The Economy Needs Ayn Rand

Author Ayn Rand’s philosophy of rational self-interest is more relevant today—amid the flurry of government bailouts—than ever. Pro or con?

Pro: Self-Interest Equals Prosperity

If Ayn Rand’s philosophy of rational self-interest is irrelevant today, then so is the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration gave sanction to selfishness: to the moral right to live your own life, to exercise your liberty, to pursue your happiness. No more taking orders from king or society. Each was free to live for himself.

In works such as The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, and The Virtue of Selfishness, Rand provided a philosophic foundation for the Declaration’s radical ideas. She originated a moral code that broke with tradition. She believed morality’s purpose isn’t to command you to sacrifice your interests for the sake of others but rather to teach you the rational values and virtues happiness in fact requires.

The deepest cause of today’s financial crisis is our distance from this ideal. Although almost everyone blames the free market, financial markets are riddled with government interventions. Participants are not free to pursue their self-interest. Instead, the government overrides this pursuit to achieve the “public interest.” So it creates the Fed, charged with the task of somehow manipulating money and interest rates to create full employment and price stability for all. It sponsors entities such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which somehow will bring homeownership into everyone’s reach. It promises to bail out financial institutions that supposedly carry “systemic risk” for everyone.

When this semi-collectivistic, uneconomic system blows up, should blame be placed on those issuing the orders or those forced to obey? To place primary blame on Wall Street is like blaming Russians for Communism’s failure. The fault lies not in the people but in the immoral system in which they had to act.

To restore U.S. prosperity, Rand’s philosophy has vital things to teach: what genuine self-interest and happiness consist of, why their pursuit is moral, and what political condition they demand—the full freedom of the Declaration. What is more relevant than that?

Con: Greed and Rand Aren’t the Answers

You’d think it was a joke, when the global economy was collapsing because of greed, that anyone might turn seriously to the purple prose of crypto-fascist Ayn Rand and think it was the answer to anything. How could her so-called philosophy of “rational self-interest”—in other words, a crude kind of dog-eat-dog laissez-faire capitalism—seem like the route out of this obstacle-strewn labyrinth into which we’re all now locked?

But human beings are simple creatures. Hit us and we’ll run screaming to our mummies and daddies, or the mummies and daddies we’d like to have, who will kiss our bruises and give us sweeties and tell us that we need never, ever give any of our sweeties away.

I guess a rise in “rational self-interest” at least sounds rational. Which is more than can be said for the decision to parcel up pockets of air or sunbeams or “securitized bundles” of toxic debt—or whatever else the little testosterone-fuelled idiots dreamed up after one too many mochaccinos—that got us in this mess that turned the world mad.

We don’t know what will get us out of it. We do know it’s going to have to be on an eye-popping, wallet-pinching, tax-increasing global scale. That’s where greed got us. Greed is not going to get us out of it. Nor is solipsism. Nor is Ayn Rand. Repeat after me: Unfettered, unregulated, personal-bonus-seeking capitalism is the problem, not the answer.

It’s time, boys and girls, to grow up. Just thank your lucky stars that the new guy in the White House has a big brain and a cool head. And he writes a hell of a lot better than Ayn Rand.

Opinions and conclusions expressed in the BusinessWeek Debate Room do not necessarily reflect the views of BusinessWeek, BusinessWeek.com, or The McGraw-Hill Companies.

Reader Comments

BobC

"Unfettered, unregulated, personal-bonus-seeking capitalism is the problem, not the answer."

What Christina Patterson doesn't understand is the the catalyst for all these back failures was the government's insistence to lower underwriting standards for loans. If banks didn't lend to the poor, they were racist. So the government made it OK to ignore the risk. What we have is the result. If bankers were allowed to assess the risk of borrowers without intervention, much of the real estate bubble would not have happened. The Fed's loose monetary policy for too long didn't help.

CompEng

Objectivism in practice is a psychological phenomenon: a real excuse to feel good about doing anything you really want to do.

Unfortunately, much of what people really want to do isn't actually good for anybody in the long run. This isn't exactly what Ayn Rand was saying, but it's what happens when people use her writings for support.

No, I think we would do well to remember we have some responsibilities to each other, as long as we take care of our needs first. I think that takes us to a much better place.

KC

Christina,

A main point in Rand's Atlas Shrugged is the superiority of hard money, literally a gold standard of exchange, used in her book. It prevents governments and their agencies, such as the Fed, from destroying wealth through policy.

If there was a gold standard, the illogical, complex, and volatile debt chains and instruments could not have been created, so no bubble and collapse like we have seen.

I think you are improperly combining greedy bankers' activities with Rand's ideas in too simplistic a fashion. The reality is that the bankers were operating in an artificial environment that Rand would have despised, and they simply exploited it to their profit.

Note that the founding fathers of the USA (what, those old fogies?) also mandated that money remain on a gold standard, like Rand espoused, and drifting from this wise mandate led us directly to the current crisis.

Rand wasn't a "greed is good" type. That was Michael Douglas, right? Rand was an "individual's freedom from societal tyranny is good" type, and she is in good company with past and present authors and sages.

Chip Joyce

If Christina Patterson actually read Ayn Rand before writing about her, she might not come across as such an ignoramus. For clearly she has not read her. Anyone who has, knows that calling Rand "crypto-fascist" or an advocate of "dog eat dog" exposes a person who is either faking having read her, or a liar.

Matt

Has Christina Patterson read Ayn Rand? I had hoped to see a reasonable debate between two opposing viewpoints, but it's clear that Patterson has no concept of the writings of Rand.

She seriously would prefer to put her faith in the obscure, left/socialist leanings of the American Idol President?

Patterson clearly knows little about economics or human nature beyond what she got from her freshman year of college at her public university.

Kim K

When you cap what individuals or companies can make, what they heck? What motivates them to work harder, longer hours, be more inovative, and take risks with new products and investment? Freedom means being able to choose your work, or play. Too many rules, and no one wants to participate or play.

Francis Luong (Franco)

Convincing arguments consiste of persuasion based on facts and logic and with intellectual honesty, as Mr. Ghate gracefully demonstrates.

Gabo

Ms. Patterson's solution, apparently, is to let Obama restrict our liberties so that we become "less greedy". And then she tells others to grow up.

Krishnan Chittur

We, the US of A made it possible for many around the world to practice socialism--since they could always count on us to make more, consume more, and provide the markets for them (and of course us). Germany and France are really afraid now that the US Messiah has decided that it is in our best interests to strangle ourselves.

John Alway

Onkar Gate is dead spot on. Freedom and the right to live our lives for our own sake is exactly what is required. Rational self-interest is a virtue.

Michael Malgeri

The U.S. Government, the Fed specifically, controls the money supply. When the Fed causes financial institutions to be leveraged on average of 40 or 50 to 1, calling for regulation as the cure is like trying to mandate good hygiene after forcing people to bath in a cesspool. Government intervention created the environment where the economic system has and will continue to fail. Ayn Rand's philosophy is the correct one to follow.

John Gault

"it’s time, boys and girls, to grow up. Just thank your lucky stars that the new guy in the White House has a big brain and a cool head."

Why is it that whenever an argument is made pointing out the fundamental principles of economic systems (risk, reward, personal responsibilities) the responses is always to question one's intelligence.

Clemens

"You’d think it was a joke, when the global economy was collapsing because of greed"

What's your source on that claim? I thought it collapsed because of massive government intervention in the financial markets.

Michael F

I agree with BobC's comments and I congratulate Mr. Ghate's anology re: Russians and Communists. That is a perfect description of how the public is blaming "Capitalists" for the current economic challenge.

Paul Hsieh

Ms. Patterson: Calling the current crisis a "failure of capitalism" is like saddling a swimmer with lead weights, throwing him into a pool, and then blaming his drowning on a "failure of swimming."

Governments don't produce anything; they merely redistribute it. We need to allow the producers to *produce*. When people are allowed to freely trade with others according to their rational self-interest, everyone benefits.

The government should protect innocent people from force and fraud, but otherwise leave them alone.

The current mess shows the results of unfettered unrestrained statism. It's time we shed that deadly approach and allow capitalism to work for us.

Kim Phan

This BusinessWeek feature is called "Debate Room" and I think Onkar Ghate wins this round of debate. He offered a thoughtful argument, while Christina Patterson's post is too full of sarcasm and ad hominem attack.

Minuteman

It's hard to take the CON point of view seriously when referring to Rand as a crypto-fascist. I'm not sure what the crypto means, but I do know what fascism is. Rand's philosophy, Objectivism, is the antithesis of fascism. It seems Ms. Patterson is the philosophical heir of Emmanuel Kant.

Eric Khrom

This is what Ayn Rand would have said about today's crisis--what she said decades ago:

"We are not a capitalist system any longer: we are a mixed economy, i.e., a mixture of capitalism and statism, of freedom and controls. A mixed economy is a country in the process of disintegration, a civil war of pressure-groups looting and devouring one another...A mixed economy has to reach the day when it faces a final crossroad: either the private sector regains its freedom and starts rebuilding—or it gives up and lets the absolute state take over the shambles."

Ted Buggert

What the kripes is a crypto-fascist anyhow?

Jason

I find it interesting that when listening to debates of the left and the right, the left always resorts to name calling and bullying. Instead of making an intellectual argument for her position, Mrs. Patterson argues, "It’s time, boys and girls, to grow up". This is all she has to say to defend the greatest expansion of the United States government when called out to debate?

Greg Perkins

Ms. Patterson's characterization of Rand as a "crypto-fascist" is absurd.

Rand was a vocal, consistent, principled, and deeply philosophic defender of individual rights. http://tr.im/iaoo

As a result, she was of course no fascist, and she no mere critic of fascism. She is arguably the most powerful critic of fascism to yet arrive. http://tr.im/iaox

Ms. Patterson apparently admires a cool head -- perhaps she should consider cultivating one rather than offering emotion-laced name-calling in place of facts and clear-eyed analysis.

Steve Hanson

"But human beings are simple creatures. Hit us and we’ll run screaming to our mummies and daddies, or the mummies and daddies we’d like to have, who will kiss our bruises and give us sweeties and tell us that we need never, ever give any of our sweeties away." and "It’s time, boys and girls, to grow up."

Interesting way of seeing folks, Christina. So Elsworth Tooheyish. And what a surprise, you dislike Rand.

You should try to curb your hatred of the common man. I can almost see you drooling at the thought of redistributing the wealth (the sweeties) of others--and the power to affect lives this would give you. You'd like that, wouldn't you my dear?

Rand is for freedom. What are you for, Christina?

Johnathan G

Crypto - one who covertly supports a doctrine
Fascist - a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control

I don't think Patterson truly understands anything about Ayn Rand's ideas. She begged for less control in our government and less regulation. I realize that reporting is about inserting adjectives that persuade readers, but please speak the truth. Ghate explains Ayn Rand's theory well, but unfortunately a lot of people believe the current economic crisis is about selfishness. His argument will be more likely ignored because of bias. If his article could have been longer, I think he could have sufficiently explained why Ayn Rand's plan for economics is more common-sense than anything else.
Also, Patterson sounds like one of the evil characters in Ayn Rand's books with her paragraph, "But human beings are simple creatures..." I resent the remark, and so will most of my species.

I guess she could not come up with any good reasons to argue.

Robert Cons

Thank you, Mr. Ghate for stating that Ayn Rand's ideas are essential to secure the blessings of liberty in today's world, which for more than a century have been under attack by the evil altruist/collectivist/socialist axis.

What we need to understand are the virtues of rational selfishness, that reason is the only means to knowledge, and lassiez-faire capitalism is the only social expression of life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.

Anthony Garland

If I may add a comment from far-off South Africa, you and all we Objectivists everywhere are never going to convince those shrill, hating voices of irrationality. I have long accepted that there are two basic types of people--those who have always known that the wonder of man is his total individual sovereignty--and then there are the others. Keep up the fight; it is crucial for a free world.

Mike Rael

Greed is the desire for the unearned. Rand never advocated greed in any form.

Self-interest? Yes.

I wonder, Christina, if you believe that Obama's policies have nothing to do with self-interest? Why is Obama letting the Democrats spend on anything? Do you suppose that Democrat spending might have something to do with self-interest?

Doe you really believe that researching the odor of swines will help the economy?

The real issue is what is "rational" self-interest? That is, what application of self-interest will really help us as individuals?

Personally, I'm not in favor of standard Objectivist answers, involving more warfare. I like Ron Paul's notion of taking back all military installations, saving one trillion bucks/year in consequence, and using that savings to reduce income taxes to zero. Now, THAT would cause folks to dance in the streets, including Wall Street business tycoons!

It's the opposite of Obama's spending plans though. Objectivists believe we must be involved in all kinds of military interventions. I don't.

I'm with Thomas Jefferson and George Washington on that. Avoid entangling relationships with other countries. Avoid military interventions--unless the rights of our citizens are attacked by a country! Then, have a big stick and use it ruthlessly to defend our rights!

Obama is just transferring the war from Iraq to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Joy to the world!

Diana Hsieh

On reading this short debate, I was immediately struck by the vast difference in the intellectual maturity of the two sides.

Dr. Ghate clearly articulates a serious position, based on the theme that Ayn Rand offers the necessary the philosophical foundation of Declaration of Independence. In so doing, he conveys the depth and substance of Ayn Rand's ideas in a way that would naturally arouse a person's curiosity to learn more. (I recommend starting with Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged.)

In sharp contrast, Christina Patterson's remarks are shocking juvenile. She offers nothing better than ill-founded insults and vague accusations. She has no positive views of her own to offer, nor any substantive criticisms of Ayn Rand's views. By her superficial and obviously ignorant sniping, she conveys contempt for her readers.

Patterson claims that hers is the mature view, but her own words show the very opposite. Whether you ultimately agree with them or not, Ayn Rand's ideas deserve serious consideration.

-- Diana Hsieh http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

Matt

"Anyone who has, knows that calling Rand 'crypto-fascist' or an advocate of 'dog eat dog'"

I'm fairly certain she was perfectly fine with dog eat dog competition given the fact that in Atlas Shrugged she named one of the laws the anti-dog eat dog something or another (too lazy to grab the book and look it up). That being said, Christina Patterson clearly doesn't know what is going on as evidenced by any line of her "con." Heck, just read her last line--the president writes well is a complete load of crap. He just speaks in a fashion that makes Americans want to wet their pants and enjoy it.

Timothy

What the world really needs is a rather large Galts Gulch where Objectivists can go and leave the world to go to hell. The ultimate proof of this is Earth Hour. Whoever would have believed Americans would so eagerly turn out the lights of New York and other cities to celebrate a return to the long night of the past? Marie Antoinette was right: Let the bastards eat cake, the cake they have now and will later bake for themselves when the world is delivered to them. Let's hope there will at least be a Galts Gulch where those who really do move the world can go at such a time.

John Cox

Sigh...

Anyone who starts a debate by calling Rand a "crypto-fascist" pretty much loses a debate by default, as the arguments are sure to be dishonest, uninformed and illogical.

Mark Powers

For anyone to deny the right of the individual to earn and keep what they have labored for is the abomination. Ayn Rand's philosophy is of the individual, not the masses that want to exploit the one who generates wealth. You have those who produce and those who take. A is A. Which are you?

LarryB

"the global economy ... collapsing because of greed?"

Greed is an emotion; not a behavior. It cannot be applied as an explanation for an economic phenomena. What is an explanation for the current collapse is the behavior of our politicians (from both parties) attempting via the Community Reinvestment Act, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to put people into homes they could not afford, at the expense of a sound financial system.

Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" is back on the best-seller list because people are finding that the book not only shows how the politicos create such economic devastation, but also how they deceive the public into believing the cause is something other than it is.

RGS

As Gordon Gecko once said, "Greed is good!" "Greed", in other words, the "insatiable desire for more" can be a powerful driver of wealth and prosperity if it is allowed to be applied in a free market of laissez-fair capitalism. A "greedy" person who is dedicated to increasing their wealth without force or fraud, and by implication, without government help or hindrance, must by necessity constantly search for innovative ways to do things better, otherwise the competition will. Innovation is the method by which wealth is created, it shortens the production process and thereby reduces costs and increases everyone’s standard of living and it can only exist when men are left free to do it. Contrary to our leaders assertions, their massive increase in regulations and market manipulation will only result in a massive reduction of innovation and therefore of production and therefore of wealth and we will all lose our standard of living.

A free market is one in which everyone is left free to compete with everyone else and the winners and losers are determined by their ability to satisfy their "greed" through innovation and NOT through the arbitrary and irrational decisions of random bureaucrats or pretentious mediocrities who can’t compete with their betters without relying on their political pull with the so called central planners who can only offer us less prosperity and not more.

John Kannarr

Actually most of the corporate bail-out seekers that are so vilified today, more closely resemble Ayn Rand's villains than they do her heroes. Rand knew that those so-called business people who seek government regulations to give them an edge over their competitors and then seek government bail-outs are not heroes at all, just looters in the guise of businessmen.

H Roark

Now, after 200 years, the ideals of the founders of this country have been manipulated, bastardized, and devalued with the blame going to capitalism, even though the root cause of the problems came from the areas under the most government regulation--housing and banking.

