy genius is inventing space-age technology all by himself in his secret lab. I guess that’s not totally different from some things that some neoclassical economists have said about entreprenuers, but it’s almost the opposite of Adam Smith’s view, which was that growth comes from countless small innovations and frugalities achieved by ordinary people who are allowed to try to improve their lot. When libertarianism becomes Randism, it becomes less intelligent and more elitist, even misanthropic. But a lot of mediocre 18 year olds think they’re Howard Roark, and think “objectivism” is really philosophy, so they love Rand anyway.

  24. Jack,

    But we don’t live in a vacuum. There is no “maximum individual autonomy.” We’re in a very competitive world, and you’ve gotta do what you can to stay ahead. Her ideas are utopian and unrealistic. We rely on each other, and we rely on the Lord—something Rand dismisses completely to her doom.

  25. Interesting that you bring up Rand and the gospel. I’ve lately seen a number of ‘classes’ in my area that ‘teach’ the parallels between Objectivism and the gospel.

    It’s downright CREEPY.

    And this coming from someone who loved Atlas Shrugged, yet disagrees vehemently with Objectivism.

  26. Pingback: Defending Ayn Rand « Gently Hew Stone

  27. It’s always seemed abundantly clear to me that the course of our nation has been influenced by factors much larger than Bush or Obama.

  28. Pingback: Notes from All Over to April 19 - Comments | Times & Seasons, An Onymous Mormon Blog

  29. basic humanity of free-market capitalism

    basic altruism of free-market capitalism

    These are strange descriptions, Geoff. Free-market capitalism is neutral; the invisible hand is not “good” in that sense; an absence of appropriate regulation in free-market capitalism produces a nightmare of robber barons, mobocracy, oligarchy, cartels, trafficking in vice and human misery and to the development of entrenched class or caste systems.

    (Of course, this is paradise if you’re one of the magnates, robber barons, oligarchs, or nobles blessed with capital and access to markets. This, however, taps far too much into Calvinistic theories of pre-determination and “protestant work ethic” for this Deseret Mormon — hopefully we in the Church have roundly rejected those aspects of WASP culture in our preparations for establishing a lasting Fourth-Nephi type Zion in favor of a uniquely Latter-day Saint work ethic that is equally vigorous but much more in line with King Benjamin’s injunctions in the Book of Mormon and, more importantly, with Jesus Christ’s teachings in the New Testament and Book of Mormon.)

    Minimal regulation can prevent much of the nightmarish aspects mentioned above and has done so in the United States since the late nineteenth and early twentieth century; however, twentieth-century economic history is a study in finding the right levels and areas of regulation, with many failures of underregulation (and some of overregulation) along the way. But minimal regulation is still regulation, and this eclipses pure free-market capitalism. So why is Bush-level regulation appropriate and Obama-level not appropriate? That is a policy debate but should be void of these absolutist value judgments. The tea parties do not seem like a very bright idea, if for no other reason than that the Boston tea party was protesting taxation without representation by the King and Parliament of a colonial overlord across the ocean. Not much of a parallel to taxation policy changes introduced by a democratically elected presidential administration and congressional representatives.

  30. John F, if you and I sat down and mapped out our perfect society, we would probably agree on more areas of regulation than we would disagree. I like the FDIC and some basic SEC regulations, for example. I’m generally in favor of Social Security, although I think the market and free choice should play a role, but Social Security has done more good than bad.

    My point is, once again, that free-market capitalism is the least worst of all of the systems that have been developed by man. My point, again, is that many other countries have tried Socialism and complete government control and found it doesn’t work. When they allowed the market to function, they boomed and humanity benefited. Anybody who does not see the benefit of billions of people being lifted from grinding poverty is blinded by ideology and unwilling to open their eyes.

    I see the market playing a role in Zion and during the Millennium, although I personally also see a role for complete consecration administered by the King and Savior. I have no problem with sharing with my fellow man – but I don’t like doing it in the current political environment where there are all kinds of layers of middle men gumming up the works. But I pay my taxes and vote for politicians who recognize that in general taxes and regulations are too burdensome.

    I won’t play the game of determining whether Bush level or Obama level regulation is appropriate — my personal choice is more like Calvin Coolidge level regulation. The only politician calling for that these days is Ron Paul.

    As for the tea parties, if you don’t like ‘em don’t participate. My prediction is that we Americans are onto something very, very good when we try to keep the government from expanding even more. I hope the tea party craze sweeps the nation and we get rid of all tax and spend politicians, whether they are Repubs or Dems.

  31. Geoff, a broader point here is that very few (except perhaps some of the writers at Salon and DailyKos) are advocating Stalinist central planning. No country in Europe does; the economies in Europe are vibrant and healthy although they are all also suffering the effects of the banks’ exploitation of loopholes in regulation. In many respects, quality of life and happiness levels are higher in Europe despite having less space and high taxes. European countries are not socialist or communist dictatorships, such as the extinct Soviet slave empire, but rather are innovative social market economies with very strict anti-trust and other appropriate market regulation that blocks the some of the obvious abuses of capitalism while still allowing supply and demand to determine prices. It is safe to say that the benefits of free-market capitalism are available to people in Europe with few of its downsides.