AP in Austin

I believe it was Ayn Rand who likened government regulation to a "penny in the fusebox'. While this may be a somewhat dated analogy in the modern context, it remains relevant.

Without the 'backing' of Fannie and Freddie, it is unlikely that the sub-prime, mortgage-backed-security contagion would have spread so far and wide. Investor fear (risk aversion, really) would've counteracted the desire for profit. This is the 'fuse' in Ayn Rand's fusebox analogy--the fear of losing money acts as a self-correcting mechanism.

But Fannie, Freddie and all their funny friends gave a measure of respectability to these investments, and the lure of easy money had a very strong appeal. With visions of a neverending shopping spree in their minds, investors kept on buying these dubious investments. The creation of Fannie, Freddie et al was the proverbial penny in the fusebox. Suddenly, an class of investments that belongs only among speculators, is given a stamp of respectability, or even a sense of false safety. No wonder that such instruments were picked up by pension funds world-wide.

For those who were around in the '80s, this has a sort of deja vu feel to it! The backing of FDIC and FSLIC led to the creation of irresponsible banks, which made foolish investments. Not surprisingly, this begat the S&L crisis.

John Alway

Onkar Gate is dead spot on. Freedom and the right to live our lives for our own sake is exactly what are required. Rational self-interest is a virtue.

Whitmore

I've been reading these re-hashed criticisms and ad hominem attacks of Rand on the internet for years, and have yet to see any kind of remotely equivalent intellectual response to her actual ideas.

When understood (which is not that hard), Rand's ideas make living a moral and happy life not only achievable, but downright easy and practical as well--without conflicts or sacrifice among men.

This all depends on your underlying view of human nature though. Is man good and to be left free, or evil and to be controlled? I think I know where both commentators stand.

"If America is to be saved from destruction—specifically, from dictatorship-—she will be saved by her sense of life." -Ayn Rand

KevinH

I'll tackle just one of the two ad hominems packed into Christina Patterson's first sentence: "crypto-fascist." The "crypto" in this phrase is a nod to the fact that Ayn Rand's views are not fascist at all. How does consistently opposing statism of all types--including fascism--and advocating respect for and protection of individual rights make Ayn Rand a fascist? Answer: It doesn't. Patterson wanted to call Ayn Rand a fascist irrespective of the content of Rand's views. "Crypto" is merely a paper thin cover for that dishonest and untrue accusation.

dw

Not sure why you think the declaration of Independence was based on Ann Rand? She was born long after it was written. And the declaration stands on it own. And we can blame Wall Street wizards for this mess. They are responsible and no amount of scheming can get them out of it. or apologists can cover their crimes up. They try shift their blame to others. The CRA didn't mandate ninja loans. and those writing them weren't subject to it. and who would believe the Bush administration would do some thing to force them to do some thing they didn't want to do. They dreamed up how to destroy incomes, forcing the middle class to get loans to keep them in the middle class. and they sold those loans that had no chance of being paid off ASAP so they could get their bonuses and fees. and while we are at it, if you think that letting every one do what they want to do is so good, then you are advocating chaos. where business cannot exist since every thing it does is at risk every day, at all time. and the enforcement of such laws as those against murder may happen. or not

Anthony

Christina,

Your unfortunate use of the dog-eat-dog phrase leads me to believe that you haven't read Atlas Shrugged.

You do not understand the meaning of rational self-interest. Rationality applied to self-interest means to think long term. Try it some time.

Jeremy

Obama filled me with hope the day he complained about his opponents wanting "to make a virtue out of selfishness." To see why, dig a little into Rand's nonfiction and read the article with this little gem:

When opposite basic principles are clearly and openly defined, it works to the advantage of the rational side; when they are not clearly defined, but are hidden or evaded, it works to the advantage of the irrational side.

("The Anatomy of Compromise" from Rand's "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal")

RGS

"Greed is the desire for the unearned. Rand never advocated greed in any form."

The dictionary defition of "greed" is excessive desire.

Objectivists would tag that as an anti-concept since desire as such is not inherently good or bad and "excessive" implies a standard by which to make a value judgement, which is never specified so "greed" is an invalid concept.

A better defition of greed would be an "insatiable" desire which does not imply any specific value judgment. One would have to specify an insatiable desire for--what before making a good/bad judgment.

H Roark

Thank you for bastardizing my previous post and completely taking out the context of the sentence that you allowed. That wins the "crypto-facist" award for censorship.

American Sharecropper

What exactly does Ms. Patterson think the definition of "Greed" is? Is she suggesting there is no greed in government? Can she actually believe that everything that every government employee or official does is out of a sense of selflessness? The assertion is absurd. Rand posited the concept of rational self interest, that every American citizen had the right to self determination. The claim that government action as in any way altruistic is not only unsupportable but illogical on its face. Government (as both a whole and its constituent parts) has an agenda that is most often antithetical to the liberty of the citizens. Government uses the threat of violent force to coerce the citizenry into submission. Government agents are susceptible to influences outside of morality just as any citizen. In short, government greed is at the heart of the problems we face.

Jack

A prerequisite of debate is understanding the ideas being debated.

It's hard to tell what Ms. Patterson is going on about with her "simple creatures" and "mummies," but it clearly has nothing to do with Ayn Rand.

Reading Ayn Rand is the best way to find out what she actually said and if she's relevant.

Seerak

It seems to me that, in an honest debate, each side should at least endeavor to understand what they are criticizing, before they speak.

Christina Patterson plainly has not made even this minimum standard. If anything, she manifests plenty of the sort of schoolyard name-calling that makes clear just who is the child in this exchange.

BusinessWeek should be ashamed of passing this kind of person off as any sort of "debater." The Debate Room editors owe Dr. Ghate an apology.

Carl Svanberg

Onkar Ghate is right. Our current crisis not the failure of the free market. It is the failure of the UN-free market. The evidence is literally all over the crime place.

It is the government that in part encouraged and in part forced banks to take big risks by lending money to people who really could not afford it. The federal reserve bank encouraged banks to lend out money to people who could not afford it by lowering the rates. Laws such as Community Reinvestment Acts virtually forced banks to lend out money to people who could not afford it. Government-sponsored entities such as Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae created a market for subprime-loans.

Since the government got us into this mess, it should be evident that what we need is real capitalism. But why are so many suspicious of capitalism? Why are so many willing to blame the free market for the problems caused by the government? The source of this suspicious is moral philosophical.

Everybody knows that capitalism is based on egoism. That is true because capitalism is based on the principle of individual rights. That is the idea that your life belongs to you and that you have an inalienable right to pursue your own life and happiness. Yet that is what America is all about and that is what capitalism is all about. That is why so many condemn America and capitalism on moral grounds.

As long as people are willing to condemn the American way, i.e., capitalism, because it is the system of rational egoism, we will only continue to see demands for increased government control over the economy, to solve the problems caused by the government. This is obviously not going to work. As the abysmal failure of government central planning throughout history shows, it never has.

No, what we need is to get the government out of the economy. What we need now, more than ever, is capitalism. Therefore we also need a moral defense of capitalism more than ever. That is why we need Ayn Rand more than ever. Ayn Rand is the only one who gives rational self-interest a moral defense.

If you are interested in a moral defense of the American way of life, then I refer you to The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.

random

Ayn Rand's popularity was based on telling people that they're special, important and that if they think they're right, they are. For college kids who think they're just amazing and incredibly talented, hearing that is empowering but ultimately gives them a huge head and a little too much self-esteem. Her fans compare themselves to the emotionally cold, selfish heroes who only help those in total ideological agreement with them and cast people who question them as the same novels' cardboard villains. Ultimately, Rand's work is cheap pop psychology based on her fear of the USSR and stereotypically woven into the red-baiting and Red Scares that became huge parts of American culture.

I've never met an Objectivist who was objective or hadn't put Rand on a pedestal as the guru that sees all and knows all like the Oracle of Delphi. How is fandom a viable way to run an economy? How is the Gordon Gecko approach to business which hammered us with three recessions in less than 30 years going to help us? And why do the Objectivists resort to the fantasy of governments forcing companies to loosen lending standards to exonerate bad businesspeople who beg the government to rescue them when they make mistakes?

Rational self-interest is an empty, meaningless phrase right up there with Deepak Chopra's fluffy woo. When you advocate running the economy on sophistry and fluff, lionizing bad businesspeople while calling those who want to get them to stop draining government coffers socialists, you're living in very deep denial.

You want to stop the socialists so badly? Let AIG fail. Stop blaiming the government for greedy fools like you and accept that you're living in a dreamworld. You're not going to build a workable economy by denialism and pathetic excuses for ridiculous behavior.

And oh yes. I've read Rand's books. She's a lousy writer. Only a truly bad writer could make 10 pages of monologues about right and wrong in response to a character asking what time it is. Or an overly self-indulgent one.

JackDoitCrawford

Just read these two arguments and see which one makes sense. If freedom is no damn good, what is, slavery, dictatorship? Give me a break.

Tom Hall

Obama filled me with hope the day he complained about his opponents wanting "to make a virtue out of selfishness." To see why, dig a little into Rand's nonfiction and read the article with this little gem:

When opposite basic principles are clearly and openly defined, it works to the advantage of the rational side; when they are not clearly defined, but are hidden or evaded, it works to the advantage of the irrational side.

("The Anatomy of Compromise" from Rand's "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal")

Wendy Loreti

"...human beings are simple creatures...." Speak for yourself, sister!

Thank you, Onkar Ghate, for a well-reasoned, concise commentary.

lockeFan

Why didn't BW's editors choose someone well-qualified to make the anti-Rand case?

Carl Nordhielm

I am forced to agree with Ms. Patterson that President Obama, like Mr. Thompson, writes and speaks as well as Ayn Rand. But I must also point out that Obama's message is far deeper into fiction than anything Ms. Rand wrote.

Angathas

Christina,
You should read some of Ayn Rand's writings and ideas before you get on your computer and misinterpret them, and then insult her.

You have Rand confused with F. Nietzsche. It was he who would hold that others should sacrifice themselves to the individual.

Chris Blask

Mr. Ghate,
I do not believe that less regulation of the financial industry would have been the way to avoid the current economic dilemma, or that Rand herself would have necessarily made that argument herself. The financial system is an "organization" and as such it is bounded by rules, the rules defining the securitization of risk were not well crafted (as much as any one factor is to blame). Rand did not argue for a world without rules.

Ms. Patterson.
It is unfortunate that you have chosen to base your argument on emotive, sexist nihilism instead of logic. There are much better arguments to be made than that humans are pathetic creatures looking to run back to "mummy and daddy" or proof that "testosterone"-Americans are the root of all evil.

Fortunately, as you conclude, we have someone in the White House who has a big brain and a cool head. Someone who has, in fact, read Ayn Rand and understands her points, though he may disagree with them in scale or kind. President Obama is the reason I supported the Democrats in the last election, but smug and condescending attitudes such as you demonstrate here are the reason I have moved away from doing so previously.

Regards,

Chris Blask

MotleyMoose.com

Daryle

Our problems start and stop with government interventions. We are so far from where our founding fathers started, it's hard to comprehend their ideals--and that of Ayn Rand. If we actually had unfettered, unregulated, personal-bonus-seeking capitalism, there would be fewer problems than we now are saddled with. You think government is the answer? Who told Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to make those loans to the poor and indigent--the government. Governments have never proved to be good at business so why do we think it will now with the Neo-Communists in control. And yes, I too will be looking for a Galts Gulch.

J Jennings

Government has no right to take any action except to protect and enforce individual's rights; any other action is illegitimate and is either theft under the color of law, or the imposition of slavery. There must be as complete separation of economy and government as there is separation of church and state. Anything less is immoral, and will result in the destruction of freedom or else rebellion against such tyranny.

Ms. Patterson’s unreasoned response clearly shows that she has thrown her lot in with the anti-mind collectivists who wish to enslave her fellow men and seek to destroy liberty in order to evade reality. She, along with the collectivists currently in power, seeks to hide from reality and man’s nature under the tired, disproved, and content-less bromides of altruism. Her irrational, emotional appeals ring hollow in the face of even the shortest, simplest rational argument. Her so-called argument is, in today's parlance, an epic fail.

Marie

Now here's a typical socialist writer. Onkar, you completely miss the point of Ayn Rand's writing and point. Your ignorance of its main point is screaming. The new guy in the White House has a big brain? Wow! We describe individuals with extreme ignorance on economics as having a big brain? You're still high from that Koolaid I take it. The man is literally destroying our country and you're singing Kumbaya. G.W. made a record breaking $497 billion dollar deficit in one year. Guess what Obama's deficit for this year? $1.8 trillion dollars. I guess when you can steal the money from the taxpayers, it's ok. G.W. accumulated an amazing 1.2 trillion dollars deficit in his 8 years in office. Obama achieve a bigger deficit in 50 days. A big brain? Buddy, I hate to tell you. The only thing that has change is from dumb to dumber (more like moron) and from bad to catastrophe.

B Nako

It is comforting to see how many of the comments lean towards Rand; how many of her books are sold nowadays; how many do not bow to the tyranny of the We-Know-Better ("It's time, boys and girls, to grow up") agents. Perhaps Atals Shrugged will not realize so easily.

Shaun

The Federal Reserve caused this crisis. The Federal Reserve also caused the Great Depression.

The solution? More taxes. Seriously, the anti-randians freak me out. The logical leap there is mind boggling.

Robert S.

Unfettered, unregulated, personal-bonus-seeking capitalism is the problem?

Not.

No matter how it's dressed up, this bogus argument come down to saying that the problem is that you are free. We need to control you for your own good (though we try to make you believe that we want to control someone else and leave you safe).

You and others who have never stolen a cent in your lives. You and others who never violated anyone's rights.

Are you responsible for the disasters befalling us? Do you need to embrace tyranny to save us all from our freedom?

max zeledon

Only a sociopath would subscribe to the absurd ideas of this pseudo philosopher. But corporate America is packed with pill-ridden sociopaths who have perverted capitalism to the point of collapse.

Matthew

I had lots to say following Christina's post at the top, but I was calmed and pleased to see such strong responses from people who understand the issue.

For now, I have only to comment on Ayn Rand's writing versus Obama's, which was thrown in at the end of her vague, emotionally-driven post.

I have never seen a writer write with more economy, precision, and clarity than Ayn Rand--and I expect I never will. Have a good read, there, Christina.

Caryn Sobel

Thanks, John Kannarr.

My one problem with Objectivism is the refusal of most Objectivists to acknowledge that big business has used looters' techniques to its benefit through government regulations and policies; it is no better when business does it than when any other special interest group does. Either way, there is no longer a truly free economy--real capitalism, not corporate welfare--which I agree is the only authentic way to live with dignity.

I wish I would see prominent Objectivists address this honestly.

JG

"Happiness is not to be achieved at the command of emotional whims. Happiness is not the satisfaction of whatever irrational wishes you might blindly attempt to indulge. Happiness is a state of non contradictory joy-a joy without penalty or guilt, a joy that does not clash with any of your values and does not work for your own destruction, not the joy of escaping from your mind, but of using your mind's fullest power, not the joy of faking reality, but of achieving values that are real, not the joy of a drunkard, but of a producer. Happiness is possible only to a rational man, the man who desires nothing but rational goals, seeks nothing but rational values and finds his joy in nothing but rational actions.

Just as I support my life, neither by robbery nor alms, but by my own effort, so I do not seek to derive my happiness from the injury or the favor of others, but earn it by my own achievement. Just as I do not consider the pleasure of others as the goal of my life, so I do not consider my pleasure as the goal of the lives of others. Just as there are no contradictions in my values and no conflicts among my desires-so there are no victims and no conflicts of interest among rational men, men who do not desire the unearned and do not view one another with a cannibal's lust, men who neither make sacrifices nor accept them."

--Atlas Shrugged
http://www.thisisjohngaltspeaking.org/about/

Scott McDonald

Miss Patterson either does not know anything about Objectivism--Ayn Rand's philosophy--or is dishonest in her potrayal of it. I recommend your readers have a look for themselves. Then they can judge whether Rand is right in arguing that freeing man to pursue his own rational interests is a path to wealth and happiness, or whether hobbling the economy with regulation designed to meet "social goals" can pull us out of the mess they created.

Dan Price

It is interesting to note that Christina uses a tactic which all socialists use, and have used since before Lenin, Bash the person with meaningless dimestore words and hope nobody sees that there is no logic in the statement.

Christina, like all collectivists before her, simply want to enslave the world. That is what taxes are after all, indentured servitude.

Rand was dead on. More so than Aristotle and John Locke, although they did have nuggets of the big picture. That is, any regulation or compulsory tax of any kind is simply taking liberty from the individual.

I leave you with this definition of vermin:
"Those who by force take from us what we earn so as to promise to give it back to us, expecting us to be thankful for their generosity. They tempt the industrious to be lazy so they can rule us like sheep at the trough; as lazy people don't think for themselves; they only think about themselves. They then fight over who should be given alms first, the most corrupt and deviant among them gaining the most, while having the least taken from them."

Amy Zook

One of the essential points of Ayn Rand's philosophy is that everyone should act in his or her rational self-interest. Not rationalized self-interest. That means acting in a way that actually makes sense with the facts and works in the world, not "any way you feel like."

Just because you want to be fabulously rich without working for it, doesn't mean you can, in the real world. Even if you deem it in your "self-interest," that doesn't make it possible or right. The greed and foolishness of those who caused this crisis may have been rationalized self-interest, but it wasn't rational self-interest.

I'd like to thank Mike Rael for pointing out the difference between greed and self-interest -- "greed is the desire for the unearned." Self-interest is the desire to earn. They are distinctly different. Greed pulls everyone down, but self-interest is what drives progress forward.

Bill Edward

I am not as articulate as those writers above in support of Ayn Rand writings, but I am in complete agreement with their remarks, and appalled by the comments of Ms Patterson. I am leaving for Galts Gulch soon. I would like to bring my grandchildren, as I fear for their future in today's world.

Michael Gold

While Mr. Ghate provides an actual argument, and relates Rand's ideas to John Locke's doctrine of individual rights, to our Declaration of Independence and to human nature, Patterson provides nothing more than an insulting mini-essay about her own view of human nature: immature, scared, dependent, clinging, irrational, hateful.

Mr. Ghate presents humans as we saw on 9/11: heroic, strong, independent, able to act in concert, treading where angles fear to tread.

Mrs. Patterson presents humans as we see them in Hollywood horror flicks: scared, bowed, fearful, ignorant, running in fear from danger and responsibility.

Mr. Ghate reads like the dignity of the Federalist debates or the Constitutional debates.

Mrs. Patterson reads like a sketch on the Colbert Report or Saturday

Steven Kreisman

I find it absolutely absurd when emotionalists blame the current financial crises on capitalism when we haven't had capitalism in this country for over 100 years. For your information, our economy for over 100 years has been a mixed economy--private ownership of most property and businesses, but government regulations instead of freedom for the owners of these businesses. As Ayn Rand eloquently demonstrated, when these regulations inevitably lead to distortions and destruction in the marketplace, it is always freedom and capitalism that gets blamed. This is then used as an excuse for even more regulations. Today's housing and financial mess is a perfect example.

Jo Steen

In reference to the con: As usual, people who have no valid argument or one that cannot be defended in a rational manner resort to sarcasm and name calling.

Grant Williams

Let's start out with the accusations of fascism. What, in this context, does that even mean? How on earth could it every possibly be construed that a refusal to be one's brother's keeper is somehow an active desire to control one's brother's life? Claims like this rest not on thoughful analysis, but on a deep seated resentment against anyone and everyone who has the gaul to remind leftists that irrational ideas don't work.

Which, naturally, leads us to the accusation made my Patterson that capitalism is necessarily some kind of predation. The notion of two people co-existing peacefully - not necessarily equally - but peacefully is entirely alien to her. To her, if a man refuses to help another man that "dog" is eating the other.

These are the kinds of elementary moral issues that philosophers have been dealing with for millenia, and which Objectivism has been resolving for decades. It's really rather pitiful for Ms. Patterson to present them as credible.

And then comes the psychologizing. Americans, we are told, are not sovereign adults capable of making their own decisions and, left to their own devices, capable of finding out what is in their best interest. No, instead, we are all either little children or macho male-chauvanists who, if not for government, would be consumed by immaturity or neurosis - brining all of the grown up, sane leftists down with us.

And then there is the standard use of the never-defined term "greed." Again, in this context, what does that even mean? How on earth could it ever be shown that a desire to get millions of dollars dishonestly, only to have the entire thing blow up in one's face, be construed as actually self-interested? Even those who got away with it won't end up benefiting as much as they thought they would. They still live under the same government. The very same government that, true to it's statist, interventionist philosophy, is going to start inflating the hell out of the currency in order to "solve" the financial crisis. What good will all of that bonus money be then?

"Greed" is just a word used by leftists whenever they want to take away someone from someone else. It has no exact meaning and so claiming to combat it can be used to justify anything.

Even the nationalization of the US economy.

Norman Oro

It's been years since I've read any of Ayn Rand's books, but if I remember correctly, her message is in line with much of what's been posted: Rational self-interest is the foundation of a free and just society. The only thing I'd add is that government is necessary to enable self-interest and markets to function and deliver prosperity. In fact, you could argue that some form of government is a natural extension of rational self-interest. For example, markets wouldn't work as well without something like a government to enforce basic property rights so people know that the money they earn and what they own is theirs and can't be arbitrarily taken away. I believe the dangers that Ayn Rand wrote about arise not from the existence of government; the danger is government ceasing to serve the market and instead destroying and supplanting it.

Peter McCormick

The editors at BusinessWeek should be ashamed of themselves for publishing Christina Patterson's contribution to this nondebate. Surely you can do better than this?

Onkar Ghate makes a compelling argument, while Patterson maliciously libels Ayn Rand with sophomoric ad hominem.


Klas D. Romberg

When Andrew Carnegie sold his steel companies in Pittsburgh for $480 million early in the 20th century, he received 24 million $20 gold coins for it, each representing One Ounce of pure gold. In today's dollars this number of double eagles would be approaching a value of $24 billion.

If you follow through with the math, assuming he had received Federal Reserve Notes instead of gold, his 480 million dollars would now have lost 98% of its original value. With the abolishment of stable money, the gold standard, the Federal Reserve has squandered 98% of the savings of all Americans by printing IOU's backed by nothing. Present day Washington is likely to cut the remaining 2% in half again by doing the same on an even grander scale.

Ayn Rand once wrote roughly quoted: 'It is no use to examine a folly. Just look what it accomplishes!'

Isn't it time that we abolish the Federal Reserve and with it the government monopoly on money by re-establishing stable money with free banking under the Gold Coin Standard? Just look what the folly of government money has accomplished.

The government has failed us miserably in claiming to be the guardian of stable money.

Ralph Whaley

Christina Patterson's snide remarks and intellectual snobbery are not an argument. But that is not surprising since there is no case to be made refuting the facts of reality on which Ayn Rand's Objectivist Ethics of Rational Selfishness is based.

Martin Gasser

Wow, if I knew nothing of the current situation, if I was absolutely ignorant of the facts and the problems the world is facing today, and I read this piece Dr. Ghate's response would give me food for thought.

Aaron

To Christina Patterson,

If you are going to debate Ayn Rand then at least get her philosophy correct.

Starjet

To paraphrase a infamous character of [Ayn Rand's] novel, The Fountainhead, "I refuse to lower myself to the position of fly swatter."

Shane Pleasance

In recent times in New Zealand I have come to learn that it is easier to engage right wingers in discussions of liberty than it is left wingers. Right wingers tend to stay with me up until the time they realise we will not be enforcing their beliefs on everyone else and unearned privileges will cease.

Left wingers on the other hand (pun intended) lack the ability to move from unconscious incompetence (not knowing you are ignorant on a subject) to conscious incompetence (recognising there are knowledge deficits). That is, they exhibit strongly the Dunning-Kruger effect (aka the Homer Simpson effect) which in simple terms is that even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, they believe that their skills or knowledge on a subject are superior to everyone elses.

A little like Ms Patterson's writings.

Rachel

Yes, I agree with those who has suggested that Patterson is wrong. You don't have to work in order to know. I am sixteen and I go to a public high school, and I myself see a bunch of inaccuracy in Patterson's absurd claims. I think this woman doesn't know what she is talking about and joins the jeering crowds that so often say, "you never know," or you never can tell, can you?" and then followed by that so familiar chuckle of there's.

Patterson started going wrong after the statement "the purple prose of crypto-fascist Ayn Rand." I decided not to take her seriously after those few words. I have read five of Rand's books, all I can get hold of since I am blind and have to check them out from a special library on tape or in braille. Now, even after reading the first part of the first Ayn Rand novel, which was Atlas Shrugged, I could already understand she wasn't a fascist. Adolf Hitler, a fuhrer in Germany,was a man we all know and can admit is a Fascist, who ever you are. Lets try to compare them, shall we? If Rand was a Fascist, her fundamentals must be comparatively similar to Hitler. Wait...! I forgot, we can't do that! She unlike Hitler desired and advocated for liberty. Did Hitler want freedom for his citizens? No, with Hitler it was more like,

listen to your ruler, all ye citizens or thou shalt suffer my anger Damn your so call rights, and forget what people in that absurd United States calls capitalism and liberty.

Yes, I don't think that statement would have come out of Ayn Rand's mouth, if she was alive and with us today. If you don't believe me why don't you ask the objectivists, and see how hard they laugh or argue when you tell them, Rand is their Fascist as Hitler was Germany's Fascist?

Thomas Schmitzer

Ms. Patterson's convincing argument against rational self interest isn't obvious. Did I miss something?

If she is like other leftists, she cannot articulate one but she can invoke sarcasm and emotion in reference to the "greedy nature" humans. And also like other leftists, her biggest problem is that she doesn't understand human nature, or nature, or science and especially economics.

Jeff Montgomery

Ms. Patterson,
I think you need to review your Rand. Phrases like "her so-called philosophy of 'rational self-interest'—in other words, a crude kind of dog-eat-dog laissez-faire capitalism" indicate that you simply have not understood the source material. It is precisely the type of individual rights Rand championed that would prevent businessmen from using government in their favor as well as prevent statists from devouring our bank accounts. You don't understand what she advocated. May I suggest "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal" as a starting point?

What caused our recent troubles was, as usual, government influences on the economy. In brief, it was the aggressive push for affordable housing, which caused many pressures in favor of loose credit, and therefore caused too many risky loans. “Greed” means nothing without an enabler, and that enabler was loose credit. It caused the illusion that housing would boom forever, and induced people to engage in more risky activities than they should have. Get government out of economics like Rand and other Objectivists advocate, and we won't have such troubles.

daniel

Alright it may seem that one side doesnt even know Rand's philosophies (at all really). Here's the thing, not everyone acts in a complete rational self-interested way, while if they did the world would be the ideal place to be and objectivism the ideal way to live, however it doesnt work that way, and these people would live on in a laissez-faire system as well. The populace makes bad choices, Rand noted something about how easily the populace can be controlled in Fountainhead through the character of Steven Mallory. Also the government's completely removing itself during a period of recession is not the best course of action since its exit will leave the economy in shambles before it can repair, and that will hurt the opportunities of those individualists who do live the right way. Not everyone who has power deserves it, and some of those people will use the recession and greed to control those who are rationally self-interested and moral people (in other words objectivists).
I would like to redirect you to the communism point made above, because people dont always act in rationally self-interested way communism itself was allowed to spread. These people were self-interested (not necessarily greedy but self-interested) and could not think "rationally" because of their self-interest (am not saying that rationality and self interest are opposites but it is important to note history in a debate) thus turning them to communism. If the government removes itself now then it will fall apart and it could all end up worse then it is, however that doesn't mean that the government had the right to put itself into the free market as much as it did, moreover once we are out of the recession a return to real capitalism will make sure we dont reenter another one, even though it will take a while.

Overall, during a recession and a mixed up world Objectivism is an excellent theory but its practice can be limited, which is something ayn rand criticized in "Philosophy: who needs it." And thus at the current time a return to Rand may not be our best option.

Thomas Cowman

What a wasted opportunity for real debate on an important issue, and on such a respectable Web site at that.

LucyH

Dr. Onkar Ghate is clear and persuasive in making his argument. Patterson starts spewing ad hominems right off the bat and never lets up, presumably because she has no evidence or argument to offer.

It's pretty sad, actually, that they couldn't come up with a more worthy opponent.

Jill

Ms. Patterson's off-the-target portrayal of Ayn Rand's work left me with one thought: I have now read the work of the type of person Rand would have called a "looter." Try reading the book, Ms. Patterson. I'm fairly certain you won't like it.

kelly p

Wow! You folks give me hope. We will not win this country back at the ballot box when they are having litters (8 + 6!) of dependendent voters. They will be lucky if we do it non-violently via "Going Galt."

Ben

"Repeat after me: Unfettered, unregulated, personal-bonus-seeking capitalism is the problem, not the answer."

Why? Repeating a lie often enough won't make it into the truth. Perusing this "debate" is reminiscent of an evolutionary biologist arguing with a creationist. Just replace instances of the word "greed" with "Satan" and you have all the hallmarks of generic religious apologia.

Alan Nitikman

Since many have made the points that Christina Patterson engaged in ad hominem and blames "greed" for the collapse of the mortgage market when the cause is easily traceable to the CRA, Fed rate policy, Congressional bullying (based partly on alleged red-lining and threats to lenders and Boston Fed Reserve Clinton-era opinion that means testing should be abandoned to allow the ramping up of sub-prime lending), I'll just make one observation:

Christina Patterson should look up the original definition of "Fascism." As Mussolini defined it, it was private ownership -- in name -- with government control over all business decisions. He saw the explicit Socialist plan of government-run production and provision as unnecessary. As long as the government actually called the shots, Olivetti, Fiat, and the other Italian companies could keep the name on the masthead, but would take orders from Party Officials.

By that definition, what Obama and Reid/Pelosi/Dodd/Frank have instituted in the Finance and Automotive sectors is Fascism. By definition. Something Ayn Rand was profoundly and eloquently opposed to.

It's not name-calling, therefore, to call Ms. Patterson profoundly ignorant of her subject. Just an identification.

Buddy Guy

The recently dismissed head of GM gets a $20M bonus...for what? For leading a company into collapse? For losing jobs by the thousands? Incorrectly, many people might characterize the CEO as "objectivist-like"; but they're only confusing Objectivism with greed, with money, with a "me at your expense" attitude.

I'm an Objectivist; I've read Rand and enjoy her writings. I don't hero worship her. I'm sure she made as many mistakes in her personal life as I have; but it has no bearing on the philosophy.

All I want, and I believe it to be true for most Objectivists, is to be compensated in an equitable way for my efforts. I don't barter my labor; if I feel I'm worth $500K a year, and a company offers $400K as "negotiation" I thank them for their time and move on. If they are willing to pay it, we reach an agreement, and I work to fulfill my commitments. If company B comes along and offers me twice as much to join their firm, I refuse (and have). My effort is worth $500K; it's that simple.

I don't hoard wealth. But I do it out of what I believe to be rational self-interest: the world I live, the country I choose to be a citizen of, the neighborhood my family thrives in all benefit when I return monies into the economy. I don't do this because the church wants me to; similarly, it isn't because I'm expected to be altruistic (that is, others needs come before mine). It's solely because the world I live in becomes a better place...for me.

I work in soup kitchens; I donate to the police; I work to bring in funds for women's shelters. But I also work (within my own business) to provide jobs to people so they don't need soup kitchens; I work to stop people from being incarcerated for minor drug use so the police can focus on real criminals; I work to educate families of the evil of subjecting women to physical abuse so the running can cease.

Sorry...this is longer than I anticipated. I think I'm just getting frustrated with the general ignorance often exhibited similar to what Ms. Patterson expressed. Liberals hearts are in the right place: they want to see everyone happy, healthy and safe...they just have zero clue how to make that happen.

Jake Frake

Ms. Patterson offered no argument. I don't believe she has even read Rand.

She threw around adjectives and attacked with generalities and vagueness.

On the other hand Mr. Ghate presented his ideas clearly and logically.

Wow, what a difference between those who are educated and rational then those who are emotional and second handers.

Brad Harper

The conspicuous inaccuracy of Patterson's first sentence serves as a viable indication that the rest of her opinion can be appropriately ignored.

In fact, I think these two arguments faithfully portray the essence of the philosophies they represent.

Concise, factual clarity vs. rambling, vague incoherence.

Nigel

Patterson: "But human beings are simple creatures. Hit us and we’ll run screaming to our mummies and daddies, or the mummies and daddies we’d like to have..."

This is the left's true view of man, a helpless, irrational child that needs the omnipotent state to take care of him and coerce him, because he doesn't know what's good for him... but the state in it's infinite wisdom does.

Rand's view is the exact opposite of this demeaning, power-luster's attitude. And Patterson has the nerve to call Ayn Rand a fascist.

Mike Rael

Hi again friends.

I guess that Christina's talking about fascism in Atlas Shrugged is based on the fact that the big producers have resolved to let the country go to hell while they go to Atlantis. Rand, in this view, advocates that it's only the strong who should survive. (For the compleat Objectivists here, I am trying to put Christina's arguments in their logically strongest form, as advocated by Henry Hazlitt in "Thinking As A Science.")

The problem here is that it's those supercompetent individuals who were making it possible for *everyone else* to survive! In "Atlas Shrugged," it's precisely due to their immense productivity that the supercompetent were legally defined as slaves who could not legally leave their jobs.

The strongest were clearly not surviving in that environment, if by "surviving," we mean "benefiting appropriately from their productivity." To be free, they were forced to run to Atlantis.

That said, I also want to thank Amy Zook for mentioning my definition of "greed" as "desire for the unearned."

I hope Amy and others here who like to say hi to their fellows will go on the L.A. Objectivists list. I'm there, and I'd love to see you all.

best wishes to all,
Mike Rael, MS

Bill Bucko

Business Week:

Don't you exercise any quality control, in your choice of commentators? I thought this was supposed to be a serious discussion. Patterson does nothing but sneer, smear and call names. She betrays not a flicker of knowledge of what she's supposed to be discussing.