    In fact, it is also safe to say that the United States is a social market economy in many respects. It certainly is not unrestrained free-market capitalism. That is not something that informed people should want. Thus, it becomes a debate as to which policies seem effective and worthwhile, not whether there should be regulation.

    I am surprised that you find these “tea parties” a good idea. They are just a gimmick with no real proposed solutions to any problems. “Going Galt” is not a solution to any policy issue; it is a ridiculous and arrogant cop-out that evidences the worst kind of disdain for one’s fellow citizens and potentially even a rejection of the social contract. No one wants to live in Hobbes’ Levianthan but life as a noble savage also is not the purpose of our creation.

  32. john f,
    Hope you are well. It’s Irish week here in Houston, and I was thinking I should offer you a Guinness. But let’s make it a Jameson double. Then we can really talk.

    On a side note, what would Rand say about the modern European paradox of people who act like they invented sex but are clueless about making babies?

  33. “John Galt, her greatest hero, is nothing but a Christ symbol — he allows himself to be tortured by Pharisiacal statists for the greater good of humanity.”

    John Galt is not a symbol of Christ but a symbol of the Antichirst. It was the Son of the Morning who first wanted to save the world for his glory, greed and benefit. Likewise, Galt would slap the fact of the man who dared accused him of sacrificing anything for the “good of humanity.” Galt preached the exchange of value for value, nothing more nothing less. Remember, the oath to enter Rand’s heaven is “I swear—by my life and my love of it—that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”

  34. Ammon, my point is that Rand, intentionally or not (most likely intentionally) is appealing to that thing about human nature that responds to human sacrifice. It is exactly the reason that Steven Spielberg used so many intentional or non-intentional references to the Savior in his movie “ET.” It is the reason that Ernest Hemingway wrote “Old Man and the Sea” the way he did (the old man carries the mast like a cross at the end, etc). Rand and Spielberg and Hemingway are all using devices that will respond to emotional “hot buttons” within us. Sacrificing yourself for the greater good is the biggest hot button of all.

    So, Galt is definitely a Christ symbol. If you see him as an anti-hero, as many do (and I agree with some of your points), that does not detract from Rand’s usage of the Christ symbol means of getting her point across. That was my point.

    Ironically, during Galt’s three-hour speech he spends a lot of time saying that sacrifice for others is meaningless. Yet he does it himself a few days later.

  35. This is my first effort to sign up for a blog. I don’t understand what I’m doing at all, but enjoy listening to my friend JABenson. When I read a little of the Ayn Rand discussion, I wondered what it means to “live for the sake of another”? Refusing to do so could mean so many different things to different people that it’s hard to have a discussion. Does Ayn Rand make it perfectly clear what she means? Marylee Mitcham

    Hi Marylee I put your comment over here.

  36. Marylee, welcome to the blogging world. In “Atlas Shrugged,” there are a lot of people who Rand calls “looters” who figure out ways to live off of the productive capacity of others. For example, an industrialist will create a new product and the looters will figure out ways to appropriate it for themselves. In our modern day, you could think about John Murtha, who created an airport with taxpayer money all for himself:

    http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/04/23/murtha.airport/index.html?iref=hpmostpop

    (Just to be clear, both Republicans and Dems have done this — I’m just using one of the most egregious examples).

    So, from Rand’s perspective, “living for the sake of another” means giving your productive capacity and goods and cash to another person who doesn’t work as hard as you do. Rand feels that working for the sake of another makes you nothing less than a slave. Rand feels very strongly that the things you produce should belong to YOU and should not be taken away by the government or by other people, and she feels that one of the primary reasons for America’s success has been that people are encouraged to produce new things and new companies for their own benefit (think Bill Gates and Microsoft as an example).

    The problem with Rand’s philosophy as I see it is that she leaves no room whatsoever for serving your fellow man. She sees no nobility in voluntary service or voluntary giving (people don’t appreciate it, she seems to say).

  37. Pingback: » ‘Atlas Shrugged’ the movie is coming out. What do Mormons think of Objectivism? The Millennial Star

  38. “But what is fascinating for this religious Christian is that “Atlas Shrugged” is literally filled with Christ symbols and various other religious references. John Galt, her greatest hero, is nothing but a Christ symbol — he allows himself to be tortured by Pharisiacal statists for the greater good of humanity. The people around him love him just as Christ’s followers loved the Savior. His followers gather to a pure capitalistic Zion while the rest of the statist world falls to pieces (Isaiah, anyone?). And check out this scene.”

    The reason for that is that John Galt was written specifically as an antichrist figure. All of her Christian imagery is parody. %100 of it.

    In short, Jesus came to the world to accept mankind’s sin in order to save mankind. John Galt came to the world where he refused to accept “unearned guilt” in order to punish and destroy mankind. Or at least the vast majority of it, who she regarded as “mud to be ground underfoot, fuel to be burned for the benefit of the worthy.”

  39. “The problem with Rand’s philosophy as I see it is that she leaves no room whatsoever for serving your fellow man. She sees no nobility in voluntary service or voluntary giving (people don’t appreciate it, she seems to say).”

    More than not seeing any nobility in it, she expressly called voluntary service “immoral.”

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