James Ross

Ms. Patterson's point of view has no basis in objective reality; therefore she resorts to the classic, mindless use of the word "greed" and the phrase "dog-eat-dog" in her attempt to debase Rand's works, and the morality of capitalism. Unfortunately, this tactic has been used over and over throughout history, in the name of the noble-by-default common good. It's time for rational people to work towards removing the stigma attached to the ideas of selfishness and individuality, to show the world, in the words of Rand, that "civilization is the process of setting man free from men", and that the destination of the road we're currently on is undoubtedly disastrous.

Ardsgaine

In a contest between rational argumentation and emotional invective, rational argumentation wins every time. Ms. Patterson does not even meet the minimum standard required for her position to be given serious consideration.

Mark Coppock

I must say, I am very impressed not only by Dr. Ghates' argument but also by the overwhelmingly reasonable response in these comments. And I say this not because they're almost entirely positive toward Ayn Rand--although that's remarkable, so far--but because they're as civil as can be expected given Ms. Patterson's "argument."

Tim R

I am appalled by the low standard of Christina's comment.
Insults, un-backed assertions, straw man arguments, and contempt.
Clearly an embarassingly poor intellect that deserves to be ignored.
Probably also counterproductive to her cause whatever that is--I hope so.

George

Ms. Patterson lost this debate. Reading through the responses it is a wonder the US has come to the point of destruction. It always seems that the majority never speaks up and the failing economy and the election of a socialist prove the point. People need to speak up or we are lead by default.

So America, spread the word and tell anyone and everyone that selfishness is a virtue. Tell your politicians to straighten up or they’ll be impeached.

Melissa Davidson

"Should [you] encounter malevolence, reject it contemptuously, not as dangerous, but as stupid – do not accept it in bruised resignation as the law of existence." A.R.

It is fascinating to see so many rationalists jumping to hasty and irrational conclusions. The readers and responders are not privy to Miss Patterson's motive. Perhaps Miss Patterson is, in fact, an ardent and devoted follower of Ayn's philosophy and drawing the con straw for this assignment was one of the worst jobs ever handed her.

Roland

Some of that purple prose Ms. Patterson so disdains:

"Today, nobody talks of a planned society in the 'liberal' camp; long-range programs, theories, principles, abstractions, and 'noble ends' are not fashionable any longer... 'Pragmatic'—not 'idealistic'—is their favorite adjective when they are called upon to justify their 'stance,' as they call it, not 'stand.' They are militantly opposed to political philosophy; they denounce political concepts as 'tags,' 'labels,' 'myths,' 'illusions'—and resist any attempt to 'label'—i.e., to identify—their own views. They are belligerently anti-theoretical and—with a faded mantle of intellectuality still clinging to their shoulders—they are anti-intellectual. The only remnant of their former 'idealism' is a tired, cynical, ritualistic quoting of shopworn 'humanitarian' slogans, when the occasion demands it.

"Cynicism, uncertainty, and fear are the insignia of the culture which they are still dominating by default. And the only thing that has not rusted in their ideological equipment, but has grown savagely brighter and clearer through the years, is their lust for power—for an autocratic, statist, totalitarian government power. It is not a crusading brightness, it is not the lust of a fanatic with a mission—it is more like the glassy-eyed brightness of a somnambulist whose stuporous despair has long since swallowed the memory of his purpose, but who still clings to his mystic weapon in the stubborn belief that 'there ought to be a law,' that everything will be all right if only somebody will pass a law, that every problem can be solved by the magic power of brute force."
--Ayn Rand, "The New Fascism: Rule by Consensus" in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (from aynrandlexicon.com)

Cassandra Green

I am immensely gratified at the overwhelming response this article has received. I was beginning to think that the majority of people were like Ms. Patterson, living on rhetoric and never thinking beyond that. However, I can now see that there is truly hope for Western society, not in the form it is now but in the form that people like these commenters will make it to be after the collapse. Oh yes, make no mistake, we are heading for a major upheaval, not just in the US but in many nations, and in the ensuing chaos, many brothers-in-spirit to Ms. Patterson will not survive, and I'm sure that not many could be found among these responders to offer them a helping hand. Bravo, thinkers! Keep it up.

Ian Roberts

I read a quote from Ayn Rand made in 1970, (I can't find it again so I'm paraphrasing here). "The way statists attack capitalism is to impose such regulation on an industry that it can no longer function, then claim the free market has failed and more government controls are required." Now look at the financial industry (community r-investment act) and the auto industry (CAFE and labor laws) and see this effect in operation. Ayn Rand has never been more relevant.

Jason Lockwood

If capitalism is to blame for the current situation, then how is it that we have cheaper and more powerful computers with each passing year--all without the 'benevolent hand' of government intervention?

In Australia, the housing market has not collapsed due to the comparative lack of regulations that exist in the US. Most of the large banks are solvent and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, though a member of the Labor Party, has not proposed nationalizing anything.

Rob

Christina Patterson's position is that man (society) should live in chains and live under the whims of some bureaucrat and dictator and that men should lose more of their lives to the tax man, involuntary volunteerism (slavery), government regulations, etc, and that all of this will somehow make "the economy better." How will this occur? Blank out on her part. (Because it won't make the economy better but worse.)

And if everyone quit and stopped producing, then according to her argument, getting guns out and forcing people to produce would be better for the economy. Who is the real fascist here?

CHRISTOPHER

Repeat after me: Unfettered, unregulated, personal-bonus-seeking capitalism is the problem, not the answer.

The bonus seekers of today are part of the looter crowd. They are evolved from college business majors. They are trained to "delegate" rather than to think or to execute.

Ayn Rand's heroic CEOs did not have soft hands. They did not get bonuses or government bailouts made from worthless paper money. They were addicted to work and achievement. Business was their pleasure. They knew what it means to be alive.

Competence and reason should be the regulatory powers. Unfortunately in Rand's worlds and our real world, reason has been displaced by mystical ideas designed to prevent individual thought.

Reason is the ability to manage the physical truths that define our existence.

CEO Ayn Rand would not try to get hundreds of thousands of dollars from the poor at 24 percent interest because it cannot be done.

She might write a book or two that a poor person can buy and read for less than the price of going out to a movie about a magic super hero.

Ayn Rand greedily produced a product that I enjoyed and could afford.

Zardoz

Nothing much more to say here. Except to criticise BusinessWeek for choosing such an anti-intellectual opponent for Dr Ghate.

Who Is John Galt?

Wasn't much of a debate. One was clear and one was a cliche-filled mockery of something they do not understand.

$

Jacob

I agree with Bob C and enjoy Paul Hsieh's analogy. It scares the hell out of me that so little is being made of the role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in facilitating the housing bubble. I'm glad BusinessWeek readers see through the bull. Washington, too busy blaming Wall Street for all of America's problems, has not yet even mentioned repealing HMDA and the Community Reinvestment Act (what it sounds like several readers are referencing).

Marc Kroeger

Notice how the two sides characterize man.

Ohkar Ghate portrays us as efficacious individuals capable of attaining happiness if the government would just leave us alone to act on our own judgment.

In sharp contrast Ms. Patterson treats us like injured screaming children who should run to our mummies and daddies (the government) to suckle at their teats.

I think Ms. Patterson is projecting her own character onto us. She acts like an angry, name calling, irrational child right down to her prescription:

"We don’t know what will get us out of it. We do know it’s going to have to be on an eye-popping, wallet-pinching, tax-increasing global scale."

In other words: "I have no idea what got us into this problem and I have no idea what will get us out so here is what we should do."

Mike Rael

Hi folks, I feel a bit sad reading the various comments here. They almost all sound like copycats Being the past owner of the self-esteem-self-help mailing list on the Net, I can't resist a suggestion for those here who, very apt at seeing the blocks in Christina's eyes, are actually seeing now a tiny speck in their own:

Forget about sounding smart or educated or knowledgeable about Objectivism. Instead, read over Christina's argument and be aware of subtle or not-so-subtle changes in your feelings as you absorb different ideas. Write down what those changes were and then make guesses as to what those changes might mean, not only for you but possibly for others. Then make your post.

Talk about changes and the "audacity of hope."
best always,
Mike

johnh

Rand's philosophy is the sociological equivalent of creationism. Those who espouse her views should read up on modern cognitive theory and brain biology. Evolution rewarded a complex mix of individuality and collectivism.

The current resurgence of Atlas Shrugged could be described as formerly successful financiers suddenly needing to rebuild their egos through self-justification.

Jared Rhoads

Dr. Ghate offers a clear and coherent point of view that squares with what we are witnessing in the economy today. Any reader who is seriously interested in ideas will find his description of Ayn Rand's morality interesting and will be motivated to pick up Ayn Rand's own writings and learn more.

Jared Rhoads
Lucidicus.org

Marc Mitchel

If only we could re-introduce the concept of--not just the word--rational, into the discussion. Any system run intellectually wild has chaos as its destination--any. The present "stimulated" situation is the direct result of making Monopoly money the world's standard currency.

Matthew M

A great podcast that people both familiar and unfamiliar with Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism can enjoy in installments of 15 minutes about a wide variety of subjects is available on iTunes or direct: leonardpeikoff.com

Roy Posner

Rand’s view of the power of individuality is reflected in the great entrepreneurship of America that has led to her great economic success. On the other hand, her view of an unregulated free market is faulty as is indicated by the greed and speculation that spurred the current world financial. More often than not an individual's contributions to world thinking is not all positive or negative, black and white, but various shadings in between. A true, rational mind understands that.

James

Ms. Patterson, you have defaulted on the responsibility to think independently, which is why your "debate" offers nothing but the stale, bromidic, irrational wailings that we have heard from the left for the last 40 years.

ThePhilosopherQueen

Both of the essays presented are poorly written. I'm not sure if either of these writers have read any of Rand's work. In addition, their lack of knowledge of any other ethical position regarding the financial gives them no solid foundation to argue pro or con.
This was a waste of time and space.

Bosch Fawstin

Christina, it's good to see that you at least understand that if Rand's ideas are taken as seriously as they ought to be by this culture, you and your kind of mediocre mind are out of business. I smell your fear and it is sweet.

Craig Little

It's telling that Ms. Patterson's argument consists entirely of blind emotionalism and baseless ad hominem attacks. When the dominant intellectual trend is to denounce principled thinking (i.e. pragmatism), I can understand how a well-reasoned, cogent statement can cause one to lash out violently in the hopes that it will just go away.

The only tactic available to those wishing to discredit the best ideas and principles is to attempt to smear them out of existence and hope no one calls the commentator on it. Well, Ms. Patterson, I'm calling you out, and I trust that other thinking individuals will take a moment to contemplate the implications and intent of this form of rebuttal and do the same.

Despite Obama's and others' breathless insistence to the contrary, only the right principles, not pragmatism, will deliver us from this crisis. This means, identifying capitalism as the only moral political-economic system and recognizing individual rights as paramount to the cause of liberty.

Fernando Villamar

This debate is an excellent microcosm of the forces at work in today's society. On one hand you have a well researched and well thought out argument by Dr. Ghate, and on the other hand you have an emotional, venomous, stream of insults and bullying for the heathens and childish adoration for Obama.

ken_dannager

Many good comments here, though not much debate. A philosophy rooted in logic and rationality cannot be refuted with empty rhetoric.

A excerpt from a post by Patterson, The Independent, 14 March 2009

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/christina-patterson/christina-patterson-ayn-rand-is-the-last-role-model-we-need-right-now-1644915.html

"I've just come back from a country that's a model of rugged individualism à la Rand, a country where strong men flourish and the weak--well, fail. It's beautiful, hot, full of pretty temples and lovely food. It's called Cambodia."

Cambodia, a model of rugged individualism? really?

Gary Colins

Please remember that our first colonists came to this country for, among other things, the right to determine their own lives. When the king and men got to be too much to tolerate they fought, and won, a very hard fought war so we could delare ours,elves independent and make our own laws and determine our own destiny, and that included the free enterprise system. This allowed people to charge goods and services for what the market will bear, and yes that included healthy competition. Dealings with other countries could then be made on the basis of what was good for al aprties concerned. What it did not do was make us subject to the whims of our country because we didn't need to "sell out" our national sovereignty and economy to other countries. Been there,done that and did it again. Washington insiders would be very well advised to look at our history and see that got us to the top in the first place. Then maybe they will learn that what gets you to the top will keep you at the top.

Kris

Eat the rich.

Alberto Luyando

Who feeds New York City? The interaction of food companies, financial markets, consumers and prices emerges as the source the feeds New York City without a mastermind calling the shots. The economy is a complex adaptive system where small changes (relaxing lending standards) can lead to dramatic consequences. My point is, the under-served group in the housing market was being well served in the 90's. The "housing gap" was being slowly closed. The unintended consequences of altruistic policies for increasing homeownership from 65% to 70% created the initial conditions that produced a very different outcome. The way to hell is paved with good intentions.

Derrick Nantz

I know this has already been touched on, but…can we all just please take a minute to notice the difference in the writing-style between these two authors: The first, makes clear arguments and appeals to the reader's intelligence. While he may offer a controversial argument (especially, in this era of the welfare state), an argument with which you might disagree, he at least offers an argument you can clearly understand, an argument based on ideas.

Now, notice the other side, which offers not an argument, but barrage of argumentative fallacies. It starts outright with an appeal to laughter ("you'd think it was a joke that...Ayn Rand"). It is riddled with ad-hominem arguments: "crypto-fascist Ayn Rand," "little testosterone-fuelled idiots,"--a reference to businessmen and producers, and, "It's time, boys and girls, to grow up..."--shockingly, an immature insult aimed at the reader, of all people. What an appeal to the reader's intelligence.

The article further contained with strawman arguments ("crude kind of dog-eat-dog laissez-faire capitalism"), package-deal fallacies ("Greed is not going to get us out of it. Nor is solipsism. Nor is Ayn Rand."), appeals to pity (the whole bizarre second paragraph), demagoguery ("Repeat after me...", i.e. 'Don't think ... just feel ... then "repeat after me"). And last, contradictory statements and statements without any content behind them: E.g., a reference to "toxic debt," when toxic debt is what the government creates in the mortgage market and now by bailing out toxic companies. Further, Patterson states that what is needed is "pocket pinching," yet the "big brained, cool headed" Obama, who she claims will rescue us—is spending trillions during a recession on unproductive government programs.

It is clear that the left is COMPLETELY BANKRUPT. They cannot even formulate an argument that is not ridden with argumentative fallacies. And it is clear that the left IS TERRIFIED of Ayn Rand and the few intellectuals representing the true Right.

Regardless of who is a better writer Rand or Obama (who has written nothing but a personal memoir for giddy housewives and empty coffee tables), it is clear that this "Con-author" is completely inept. An argument is not a string of adjectives and insults. It is shocking that this response has published at all, let alone as worthy response to the short, but well-reasoned argument of Ghate's.

Regina Milano

I don't see the debate here. One side presented clear articulation of an idea and evidence in support of it. The other could have saved herself the time of thinking up "crypto-fascist" and just stuck out her tongue. reginamilano.myarbonne.com

Richard Gleaves

"This is John Galt speaking" video series
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yOt6rUkU5xY

Excellent Debate

All American voters and politicians would benefit from an open and informed debate of the Ayn Rand philosophy, especially with the current idealogue-driven agenda of ultra-liberal President Obama and Congress. Instead, populist and ignorant demagoguery are the rules-of-the-day: class envy of richer vs. poorer, demonizing corporations, victimhood of minority groups. As a result, the real causes of "problems" are never addressed properly. For examples, greed and speculation, capitalism, profit-motivation are not the root causes of the current messes in the American economy, healthcare, and education. Strutinize deeper, you might discover an alternate "truth."

David Veksler

I cannot fathom why BusinessWeek picked Christina to write against Ayn Rand. She clearly has never read Ayn Rand (crypto-fascism?) and appears to be incapable of anything other than childish name-calling.

If this is the best that the socialism has to offer, the cause of Objectivism and capitalism has no intellectual opposition to speak of.

Bob

I am with Zardoz here. If we are going to have a "debate", can BusinessWeek please find someone capable of writing coherent statements, rather than adjective and insult-laden rants?

Henry Solomon

Christina believes that Ayn Rand's philosophy is not the answer. How would she know since it is obvious that she does not know anything about it? It's easy to call somebody a fascist instead of presenting an argument. Ayn Rand upheld reason as an absolute, not Christina's mode of argument by emotional whim. If anyone believes that this form of argument is appropriate to solve problems of any kind, much less the problems of governing what was founded as a free country, let them openly state their fascist views instead of projecting their evil onto others.

Frank

I think Business Week selected her [Patterson] for this based on her piece in The Independent (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/christina-patterson/christina-patterson-ayn-rand-is-the-last-role-model-we-need-right-now-1644915.html). In it she says that "It's perhaps a little alarming, then, that Ayn Rand is undergoing a revival." Really? I'd say it's about time.

Grace

Dr. Ghate spells it out exactly right. The government has crippled the free market and then punished it for limping.

openworld

As someone who has come from the left, I nonetheless have a great admiration for Rand because of her respect for free institutions and formal equality in political relationships.

It's not a great leap to reconcile Rand's respect for the inviolability of individual rights with an abiding respect for (freely-chosen) acts of generosity.

From a Randian perspective, generosity and even "altruism" can flow through a simple decision: to widen one's sphere of caring to include individuals and others who share the qualities of spirit that one wishes to see replicated.

Dawkins' ideas on how selfish genes (and on selfish memes) explain how individuals with a sense of an "extended self will go to "sacrifice" for the survival and reproductive success of others.

A similar dynamic -- the striving of selfish "values" for reproductive success -- may explain the great lengths to which Rand and other libertarians have gone to safeguard others from transgression.

Mark Frazier
Openworld, Inc.
www.openworld.com
Twitter: @openworld

rick

Christina's response is the stuff of all liberals: Rather than argue an issue, belittle the opponent.


WSD Binns

Oh, say can you see? What's in it for me? It's business as usual, comrades: All for ratinal self-interested, aye! -WSDBinns

Jennifer F

Part of the true beauty of Ayn Rand's philosophy is that to adhere to it really does require maturity of character and maturity of principle, along with maturity of intellect.

It is the hardest work I have ever done and the most rewarding. It has truly never failed me.

It is this core to which I return in considering the impact of policy decisions and interventions. Do they require any maturity to adhere to them? Do they bring out "the best that we have to offer?" (to quote or paraphrase Ms. Rand)

Or do they breed a type of dependence that requires others to put MY self interests ahead of their own?

If I substitute the word "greed" with self interests, I get one answer. And if I let the question stand, I get another.

Self interest is not greed, and, unfortunately, much of the world has been acculturated to believe that it is.

Self interest very simply requires that I give my own very personal and very individual best. And that requires the freedom to do so. And the energy and the commitment and the deep desire to do the essential right thing.

Why would I want any less from anyone else?

I am pragmatic enough to realize that not everyone else has yet made the commitment to take themselves to that same core. But I believe I owe it to myself to let them get there--or not. That is their own choice. What I will not do is enable stasis and lack of maturity. That is my choice.

I support policies which require that each give their best, and create opportunities for them to make that choice. I summarily reject those which do otherwise, and limit choice.

And I do my part to foster the maturity and intellectual skills with which to do so.

All of which goes to support the first author's argument.

Would love to hear ideas on how to move people along the continuum of maturity of their self interest.

Handouts don't appear to be the way.


Nanette Rivera

It's interesting to see how many people still think capitalism works after what we have gone through the last 8 years, hmmmm? We need to seriously look at how we have digressed into the capitalist warmongers we started out trying not to be.

Let's start with individual responsibility and work our way toward ethics and morals.


Steve Hanson

Perhaps to make her a sort of straw man/woman? The choice was brilliant, if that was the reason. I, too, became incensed with what she said and the way she said it. But perhaps that was the reason Christina was chosen.

I read almost all of the responses but feel I need to help balance it out somehow. First, I could be called a Randian and/or an Objectivist.

But I agree with neither group.

The Randians have become blind to some flaws which do exist in corporate America, flaws which have nothing to do with government interference. They also seem to hold themselves atop Mount. Olympus and toss lightning bolts of wisdom down to us masses.

There are two profound flaws with corporate America: stock options and opaque book keeping.
These two problems pale in significance to government intervention, but still, someone needs to address them or at least indicate that they are aware that problems with each exist. And if the problems exist because of government interference, let me know how. Spell it out.

When boards of directors can vote huge stock options and bonuses to themselves in one giant good-ole-boys network of theft and nothing is considered wrong with that, it's hard to take the high road in an argument about virtue.

The problem I have with Objectivists is they behave exactly like folks who have a different belief system. Objective is a state of mind, not a set of dogma that one should create into a giant mantra.

I've seen stunning blindness in scientists who claim they are Objectivists. When I said to a semi-famous Objectivist/Randian scientist that I could make a case for 'Time' being a concept of consciousness and that it might not actually exist in reality (and I can), he responded by saying, "I can assure you that time does exist". That, in a nutshell, is what happens when one follows blindly in any direction.

There, I've balanced it out. Probably not well, but it's a start. My heart is with Rand or perhaps I should say it's with Galt. And before you leap into that breach and yell, 'Galt would only want your mind!', I consider the two to be inseparable. One creates the other and manages it. I'll leave it to you to figure out which does what.

Willem

I guess Greenspan as one of the better known disciples of Ayn Rand has discredited her ideas quite effectively. Is this fair?
To base an economic system and official policy on the greed factor without the right regulations seems absurd. How many industries in the USA are controlled by oligopolies? It will destroy an economy.

Michael Labeit

Ms. Patterson uses a strawman argument here, unfortunately. Ayn Rand did not endorse "greed" (author Tara Smith actually thinks that "greed" would fall under the category of an "anti-concept," what Ayn Rand used to designate illegitimate concepts that are employed to replace and discredit other legitimate concepts.)

"Rational self-interest" is not greed. Seeking an education for oneself, assisting those who are of value to oneself, engaging in logical discourse, employing the dialectic method--these are all examples of self-interested behavior. The thing about Rand's ethics is that many of us adhere to it implicitly. Rand did not discover self-interest. What she does is express her conviction that we should be explicit in our advocacy of self-interest.

Simon O'Riordan

Writing for a rag like the Independent is no proof of literacy or even some garbled form of intellect, only the ability to suck up to the right professors in soical studies and hang out with the right clique in the union bar. How very tiresome these creatures are.

Olga Elman

Christina did not read any of the Ayn Rand's books. How dare she compare the writings of a saged philosopher to a minor book put out by a 40something attorney.

Jeremy

Compare the learned, lucid comments by Onkar Ghate against those from the insult-hurtling Christina Patterson and you'll be on your way to understanding who has really thought about the issues at hand.

Brian

I'm surprised that so many of the comments try to paint this as a conservative versus liberal debate. The conservatives are every bit as much to blame, if not more so. Ayn Rand was not an economist--the problems are far broader. The conservatives promoting nationalism and undirected wars have been every bit as destructive as the promotion of socialism. And both parties' agendas in shaping the school system can be blamed for the large portion of America who simply cannot think.

Mark Dohle

Ayn Rand's ideas have been a huge benefit to my life over the past seven years. Hers is a philosophy for living prosperously and happily on earth. Her ideas in practice have increased the quality of my life and if properly understood they will increase the quality of any reader's life. Keep an open mind and read Ayn Rand objectively. You might be surprised.

Atlas Shrugged was rhe 16th best seller on Amazon yesterday. It is no accident. It is an amazingly insightful book that is the compilation of ideas developed over a lifetime of organized and coherent thought. It explains precisely and clearly what has happened to the world, why, and how it needs to be fixed.

Mike Reardon

Onkar Ghate‘s reflections from Ayn Rand are filled with political positions with so many scapegoats for political purposes all in total denial of real events. And with no historic perspective on the parts played by the actors or factual reflection of events over the last 8 years. He just allows the actions of the past cheerleading Administration supporting and fostering these business actions to be hidden

One hundred forty seven million citizens who had work in this nation, all demanding their individual compensation, would need a champion for their individual interests. Litigator John Edwards would needs to come back against the business masters of AIG, B of A, and Citi Group, and all the other bankers and hedge funds, to restore the contract obligation that was undone under the past Administration.

What I want to know beyond that is for all the other greater interests of this nation is, who will give justice to the bondholders who hold the debt caused by the master of business and that past Administration over these last 8 years.

Individuals direct interests are being trashed by the political party supporting a failure of legitimate bond obligations and demanding a bankruptcies encompassing of all business obligations. Ayn Rand demanded one stand behind ones commitments as the first order of free men. The Republican Party still asks we take the nation down to a reward of pennies for labor and investment and give back 20 cents for bond obligation.

And here Christina Patterson Con, is poorly standing against a demand we place a few rewarded millions over more justice for one hundred forty seven million individual actors.

Marvin Steel

Dear Christina,
When you have sold as many books as Ayn Rand, then maybe you will be capable of attacking one of the greatest minds that ever existed.

Jonathan Evans

Rational self-interest sounds nice in theory, but it assumes that decision makers can actually consistently act in a rationally self-interested manner. Where Rand goes wrong is the same place that many (but not all) egoistic theories goes wrong: making one's conscious motivation for acting maximizing what is best for me. This creates not a logical, but a psychological paradox. That is by striving to do what is best for myself, I often do what is less than best for myself. One common example of this is the case where a person strives to create or seek their own happiness and ends up being less happy or even miserable than if they had made their immediate goal something else.

The philosopher who better understood psychology here (note: I'm saying psychology, not government) is not Ayn Rand but Plato who, in summary, stresses cultivating our abilities to make good moral and practical decisions actually best promotes our rational self-interest. All that said, Rand has something right here: rational self interest is important (ultimately it is a worthy goal); it's just one that humans don't do the best job with when using it as the key decision-making principle. So at the very least, we need some binding side-constraints (say those that require respecting the ability of other people to make free, informed choices) that can ensure that we don't move away from what's best. If you don't agree with the latter, then you might as well give up on capitalism altogether.

Alfonso Ruiz

No one better than Ayn Rand herself to present her views. Answering the points raised by Ms. Patterson is just a waste of time (I didn't muster the strength to finish past the second line).

Reason, Man's tool to survive, needs nothing more, other than the actions it prescibes. Reason is what is not tried by an overwhelming majority and the results are there. Ayn Rand is something to turn to for guidance or even just for detox

Richard Watts

An insightful commentary by Dr. Ghate.

By the way, Greenspan is not an Objectivist. Using government to manipulate the economy by taking a job as Federal Reserve chairman, is as opposed to Ayn Rand's ideas as one can get.

Brian D. Pickett

Ms. Patterson,
Perhaps in your socialist utopia human beings are viewed as "simple" and resultantly believe they need mummy and daddy government to attend to their troubles, but there are still many, though the numbers are becoming fewer, who are self reliant and would not make demands on others to "kiss our bruises."

We Objectivists wish to stand on our own in all of life's endeavors, and to do so without the added encumbrances that government would place upon us.

Carpenter

When the United States was founded we had all the freedoms in the world; more so than any other country. And in a speck of time we became the greatest country the world has ever seen. People tend to forget how fast we climbed when we fought with our lives to get away from a government like the one we have now and establish individual/state freedoms.

What has happened since we strayed from that and got bigger government? Less freedom, financial crisis, and earth hour.

Gideon Reich

As many others have already pointed out in comments before mine, Dr. Onkar Ghate provided a cogent argument as to why Ayn Rand's ideas are relevant today, while Christina Paterson provided mostly insults seemingly based on complete ignorance of both Ayn Rand's ideas and economics.

The current crisis cannot be blamed on laissez faire capitalism as we've had nothing close to it for about 100 years (and even back then we've had some unjustified regulations). Today, a market with numerous regulations, all sorts of perverse incentives, and heavy taxation to finance numerous improper government activities can hardly be called "free."

Ayn Rand's ideas, while not identical to them, arguably build on and have much in common with the ideas in Declaration of Independence, as well as Founding Fathers and the Enlightenment which were so crucial to the founding of this great nation. In fact, unique among secular thinkers, Ayn Rand has managed correct the mistakes in these ideas and present a rational, principled, scientific, and systematic view of world and man's position and ethics in it. Her view incorporates and explicitly justifies the implicit egoism ("pursuit of happiness") of the Founders, as well as the crucial principle of individual rights so misunderstood and neglected today.

Jason Griffith

BobC's comment to start this discussion nails today's crisis on the head. The risk/return and success/failure relationships were distorted via the perceived government backing of Fannie and Freddie debt. This created a "free lunch" environment on Wall Street and among the banks.

Also, isn't it interesting how the idea of greed is only applied to Wall Street and big business? Are politicians truly selfless public servants free from scandal and excess?

Paul Beaird

You'll know it is the Age of Rand when the only thing voiced against her is the degree of hysteria expressed by Christina Patterson.

Serious commentators on Ayn Rand range from Professor Andrew Bernstein (on her moral foundation for capitalism) to Dr. Tara Smith at University of Texas at Austin (on Rand's meta-ethics and normative ethics) to Dr. Allan Gotthelf (on her epistemology).

"Greed" is simply wanting "more." Rand defines the social conditions and personal motivations through which one can do that without exploiting others.

Read, then comment.

Hartmut Rast

Ayn Rand's philosophy of rational self-interest is the proof of the inadequacy of ethic lessons at all the major universities worldwide.

Greed is still stronger than intelligence and therefore I am totally convinced that the worst experiences of the current crisis are still lying ahead of us.

norman ravitch

Ayn Rand is pathetic. As a Russian Jew hostile to traditional Judaism, she had no choice. Russian Orthodox Christianity was the handmaiden of Tsarist oppression, Marxism was tyranny, as she experienced it just after Nov., 1917. All she had left was the utopia of free-market capitalism and liberal individualism. She bought it hook, line and sinker. Anyone who accepts her pseudo-thought, from Alan Greenspan on down, is a fool or a knave, probably both.

Marvin Steel

Thanks, BusinessWeek, for letting Patterson have her say. Without her illogical reasoning we would not have such wonderful comments.

Casey

I don't believe Ms. Patterson ever read Ayn Rand. The books are so long that it would take a considerable amount of time to research and form an opinion. Doing a Google search of "Ayn Rand" does not qualify someone to write an article on the subject for a reputable magazine and website.

Hugh Hines

Rand's philosophy appeals to those who think they are capable of competing in the world and achieving their goals in life. The socialistic views of Obama and those who support him appeal to those who know they can't.

Will Sellars

Christina Patterson's response to the question lacks any argument for why the economy does not need Rand's ideas. Can she answer that question rather than evade it by resorting to ad hominem attacks on Rand?

Lewis

We need to change the Constitution to read: "Congress shall make no law regulating commerce." Then power seeking parasites will have no reason to be in government.

Terri Wilson

It seems that Ms. Patterson has also no idea what it is like to own your own business in this country or if she does, she is somehow okay with the government squandering our hard earned funds and giving them to those who have failed to run their business successfully or have failed to do much of anything at all.

I think the main issue here comes down to fear. Those who can, do and want to be left alone to do so. Those who can't are afraid and want others to support them.

So the question now is how do we take those who do understand how we got here and also can clearly see where we are going and somehow fix this nightmare before it's too late (if it's not already).

Scherie

Ms. Patterson it's obvious you have not read one sentence of Ayn Rand. It's so typical of people like you, who have nothing to offer but personal attacks.

Jacob Zeise

Ghate didn't win this debate. In order to win, he needs his opponent to arrive.

Mike zemack

It's hard to call this exchange a debate. If I were a serious opponent of Ayn Rand's ideas, I'd be ashamed to call Christina Patterson a representative of my side. Her hissing, uninformed tantrum is more reminiscent of a spoiled child than a worthy participant in Businessweek's "Debate Room."

The fact is, if Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism was dominant in American culture, there would have been no financial crisis.

Objectivism teaches how to live and advance one's life through one's own thinking and efforts, and through voluntary, non-predatory, rights-respecting, mutually advantageous association with one's fellow man. Its cardinal personal virtues include rationality, integrity, and honesty, among others. The consequence would be a benevolent capitalist society.

As a husband, father, and grandfather, I strongly urge anyone seeking a comprehensive guide to a virtuous, self-sustaining, happy life to study the works of philosopher Ayn Rand and Objectivist intellectuals like Onkar Ghate.

http://www.principledperspectives.blogspot.com/

Hari

Is this a debate? Does Christina Patterson even knows what topic she is writing about?

Barney Murrell

All the pro-Rand commentators are ignorant of U.S. History, and/or lacking in morality. Today's economic failures are the result of two things: One, failure to recognize that most humans are greedy SOBs and run amok without oversight (remember prisons?) and two, implementation of deregulation legislation that ended with predictable results.

Same thing happened to S&Ls in the 1980s, thanks to Reagan’s deregulation and tax policies. The following Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation links explain the failures that helped bring about the S&L crisis:

The S&L Crisis: A Chrono-Bibliography
http://www.fdic.gov/bank/historical/s&l/

History of the 80s
http://www.fdic.gov/bank/historical/history/

Also, what follows are links to photographic evidence of what results in an unregulated free market pre-Great Depression economy:

Child Labor (Ann would be proud of their “freedom” to work instead of going to school)
http://www.historyplace.com/unitedstates/childlabor/index.html

Earlier in the 1900s was Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” – about labor slavery and the filthy conditions under which American meat was processed.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Jungle

“The Jungle” was the catalyst for Theodore Roosevelt’s implementation of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pure_Food_and_Drug_Act_of_1906

And then there was the Great Depression

Children of the Great Depression
http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/learning_history/children_depression/depression_children_menu.cfm

Hoovervilles from American Memory
http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/f?fsaall:0:./temp/~ammem_xPlK:

Hooverville: Shantytown of Seattle’s Great Depression
http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&File_Id=741

If there are any pro-Rand fans that still believe her ignorance is correct then you are one of those who may be aptly described as "greedy no-good SOBs." Just remember, it was the cannon fodder from the lower economic classes (victims of "free markets") that won America’s wars which made it possible for capitalism to exist and Rand to write.

AnthonyGarland

Well stated, Mike Z. I liked your definition of Objectivism. One thing that always annoys me is that the collectivist mentality assumes a monopoly on benevolence and compassion. In their egalitarian ambition they hate [fear] the hard working, the intelligent, the bold, the self-confident, the original, even the lucky, creator/producer.

Rather than elevate the poor,their real aim is to diminish and ham-string the able. It is heartening to see the highly thoughtful responses to this debate. There is hope,after all,for the U.S.and the world.

Steven

Christina Patterson miraculously combines ad hominem attacks ("crypto-fascist"--a rather unusual term to apply to someone who was an ardent defender of both the 1st Amendment and a woman's right to an abortion--perhaps she means the application of cryptography to fascism, which would make as much sense as anything else she's said) with schoolteacher patronization ("repeat after me," "grow up") that reveals her underlying belief that we are all children whom the state must care for. When you can't argue, after all, turn to insults.

datta,bangalore

No system is perfect. Every system's weakness and strengths will be fully exploited and in the end we can only conclude and have debate like this. Now we understand Ayn Rand and Fed regulations better.

Daniel Wisehart

It is good to see that Ayn Rand's writings are finally getting the attention they deserve. What makes her works so immune to strawman attacks is their clarity: No one who reads Rand can have any question about her position on reason or morality or the cause and solution to the current economic atrocity.

Wilbs999

What insight. What brilliance. "Ignorant and immoral," Barney? That is so unlike every other elitist collectivist who would rather save the world with other people's money.

wilbs999

Barney, can you please try to refrain from acting like every other liberal collectivist who wants to save the world with other people's money? If you havens valid position in your own mind, you don't need the insults. You don't, though, do you?

Jamey Pauley

Just the sort of pragmatic response you'd expect from a mind like Christina Patterson's.

Somehow she misses the glaring facts that created this current financial mess--government meddling in free markets. Government meddling through the likes of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac whose primary purpose was to create home ownership out of thin air for people who had no means of owning a house in the first place.

I side with Mr. Ghate. Get the government out of the way, and let me decide how I'm to spend my own money. I don't think I'll ever choose to give it to someone who has little to no assets but has a dream of living in a house twice the size and cost of my own. I don't think that would be in my "self interest," but of course for some reason our government does.

CompEng

Ayn Rand makes some interesting observations, but she makes some flawed assumptions about the general nature of the ego and about the long-term consequences of the winner-take-all nature of capitalism. She doesn't recognize public goods in her main works, doesn't acknowledge even the possibility of God, doesn't realize that in many cases rational self-interest is best served by collective solutions, doesn't for some reason (strange given her background) realize that moochers are far less dangerous than the violence inherent in the truly disenfranchised. She doesn't even recognize the collective social nature of the particular type of pride (and corresponding shame) that is at the base of her concept of honor.

Ayn Rand is a true fundamentalist who has thrown away those concepts which confuse her, like genuine altruism, in order to build an attractive model of the world that is easy to understand. She makes some genuinely noteworthy observations, but her base framework for viewing the world will not get us towards her desired goals, because they are flawed and incomplete.
I give Ayn Rand some respect for her brains and humanism, but the level of devotion I see towards her and her ideas is dangerous and foolhardy.

MichaelM

Barney Murrell is ignorant of the politics of Ayn Rand. In none of the instances cited by him was the political system she advocated operative.

TJ Jefferson

To Barney Murrell,
Oh, where to start? First, Ms Rand's first name is Ayn, not "Ann." Your proof sources include the federal government, wikipedia, and socialist trumpetor sites. Not very substantive. You couldn't withstand intellectual scrutiny.

Mike Zemack

Barney Murrell offers not even a hint of a refutation of even a single principle of Objectivism.

Instead, he makes the claim that “most humans are greedy SOBs” incapable of freedom (including Mr. Murrell?). This is belied by the historical fact that rising general prosperity and (even relatively) free markets are inextricably linked corollaries (Example, the contrast between North and South Korea), while central planning of all kinds inevitably leads to economic decline and poverty (example, the Hoovervilles and today’s unemployment statistics). His support of government regulation implies that a gun can impart wisdom and virtue into otherwise “greedy SOBs.” Give any “greedy SOB,” which he claims most humans are, a position of coercive police power over the lives of other men by making him a regulator automatically allows wisdom and omniscience to flow from the (metaphorical) gun in his hand into his selfless brain.

Humans are not evil by nature, but are rather in need of a rational, scientifically validated code of ethics to guide them in their lives and in their relationships with others. Objectivism provides that moral guidance. See the works of Ayn Rand or of Objectivist intellectuals Tara Smith (Ayn Rand’s Normative Ethics, the Virtuous Egoist. http://www.aynrandbookstore2.com/prodinfo.asp?number=CS01B) and Craig Biddle (Loving Life, the Morality of Self-Interest and the Facts that Support It. http://www.aynrandbookstore2.com/prodinfo.asp?number=CB70B).

The litany of horrors allegedly perpetrated by capitalism, such as slave labor and child labor, were legacies of pre-capitalist societies that capitalism inherited and eventually wiped out. The extraordinary advance in men’s economic well-being that occurred in the 19th century was unmatched by any century before or since, and enabled the creation of the American middle class. While terrible conditions did coincide with the rise of capitalism, they must be viewed in historical context…something that the enemies of capitalism routinely fail to provide. For a properly contextual viewpoint, see Andrew Bernstein’s The Capitalist Manifesto (http://www.aynrandbookstore2.com/prodinfo.asp?number=CB81B.

Every one of the 20th century disasters cited by Murrell were the result of government interference into the economy, not free people “running amok”. The S&L crisis and the (Hoover-Roosevelt) Great Depression are two irrefutable examples. The failure to understand the true causes of the S&L crisis helped pave the way for today’s financial calamity. See Richard M. Salsman of the American Institute for Economic Research (The Collapse of Deposit Insurance—and the Case for Abolition)

http://www.aier.org/bookstore?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage_new.tpl&product_id=30&category_id=7&vmcchk=1

And Amity Shlaes (The Forgotten Man—a New History of the Great Depression).

http://www.amazon.com/Forgotten-Man-History-Great-Depression/dp/0060936428/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1238956704&sr=1-1

As for today’s crisis, listen to the lecture given by BB&T Chairman John Allison at:

http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=reg_ls_financial_crisis

Or visit: http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=arc_financial_crisis

Also read: http://www.theobjectivestandard.com/issues/2009-spring/altruism-financial-crisis.asp

Government regulation is inherently unjust, because it is based upon the un-American principle of presumption of guilt, whereby coercive control is extended over an entire industry because of the wrong-doing (or alleged wrong-doing) of the few. The establishment of the FDA (and its precursors) is a prime example. That its creation may have been supported by many in the pharmaceutical industry does not justify it. Can it ever be calculated how much suffering and premature death has been caused by the FDA, which routinely delays, prohibits, and discourages investments in medicines from entering the market? Fraudulent behavior of the few is dealt with by criminal law in a free, capitalist society. Prisons are for criminals, and criminals only. Placing controls on people or companies innocent of any wrong-doing is a form of pre-emptive law, which is consistent with dictatorship and is incompatible with a free, lawful society.

It’s not that “greedy SOBs” don’t exist in a free market. It’s that capitalism, which protects individual rights, works to their disadvantage. Honesty wins in a society based upon freedom of association. It is the political corruption of the private economy caused by coercive government interference in the free market that empowers and entrenches the “greedy SOBs” (Ex., Countrywide’s Mozilo and the GSEs. See: http://www.nypost.com/seven/02052008/postopinion/opedcolumnists/the_real_scandal_243911.htm?page=0).

I take particularly strong exception to Murrell’s degrading of our military personnel as mere “cannon fodder” incapable of appreciating and fighting for their own freedom. We owe an incalculable debt of gratitude to our fighting men and women, who by fighting for their own freedom and our American ideals, they protect the rights of us all…thus enabling Barney Murrell to freely advocate for tyranny and against America’s foremost defender of individual rights.

http://www.principledperspectives.blogspot.com/

Lyle Miller

Our U.S. constitution is our dominant law to be enforced by us, the citizen. (self government) Our political employees swear an oath to protect the U.S. constitution, therefore, if any politician violates our constitution it is our duty to warn them, and if this failes, to bring legal charges against them. Every politician that willingly violates their oath to protect our constitution is a traitor, as are we if we do nothing. Only by restoring our constitution can we avoid despotism. It is our job, and we will receive exactly what we deserve. Personally, I think that anyone that advocates freedom within our U.S., but fails to mention that it is we the people that are responsible for enforcing it, well, they are insincere.

Harold

Mr. Zemack and others:

Thanks for responding to Barney's ridiculous comments.

CompEng wrote:

"Ayn Rand makes some interesting observations, but she makes some flawed assumptions about the general nature of the ego and about the long-term consequences of the winner-take-all nature of capitalism."

In a free market, each man is entitled to the product of his own labor. Are you opposed to this? Through trade (http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/traderprinciple.html) free people motivated by self-interest can increase their wealth by exchanging values to mutual benefit. What do you mean by winner takes all? *All* win through trade.

"She doesn't recognize public goods in her main works..."

How do you define "public goods"?

"...doesn't acknowledge even the possibility of God..."

Mysticism, or the claim to some nonsensory, nonrational means of knowledge is rejected in Objectivist philosophy because it's not based on reality. Did you mean to say "god" singular and if so, why leave the polytheists out of this?

"...doesn't realize that in many cases rational self-interest is best served by collective solutions..."

What exactly do you mean by this, and what cases are you talking about? I've mentioned the trader principle...have a look.

"...doesn't for some reason (strange given her background) realize that moochers are far less dangerous than the violence inherent in the truly disenfranchised..."

Those who seek the unearned are dangerous and will give any "reason" for initiating the use of force, including disenfranchisement. Who would the disenfranchised be in a society based on objective laws and free markets?

"She doesn't even recognize the collective social nature of the particular type of pride (and corresponding shame) that is at the base of her concept of honor."

I'm not exactly sure what's being said here. In PWNI, she describes honor as *self*-esteem made visible in action. What is the "collective social nature" of that?

http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/honor.html

"Ayn Rand is a true fundamentalist who has thrown away those concepts which confuse her, like genuine altruism, in order to build an attractive model of the world that is easy to understand."

Well the first part is right. She *is* fundamentalist in that she thought in terms of principles. Any problem with that? As far as altruism is concerned, that is the view that men don't have the right to exist for their own sake; that the justification of their existence is the service they render to others. Ms. Rand understood that quite well. Where's the evasion?

"She makes some genuinely noteworthy observations, but her base framework for viewing the world will not get us towards her desired goals, because they are flawed and incomplete."

The Objectivist framework is one based on reality--that is it holds it as an absolute. Do you know of some superior way at looking at the world?

"I give Ayn Rand some respect for her brains and humanism, but the level of devotion I see towards her and her ideas is dangerous and foolhardy."

Is it "devotion" (I guess you mean consistency) to her ideas or just ideas in general that you find dangerous and foolhardy?

Norma Horvitz

There aught to be a law: Anyone commenting on Rand must first have read Rand. The penalty for not doing so would be hanging at dawn.

Al Montestruc

It seems that the quality of the con position is a bit deficient, given that Ms. Patterson does not address issues of substance and resorts to schoolyard taunts, such as "crypto-fascist" and "grow up." She in general is spending a lot of time attacking Ms. Rand, and no time addressing the issues

AnthonyGarland

On the subject of altruism/self-interest, which this debate seems to be based on; well, as usual, the practical and the moral go hand in hand.

What works best [yes,even for the poor] is also right: individualism/capitalism. The Objectivist will say--at least I do--give me respect rather than pity any day. This does not preclude me from feeling compassion for others and for acting upon it when I think this is appropriate. My value structure does include respect for all life, and others' suffering is terrible to see. But do not impose altruism on me, either socially or governmentally, as a given or an ideal.

Chris Selland

Pretty disappointing "debate." Dr. Ghate presents his argument, Ms. Patterson calls names.

Graeme

Randism is a short term philosophy, and like all self interest it only provides advantage in the short term. Altruism or the greater good of the group is a long term objective, which no doubt all of you objectivists will disagree with. However, I will shrug you off and get on with building a new world order one action at a time, one persona at a time. Oh and dear Amerikkkans y'all really ignorant 'bout many things fo' real so if you think that anything left or Rand is socialist well I pity you fool.

Fenton Chiggers

The wife and I buy our own trucks. Now the federal government says they are going to build trains for people who do not want to buy their own trucks. And guess who is paying for their free ride? The wife and I, plus all our neighbors here in Dallas. Ayn Rand is 100% on target. No free rides for gutter bums.

J.D.

We should not confuse the social benefits of letting individuals pursue their self interests with permitting individuals to be selfish. These are distinct ideas, and yet Rand and her proponents routinely make such a basic mistake. Selfishness is not a virtue identified by most advocates of liberty or markets. It can easily lead to conduct that can undermine our rights as citizens in a free society.

There are times when it is permissible and justifiable to organize society's institutions around self-interested trade; there are times when this is not the case. The challenge is to find an appropriate balance of policies that optimize protection of the freedom to trade with the preservation of other social and economic goods.

People on both sides of this "debate" need to acknowledge this, along with its inherent complexity. Please, resist vacuous ideology.

CompEng

Harold,

"In a free market, each man is entitled to the product of his own labor... All win through trade."
On the first order, that's all correct and I agree. But past the first order, things get tricky. The crux of my argument is that you can't make something from nothing; you can only take something you own (at least in some limited sense) and improve it. Much of the inequality of the world is of this nature: first you have to get the property, the funding, or the trust to create a good or perform a service, and then you can trade that good or service for that which supports your existence. In an industry with any scale, this composes a barrier to entry for the market. Scale this up a bit, and we call it the monopoly effect. I think there is collective interest in opposing the monopoly effect for the sake of prosperity and peace, but government is the only power capable of doing so: Rand would disagree. I think that is because she did not fully understand the ramifications of her beliefs.

"She doesn’t recognize public goods in her main works…"
Peace, clean air, etc. Some, like the effect of living in a technologically advanced world, she addressed, but not in sufficient depth.

"Those who seek the unearned are dangerous and will give any "reason" for initiating the use of force, including disenfranchisement. Who would the disenfranchised be in a society based on objective laws and free markets?"

What composes disenfranchisement composes a very gray area. I'll start off by saying that I believe all rights are essentially contract based and not "natural rights". In the basic sense, I propose that anyone who has no means of support has no vested interest and therefore no obligation to recognize property rights: for them, no social contract exists. We all have a choice, to exterminate (directly or passively) those outliers to society or to invest in integrating them. Does this come into place in practice? Debatable. But there's fertile grounds in inner city America to start that debate. Ayn Rand's example of the city urchin who ends up as a newspaper tycoon in "The Fountainhead" should not be regarded as the normative case: most children in that situation truly lack that education, capacity, pride, or moral certitude. Most will choose to steal rather than starve.

"What exactly do you mean by this, and what cases are you talking about? I’ve mentioned the trader principle."

Certainly, any group of people can form a contract to protect a public good. When I went to look for a new home in Arizona, most homes had HOAs with strict requirements on cutting lawns, how many cars could be in a driveway, etc., in order to protect the perception of the neighborhood, and therefore preserve the future value of their homes. However, to prevent the free rider dilemma, the HOA has some means of enforcement against those who do not comply with the rule. For larger problems, like environmental pollution, national defense, etc., we have have a contractual entity we call government. It is flawed and often does not remember its roots, but the principle is rules enforced on citizens that cost them directly but benefit them indirectly.

"As far as altruism is concerned, that is the view that men don’t have the right to exist for their own sake; that the justification of their existence is the service they render to others. Ms. Rand understood that quite well. Where’s the evasion?"

In the definition. Here, as a Christian, my views are biased by my beliefs. If someone else has the same right to exist as I do, yet I have ample means for existence and they have none, then after my own needs are satisfied, I should begin providing for that other. I cannot expect the majority of humans to accept this view, therefore enforcement would be unethical. But I want you to know that what I understand as altruism is life-loving and not self-destructive.

"Mysticism, or the claim to some nonsensory, nonrational means of knowledge is rejected in Objectivist philosophy because it’s not based on reality. Did you mean to say “god” singular and if so, why leave the polytheists out of this?"

My belief in God is evidence-based. That evidence does not have to be reproducible to be valid. The miracle at Fatima was reported upon by life-long atheists who converted on the spot. There are many other examples. You may choose to believe all such witnesses are liars or insane: I can sympathize with such a choice. But I have chosen to believe the witnesses in at least some of these cases.
I left out polytheism because I am willing to let any who believe in it mount their own defense.

"In PWNI, she describes honor as *self*-esteem made visible in action. What is the “collective social nature” of that?"

Self-esteem made visible in action is an insufficient explanation for a starving boy to believe it would be better to starve than steal. In Rand's eyes, all self-esteem seems to derive from the satisfaction that one has lived a moral life. I'm not sure that's an evidence-based observation.

"The Objectivist framework is one based on reality—that is it holds it as an absolute. Do you know of some superior way at looking at the world?"

I believe that reality should be held as the absolute. I just don't think the canon of Objectivism models reality as well as it thinks it does. Specifically, the things I have identified as missing are important enough that I regard what is generally referred to as Objectivism as biased in an unhealthy way, despite the laudatory principles it aims for.

"Is it 'devotion' (I guess you mean consistency) to her ideas or just ideas in general that you find dangerous and foolhardy?"

When you stop challenging your assumptions or measuring the effects of your beliefs against their goals, that's what I hold as dangerous.

Dinah Lovett

We need Ayn Rand now more than ever. I head a global business nonprofit, and am an unrepentant believer. We remain in the black and also serve our mission because of her beliefs. If you have read Rand, you have studied Rand and can quote Rand and eat and drink her like a starving pilgram. We can spot someone who claims to be a proponent of her philosophy, but is just mouthing off.

Sam Tenney

Great points, Dr. Ghate. With the current intensifying of Obama's fascistic rhetoric and of the public's emotionalist damnation of our greatest producers, we need Ayn Rand.

The opposition speaks for itself.

JR

The people most severely impacted by the crisis are not active participants in the economic system. They didn't have a role in creating the problem, but they are paying for it with their jobs, their retirement savings, and their peace of mind. Where's their freedom to pursue their idea of happiness? The tyranny of social institutions is not what most people are concerned about right now. A lot of people who lived responsibly have been hurt by a system they don't understand and have absolutely no control over. I imagine it is the financial institutions that look like a tyrant to them.

Governments has a responsibility to protect its citizens. That’s what they are for. American citizens have had their lives thrown in turmoil by the reckless behavior of a small group of people. The average citizen, acting out of self interest if you want to look at it that way, is now demanding stronger protection from the whims of the market. Hopefully the government will respond appropriately.

CompEng

Harold,

I'm sorry. I realize I don't answer one of your questions properly, but simply attacked a definition.

I think honor is essentially a social virtue in the sense that it is measured externally (by how one's actions affect others) rather than internally. As honesty is speaking the truth to oneself and others, my definition of honor is that one's purposes and actions are consistent with one's stated intentions and morality. But I grant that even by that definition, honor has significant value even without a social dimension.

Travis

To say everything would have been fine without previous government involvement is a laughable agrument. Until recently we had one of the biggest unregulated markets ever allowed: the "shadow banking" system. Every player was allowed to operate "off book." No limits on leverage, no rules beyond a contract between the parties, every party had full responsibility to gather their own information and make their own independent decisions. I believe that worked out marveously. Wall Street apologists sound the same as GM apologists. The influence of government or the UAW on the downfall while existent is relatively insigificant compared to the true failings. On Wall Street, that all their instruments and CDOs did nothing to actually disperse risk, but rather created a house of cards dependent on only an upward draft. For GM, decades of ignoring the little things cost it both real capital and brand capital. So when it finally fixes its product (Malibu is now a great car for instance) it doesn't have the brand capital for a quick turnaround and does not have the real capital for a long one. My knowledge of Ayn Rand is very limited so I will avoid further comment so I don't bring down the wrath of her protectors. But it would certainly be nice if we could focus on the central cause of the crisises. Show me a businessman who only complains about how others have disadvantaged him rather than perfectly his own product or service to his environment and I will show you a doomed businessman.

New Fan

I am still reading "Atlas Shrugged," but I have enjoyed reading all of the comments here. Dr Ghate, right on. Excellent points.

Here is the philosophy I try to follow, and one I believe is at the basis of all good philosophy, including Rand's--"Do unto others as you would have others do unto you". Simple and profound. Even the least educated can grasp it. Even the "greedy" (which by the way is why some people become so greedy--don't they fear someone taking away what they took so they have to keep taking?) And to Graeme: the "Golden Rule" is short, but not new and over the long term the only law we really need. Which brings me to another point--aren't lawyers/lawmakers the classic looters being able to interpret/write the laws that ultimately serve their own ends--are they being altruistic or self-interested or greedy? Was it Confusius who said something about the more laws that you make, the more criminals you will make?
Well thank you for listening - I am back to reading the book.

Squeezebox

First of all, I've never studied Rand, so I can't answer the "enlightened self-interest" arguments. What I can do is state my opinion. The real question in the economy is "did the executives actually earn their salaries"? Did the rich earn their riches? Is there equality of opportunity to earn those riches? If you're born in the wrong part of the world, it's a lot harder to earn money off of a good idea than if you're in the blessed land. Some countries think it's okay to copycat someone else's product without putting in the work to develop it. Some people think they're entitled to multi-million dollar bonuses when their company goes bankrupt, and they got their jobs based not on super talent, but merely having the right connections. Some people are perfectly smart, but grow up in a household that can't even afford to send their children to elementary school. Some children start working when they're five years old to keep the family from starving. When everybody has an equal opportunity to succeed based upon their own merits, then society will be just. Let's level the playing field before we go looking to Rand.

jimthome

"So you think that money is the root of all evil?" said Francisco d'Anconia. "Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can't exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?

"When you accept money in payment for your effort, you do so only on the conviction that you will exchange it for the product of the effort of others. It is not the moochers or the looters who give value to money. Not an ocean of tears not all the guns in the world can transform those pieces of paper in your wallet into the bread you will need to survive tomorrow. Those pieces of paper, which should have been gold, are a token of honor--your claim upon the energy of the men who produce. Your wallet is your statement of hope that somewhere in the world around you there are men who will not default on that moral principle which is the root of money, Is this what you consider evil?

"Have you ever looked for the root of production? Take a look at an electric generator and dare tell yourself that it was created by the muscular effort of unthinking brutes. Try to grow a seed of wheat without the knowledge left to you by men who had to discover it for the first time. Try to obtain your food by means of nothing but physical motions--and you'll learn that man's mind is the root of all the goods produced and of all the wealth that has ever existed on earth.

"But you say that money is made by the strong at the expense of the weak? What strength do you mean? It is not the strength of guns or muscles. Wealth is the product of man's capacity to think. Then is money made by the man who invents a motor at the expense of those who did not invent it? Is money made by the intelligent at the expense of the fools? By the able at the expense of the incompetent? By the ambitious at the expense of the lazy? Money is made--before it can be looted or mooched--made by the effort of every honest man, each to the extent of his ability. An honest man is one who knows that he can't consume more than he has produced.'

"To trade by means of money is the code of the men of good will. Money rests on the axiom that every man is the owner of his mind and his effort. Money allows no power to prescribe the value of your effort except the voluntary choice of the man who is willing to trade you his effort in return. Money permits you to obtain for your goods and your labor that which they are worth to the men who buy them, but no more. Money permits no deals except those to mutual benefit by the unforced judgment of the traders. Money demands of you the recognition that men must work for their own benefit, not for their own injury, for their gain, not their loss--the recognition that they are not beasts of burden, born to carry the weight of your misery--that you must offer them values, not wounds--that the common bond among men is not the exchange of suffering, but the exchange of goods. Money demands that you sell, not your weakness to men's stupidity, but your talent to their reason; it demands that you buy, not the shoddiest they offer, but the best that your money can find. And when men live by trade--with reason, not force, as their final arbiter--it is the best product that wins, the best performance, the man of best judgment and highest ability--and the degree of a man's productiveness is the degree of his reward. This is the code of existence whose tool and symbol is money. Is this what you consider evil?

"But money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver. It will give you the means for the satisfaction of your desires, but it will not provide you with desires. Money is the scourge of the men who attempt to reverse the law of causality--the men who seek to replace the mind by seizing the products of the mind.

"Money will not purchase happiness for the man who has no concept of what he wants: money will not give him a code of values, if he's evaded the knowledge of what to value, and it will not provide him with a purpose, if he's evaded the choice of what to seek. Money will not buy intelligence for the fool, or admiration for the coward, or respect for the incompetent. The man who attempts to purchase the brains of his superiors to serve him, with his money replacing his judgment, ends up by becoming the victim of his inferiors. The men of intelligence desert him, but the cheats and the frauds come flocking to him, drawn by a law which he has not discovered: that no man may be smaller than his money. Is this the reason why you call it evil?

"Only the man who does not need it, is fit to inherit wealth--the man who would make his own fortune no matter where he started. If an heir is equal to his money, it serves him; if not, it destroys him. But you look on and you cry that money corrupted him. Did it? Or did he corrupt his money? Do not envy a worthless heir; his wealth is not yours and you would have done no better with it. Do not think that it should have been distributed among you; loading the world with fifty parasites instead of one, would not bring back the dead virtue which was the fortune. Money is a living power that dies without its root. Money will not serve the mind that cannot match it. Is this the reason why you call it evil?

"Money is your means of survival. The verdict you pronounce upon the source of your livelihood is the verdict you pronounce upon your life. If the source is corrupt, you have damned your own existence. Did you get your money by fraud? By pandering to men's vices or men's stupidity? By catering to fools, in the hope of getting more than your ability deserves? By lowering your standards? By doing work you despise for purchasers you scorn? If so, then your money will not give you a moment's or a penny's worth of joy. Then all the things you buy will become, not a tribute to you, but a reproach; not an achievement, but a reminder of shame. Then you'll scream that money is evil. Evil, because it would not pinch-hit for your self-respect? Evil, because it would not let you enjoy your depravity? Is this the root of your hatred of money?

"Money will always remain an effect and refuse to replace you as the cause. Money is the product of virtue, but it will not give you virtue and it will not redeem your vices. Money will not give you the unearned, neither in matter nor in spirit. Is this the root of your hatred of money?

"Or did you say it's the love of money that's the root of all evil? To love a thing is to know and love its nature. To love money is to know and love the fact that money is the creation of the best power within you, and your passkey to trade your effort for the effort of the best among men. It's the person who would sell his soul for a nickel, who is loudest in proclaiming his hatred of money--and he has good reason to hate it. The lovers of money are willing to work for it. They know they are able to deserve it.

"Let me give you a tip on a clue to men's characters: the man who damns money has obtained it dishonorably; the man who respects it has earned it.

"Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper's bell of an approaching looter. So long as men live together on earth and need means to deal with one another--their only substitute, if they abandon money, is the muzzle of a gun.

"But money demands of you the highest virtues, if you wish to make it or to keep it. Men who have no courage, pride or self-esteem, men who have no moral sense of their right to their money and are not willing to defend it as they defend their life, men who apologize for being rich--will not remain rich for long. They are the natural bait for the swarms of looters that stay under rocks for centuries, but come crawling out at the first smell of a man who begs to be forgiven for the guilt of owning wealth. They will hasten to relieve him of the guilt--and of his life, as he deserves.

"Then you will see the rise of the men of the double standard--the men who live by force, yet count on those who live by trade to create the value of their looted money--the men who are the hitchhikers of virtue. In a moral society, these are the criminals, and the statutes are written to protect you against them. But when a society establishes criminals-by-right and looters-by-law--men who use force to seize the wealth of disarmed victims--then money becomes its creators' avenger. Such looters believe it safe to rob defenseless men, once they've passed a law to disarm them. But their loot becomes the magnet for other looters, who get it from them as they got it. Then the race goes, not to the ablest at production, but to those most ruthless at brutality. When force is the standard, the murderer wins over the pickpocket. And then that society vanishes, in a spread of ruins and slaughter.

"Do you wish to know whether that day is coming? Watch money. Money is the barometer of a society's virtue. When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion--when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing--when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors--when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don't protect you against them, but protect them against you--when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice--you may know that your society is doomed. Money is so noble a medium that is does not compete with guns and it does not make terms with brutality. It will not permit a country to survive as half-property, half-loot.

"Whenever destroyers appear among men, they start by destroying money, for money is men's protection and the base of a moral existence. Destroyers seize gold and leave to its owners a counterfeit pile of paper. This kills all objective standards and delivers men into the arbitrary power of an arbitrary setter of values. Gold was an objective value, an equivalent of wealth produced. Paper is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist, backed by a gun aimed at those who are expected to produce it. Paper is a check drawn by legal looters upon an account which is not theirs: upon the virtue of the victims. Watch for the day when it bounces, marked, 'Account overdrawn.'

"When you have made evil the means of survival, do not expect men to remain good. Do not expect them to stay moral and lose their lives for the purpose of becoming the fodder of the immoral. Do not expect them to produce, when production is punished and looting rewarded. Do not ask, 'Who is destroying the world? You are.

"You stand in the midst of the greatest achievements of the greatest productive civilization and you wonder why it's crumbling around you, while you're damning its life-blood--money. You look upon money as the savages did before you, and you wonder why the jungle is creeping back to the edge of your cities. Throughout men's history, money was always seized by looters of one brand or another, whose names changed, but whose method remained the same: to seize wealth by force and to keep the producers bound, demeaned, defamed, deprived of honor. That phrase about the evil of money, which you mouth with such righteous recklessness, comes from a time when wealth was produced by the labor of slaves--slaves who repeated the motions once discovered by somebody's mind and left unimproved for centuries. So long as production was ruled by force, and wealth was obtained by conquest, there was little to conquer, Yet through all the centuries of stagnation and starvation, men exalted the looters, as aristocrats of the sword, as aristocrats of birth, as aristocrats of the bureau, and despised the producers, as slaves, as traders, as shopkeepers--as industrialists.

"To the glory of mankind, there was, for the first and only time in history, a country of money--and I have no higher, more reverent tribute to pay to America, for this means: a country of reason, justice, freedom, production, achievement. For the first time, man's mind and money were set free, and there were no fortunes-by-conquest, but only fortunes-by-work, and instead of swordsmen and slaves, there appeared the real maker of wealth, the greatest worker, the highest type of human being--the self-made man--the American industrialist.

"If you ask me to name the proudest distinction of Americans, I would choose--because it contains all the others--the fact that they were the people who created the phrase 'to make money.' No other language or nation had ever used these words before; men had always thought of wealth as a static quantity--to be seized, begged, inherited, shared, looted or obtained as a favor. Americans were the first to understand that wealth has to be created. The words 'to make money' hold the essence of human morality.

"Yet these were the words for which Americans were denounced by the rotted cultures of the looters' continents. Now the looters' credo has brought you to regard your proudest achievements as a hallmark of shame, your prosperity as guilt, your greatest men, the industrialists, as blackguards, and your magnificent factories as the product and property of muscular labor, the labor of whip-driven slaves, like the pyramids of Egypt. The rotter who simpers that he sees no difference between the power of the dollar and the power of the whip, ought to learn the difference on his own hide-- as, I think, he will.

"Until and unless you discover that money is the root of all good, you ask for your own destruction. When money ceases to be the tool by which men deal with one another, then men become the tools of men. Blood, whips and guns--or dollars. Take your choice--there is no other--and your time is running out."

The above is an excerpt from Atlas Shrugged, © Copyright

Boy

Hi.
The pro is right. The separate one, a zero, complimentarily, is negative.

Boy

Hi:
Let the negative word mocker get outside the room, an area resembling the stance away from reasoning.

New Ran

But how else do you level the playing field but by education? Let the poor countries start teaching the great philosophies instead of the one they use to keep their people poor, and those people will raise themselves out of poverty.

paulvard

Oops. I tripped into a muddy sty full of greedy pigs. These people playing and betting against its others using billions of other peoples money called it work. Then claim they are deserving of millions in earnings on top of their salary. What did millions of people who pooled their hard-earned money gets in the last one to two decades, meager earnings if any or big losses. Do people get clawbacks if they lose their money? Nope. If a policeman saved this investment banker's life does he get paid a bonus? After all, this guy's life is worth millions. Nope. He gets his salary. This Wall Street salary and pay structure is typical good ole boys network. You massage my back and I'll massage yours. Talent, what talent? Greed is good, they say. Yup, that's why their imaginations run wild in inventing toxic financial products. They are all out of touch including talking heads in CNBC or Fox. Why don't you all sometimes go out to Main Street and see what real life is. As Grassley say, you are all paid in salary and try to do your best job because if you don't, you are fired. How's that for incentive?

DM

Why does BW have someone who "writes cultural and political commentary and does the weekly arts interview. Recent interviewees have included Martin Amis, Candace Bushnell, Werner Herzog, and Ian McKellen" (Christina Patterson) debating economic philosophy? Her argument is at best emotional, lacking a thread of logic, but again, what is BW doing? BW needs to take their game up.

galaxian

We've already tried Rand's way. It was in the form of Dr. Greenshades who was a personal friend. He was the only one in her web that could add two numbers together and consistently get the same answer.

Sri Hari

The debate is not about the Austrian school of economics (aka Ayn Rand philosophy) or Keynesian economics--it is about an economic system with impartial and credible institutions that can provide information calculability and accountability of risk in real time to anybody who seeks it. This would have stopped the systemic risk from developing.

Such an institution would have exposed the financial and environmental risk in real time and would kept the world economy and environment stable.

CHRISTOPHER

Hank Rearden walked home from work.

Wall Street collapsed.

Ayn Rand does not support the crap happening on Wall Street.

Matt

Ayn Rand is nothing less than Adam Smith's "vile maxim."

Ayn Rand has little concept of critical self-reflection, and her attack on Neitzsche has absolutely no substance other than being a mere projection of that.

Dewey, Locke, and John Stewart Mill were philosophers; Ayn Rand is a novelist. There is a big difference.

kibrewsen

Let alone the fact that you have no clue of Rand's ideas, but you have no clue of the existing economic systems. Anyone who understands basic economics can easily identify that our existing system is far from capitalism, particularly the financial sector.

Our monetary policy is centralized and planned. The Federal Reserve, who controls the money supply, is not a component of capitalism. It is actually a socialistic system. Thus, you can not blame the free market for all the mess we are in. What failed is government involvement and manipulation of the market.

In free market, money will have a real value (Gold, silver, even platinum), not fiat or legal tender, and its value will be determined by the market. It will keep every one disciplined, both government and individual investors. Mind you, I am not talking about gold standard.

Competition (Dog-eat-dog laissez-fair capitalism) in the market place is rather the cure not the disease. If left alone it is justice. It is justice for those who compete on the production side and for those on the consumption side. Your objection to competitions is as silly as telling competitive runners to run but not to speed ahead of the pack and be a winner.

Patterson, I really think it is not so hard to open up a book or two to see what capitalism actually consists of. Please come to your senses for your own good.

I didn't think any one would be ignorant enough to suggest a global tax increase as solution to our crisis.

Timb

Anyone who thinks "rational self-interest" actually exists hasn't paid attention over the last 18 months. Rational is simply a form of logic; it says nothing about the ends to which it is applied. The bankers where behaving rationally if the goal was short term gain. If the goal was long term wealth creation for both them and the country, they were acting irrationally. Rand's supporters who simply blame the government for every ill won't face man's capacity for self-interest, which can result in as many bad things as good.

CHRISTOPHER

Timb writes:
Anyone who thinks "rational self-interest" actually exists hasn't paid attention over the last 18 months.

Why are the bad guys of Atlas Shrugged not remembered? Ayn Rand paid attention to the last 18 months quite a few years before I was born and maybe a year or two before my parents were born.

Jason

Wow, Patterson's rant isn't even an argument. Just a bunch of epithets.

Robin

I agree with Ayn Rand that self interest is moral and should be our primary focus since we have to live with ourselves. You have to give
yourself a "good deal" while living with the demands of society. Both are important and society will trump putting your interests first when push comes to shove. Try running your job for yourself
and you could run into problems. Also, we need the government since many of us need that extra support in a predatory world. Nobody wants
to face the jungle every day thinking it is sink or swim. That is too tough for most people. But if you can, "take care of number one."

JoAnn

Whoa, Patterson can certainly use her words--too bad they relay the wrong ideas.

Squeezebox again

What would Rand do with those born too stupid or sick to work? Would she send them to the gas chamber like Hitler? Would she simply let them starve? Or is it okay to much in a case like that?

AnthonyGarland

All these Rand-baiters stirred up in willful ignorance (or panic) amuse me in their childishness.

Olof

The well fare-state theory is bankrupt, so is its moral foundation: altruism. It's just riddled with contradiction, and if you try to use it to reason with, it won't take you anywhere. Your thoughts will just go round and round and make you confused. The symptom of this is morons like Patterson writing in an aggressive manner and lacking validation to her claims. They get a little scared, too, confronting objectivism.

S. Butterbaugh

Ohmygod!

If Christina Patterson is the nature of the opposition to capitalism, intellectually this battle is a piece of cake. Anyone with a shred of self-esteem wants to understand how things work and would leave this shrieking madwoman to collapse in exhaustion a la James Taggart.

It's clear to me that she could not have set herself down and written her piece without self-interest. Her failing is that she did not subject herself to the standard of rationality, instead spewing one logical fallacy after another.

If greed is the issue, what about the inordinate greed of the politicians in their lust for and grabbing of political power?

Al Brown

Greed is not an individual pursuing his or her own self interest by creating value and trading it with others.

It is trying to obtain what belongs to others without offering anything in return. This is what caused the current crisis and this is what Rand condemned.

Debasing the dollar, bail outs for bankrupt companies that happen to be politically connected, endless taxation and the government's many other crimes are owned by the latter, not by rational self-interest.

Of course, attempts at fraud and subterfuge are as well and the "con" portion of this debate is no exception.

TheSlush

"But human beings are simple creatures." Ms. Patterson is evidence of her own assessment, given her shallow, oversimplified blame of capitalism. She eschews facts and details here in favor of one-liners. Her superior tone--and presumption that her conclusions are obvious and self-evident--overshadows any points to her side of the argument. Her "commentary" reads like a quasi-insulting attempt at amusement. Clearly phoned in.

CompEng

Olof, You've perhaps incidentally put your finger on the attractiveness of objectivism. It's the only approach to "morality" that I'm aware of that means never having to say "I'm sorry." Its primary strength is not utilitarian; it's the promise of no internal tension. A great deal of good is given up in the name of that goal and written off as sour grapes.

PaulR

The economy is Ayn Rand, and we need to recognize it. Sub-prime mortgage lenders, brokers of hidden-risk CDSs, bailed-out finance execs looting as their bombs explode--have all proved that rampant self-interest is the basis of the economy. This will not change.
So--recognize and regulate accordingly.

W3

I found Miss Patterson's article an empty collection of emotional ad hominem statements, which, unfortunately, are the hallmark of the left. I think that she would make a better case if she were able to argue from a factual basis, but then she would have to think.

Guest

"What would Rand do with those born too stupid or sick to work? Would she send them to the gas chamber like Hitler? Would she simply let them starve? Or is it okay to much in a case like that?"

An individual exists for his own sake. Not for sacrificing others (not killing the stupid or sick) to himself, but also not sacrificing himself to others (no duty to serve the needs of the stupid or sick).
There is no coercion in either example. The extreme cases you alluded to will always be taken care of by private, voluntary charities (assuming the family is either not able or interested).

With voluntary taxation, you have complete discretion over which groups and programs you would like to donate to. Ayn Rand would decide if she gave a hand-out; no need for you to follow her lead. Just remember, she devised a system where you are free to make that decision.

"But human beings are simple creatures."
This is a gloomy reflection of the human-hating philosophies dominant today. As a very simple example, the technology we are using to type and post these messages would be inconceivable without human rationality, creativity and productivity. Human beings are far from simple.

Mike

"But human beings are simple creatures."

I guess Ms. Patterson's rant pretty much proves that. She obviously didn't read any of Rand's work. I do wonder what it was she read that the president wrote (other than self serving mush, that is) and where she found it.

James B

This is a debate between serene reason (Onkar Ghate)and benighted unreason (Christina Patterson). Bravo, Dr Ghate, for your refreshing perspicacity and impeccable perspicuity.

It is regrettable that too few of the comments posted here reveal an adequate depth of understanding of the concepts and core principles of Objectivism. True understanding requires a determined effort; too few, however, seem committed to making that effort. Until such time as sufficient numbers of people choose to make the necessary effort to understand Objectivism and to act consistently in accordance with its principles, the lives of all individuals will to some extent remain fettered.

Arnold

I have seen many attacks on Objectivism, but never one that didn't first misrepresent it. This is another example.

TrevorObjectivist

I have to question whether it is proper (i.e., worthwhile) for Mr. Ghate to engage in this type of forum. I don't know anything about Ms. Patterson, but her comments simply have no basis in reality; they are naked assertions unsupported by reason. I can't help but find it interesting that she refers to Rand's political system as "crude, dog-eat-dog" capitalism; I presume she hasn't read Atlas Shrugged and consequently cannot appreciate how perfectly she demonstrates Rand's point: In the novel, the stateist-collectivist government officials pass a law called the "anti-dog-eat-dog" law, which severely impairs business' ability to compete against each other; in passing such a law, the collectivists show a complete misunderstanding of the distinction between economic power and political (i.e., force - the barrel of a gun) power. Under capitalism, the initiation of physical force is banished from human relations - a man is free to offer goods/services, and other men are free to bargain & contract with him, or not. As Rand pointed out, the symbol of government power is the barrel of a gun. Government regulation in effect amounts to: "Comply with our rules, or die." Not exactly the same, are they?
So again, I question the propriety of Mr. Ghate wasting his time engaging with individuals who - like Ms. Patterson - have no sincere criticisms to proffer and merely spew unsupported & unsupportable floating abstractions. Then again, Ms. Patterson has inadvertently illustrated one of Rand's themes in Atlas Shrugged by obliterating the distinction between economic power & political power by employing the same terminology as the novel's antagonists. At any rate, objections aside, please accept my gratitude, Mr. Ghate.

SomoM

The protagonist in Ms. Rand's novel is the head of a transcontinental railroad. The US transcontinental railroads were created under the federal Railway Act. The railroads depended very much on using government lands for right-of-ways. And the federal government floated bonds for financing the railroads. So much for Ms. Rand's view of free markets. You can't separate the 'market' from the government, so why think in terms of impossibilities? As soon as one law is written, or one tax is created, government market policy is created. Capitalists do not make money in a vacuum, in spite of the government. Their business has been protected by laws; the safety of the business has been protected by taxpayer-supported police and military. The ability to trade in money is also facilitated by the government. Section 8 of the US Constitution provides for Congress to regulate trade; and with that one Section, the logic of completely 'free markets' becomes a moot point. Instead of naively discussing free markets, which will never happen, the discussion should be how to make government policy and regulation work well with the markets.

omingoD

Rand will be relevant as long as reason and reality continue to be.

SC

I'm still waiting for my invitation to Galt's Gulch! So until then, I'll settle for this imperfect world and happily make the best of it.

Is there really any other another rational choice?

SC

Andy

Ayn Rand wrote of "Atlas Shrugged":

“(P)erhaps the most important point in the whole book…that one must live for the sake of such exalted moments as one may be able to achieve or experience, not for the sake of suffering.”

I can't think of any more pro-human, pro-mind statement ever written. If you haven't read "Atlas Shrugged", give it a shot and make your own judgment. Don't rely upon the judgment of others.

Vikas

Rational Self Interest which Ayn Rand proposed was a noble concept, but in all fairness a difficult one. The thin line which separates self interest from selfish greed is often missed. Patterson is spot on with at least the reasoning where she says that greed is what has led us to this mess. I would restrain myself to put the blame on the government for all this mess, where an average man walking on the road is equally responsible for this mess. If only a man could have realised what Rational Self Interest means I believe we wouldn't have been in this situation. The problem, however, was we as individuals safely forgot the Rational part of it. And when society forgets how to be Rational, then it surely does not deserve the right to be free to pursue the Self Interest.

Bob

One doesn't have to believe in Objectivism to appreciate the philosophical depth of thought that Ayn Rand applies to reach reasoned judgments about philosophical systems. The thought process is akin to Galileo Galilei's first use of the scientific method to prove that the moon is not smooth and that Jupiter has moons that revolve around it. Her ability to reach down to the root of an idea, without stopping short, is what is striking. Half-thought allows a bastardized US Constitution of the Government, by the Government, and for the Government, to continue where Pharaohs, Czars, Incan rulers, Feudal lords, Imperial Princes, Despots, slave traders, and Communists used to exist.

Michigan's Governor Granholm is a Catholic who supports abortion. How can these two diametrically opposed ideas come together in the same brain except through a mushy mash of half-conclusions and unobjective thought, supported by Patterson's way of 'feeling' out an idea?

CompEng

James B: Not all who disagree with Objectivism do so because of a lack of understanding.

Dave C

Whether you agree with his argument or not on the question of Ayn Rand's ideas having importance in today's marketplace, Onkar Ghate forms a valid argument citing real world examples and facts, and referencing Ayn Rand's work to back them up.

No matter which side of the debate you fall on, it's unfortunate that Christina couldn't mount a solid con argument at all.

Christina opens by attacking Ayn Rand, rather than Rand's ideas, and concludes that greed is the cause of all current problems. However, she doesn't state any facts; how or why 'greed' as a concept is responsible.

Then she goes on to degrade everyone by saying human beings are simple creatures who need mommy and daddy. This is stated as fact, in an effort to slip it by us unquestioned--but in reality, if this were true, this is an argument for government paternalism and not Ayn Rand's ideas.

She continues with the ad hominem slant by calling some group of people "testosterone-fueled idiots." I say "some group" because she doesn't actually state who these "idiots" are. No matter where you think the responsibility ultimately lands--government or banks--it's a fact that government interventionism played a part in allowing the key players to get away with it. So this argument falls flat in the face of a true free market, which Ayn Rand advocated.

Christina redirects her attacks at the concept of "greed" again, which is still a concept without context in her response. She throws solipsism into the mix. I don't know why, because solipsism is pretty much an opposite world view that Ayn Rand advocated.

The final punctuation on her argument is to tell us all to "grow up" and that Barack Obama is a better writer than Ayn Rand--which is neither here nor there.

In a proper debate, everyone is challenged and everyone wins. Facts are brought to light and logical arguments are countered. Statements and ideas are put on the line and have to stand up to scrutiny. A real debate on this subject would be enjoyable and fruitful, but unfortunately Christina was only interested in projecting anger and malice.

Mike McGillicuddy

One could not have invented a more stark, obvious contrast between reason and unreason, between the principles underlying Right and Left, and between the practical result of their application than the ten paragraphs of these two articles.

Dr. Ghate puts forth a well-reasoned argument and describes the basic principles guiding Ayn Rand's work and why their application is desperately needed in today's world.

Contrast that to Miss Patterson, who resorts to ad hominem attack ("crypto-fascist" & "little testosterone-fueled idiots") and a pseudo-intellectual swipe at literary criticism ("purple prose").

In the end, Miss Patterson says, "It’s time, boys and girls, to grow up." She would do well to heed her own advice.

Nicolaus

I find James B's response spot-on. Whichever side one agrees with, it's obvious that Onkar Ghate has a well-thought response while Christina Patterson has a very emotional response. Onkar Ghate challenges us to think about the issue and decide for ourselves, whatever the end result. Christina Patterson's argument basically says, "Don't you feel angry at those businessmen!? Therefore Ayn Rand's not relevant."

reeves

Regardless of whose side you're on--Rand's or her detractors--it is wise to first study the impact on society when confronted with either argument. The system that promotes innovation through the profit motive, and thus a higher standard of living for the masses, should be the system that garners the favor of the people. Every action we take in our lives is profit-motivated, including those of Mother Theresa. Nobody is consciously willing to work for others without compensation. Profit under written laws governing (criminal) behavior is what ultimately drives the producers of wealth and the resultant living standards of the people. Government produces nothing, and its interference with the natural order of things hinders the basic drive of those who provide our basic living standard. Government as umpire, disconnected with the private sector, overseeing only the written laws, is the most beneficial to the most people.

Ross C

I'd like to quote from Thomas Woods' recent book, Meltdown: "Blaming the recent crisis on greed is like blaming a plane crash on gravity."

Barney Murrell

To the pro-libertarians who bothered to post in opposition to my April 5, 2009 02:36 AM posting I say this: you should spend more time researching facts of how mankind is instead of pursuing a pie-in-the-sky utopian fantasy of a perfect world. Such fantasies make getting by in the real world more difficult.

To Mike Zemack: I read all your links and I still find it hard to fathom how otherwise intelligent people could believe some of that stuff. You wrote: “Barney Murrell offers not even a hint of a refutation of even a single principle of Objectivism.”

And I say yes I did. My previous posting listed the evils emanating from anti-government libertarianism-conservatism; and the resulting evil refutes all aspects of those philosophies. The fact is egoism and Objectivism are basically nonsense, unrelated to the real world. Experience has shown people’s self interest lies in joining together to protect themselves against those among them who would have it all if allowed to by libertarian-conservative doctrine.

You claim that government regulation puts others in “a position of coercive police power over the lives of other men.”

And I say your statement is true, but it is one of the duties of citizenship to watch the watchers and remove said watchers when required by their misdeeds. Regulation is police power over the evils men do when not regulated. How quickly libertarian-conservatives forget or make excuses for the recent crimes of Enron, WorldCom, Bernie Madoff, etc.

You wrote that “slave labor and child labor were legacies of pre-capitalist societies that capitalism inherited and eventually wiped out”--but you could not be more wrong.

I say the titans of 1800s capitalism (Carnegie, Rockefeller, Fisk, Vanderbilt, Morgan, etc) would be very surprised to find that you did not consider them capitalists. The evils of wage slavery and child labor were perpetuated by unrestricted capitalism. Child labor, for example, was not ended until FDR's New Deal legislation made it so.

The following comment comes from Andrew Carnegie’s autobiography:

“Labor is usually helpless against capital. The employer, perhaps, decides to shut up the shops; he ceases to make profits for a short time. There is no change in his habits, food, clothing, and pleasures--no agonizing fear of want. Contrast this with his workman, whose lessening means of subsistence torment him. He has a few forts, scarcely the necessities for his wife and children in health, and for the sick little ones no proper treatment. It is not capital we need to guard, but helpless labor. If I returned to business tomorrow, fear of labor troubles would not enter my mind, but tenderness for poor and sometimes misguided though well-meaning laborers would fill my heart an soften it; and thereby soften theirs.”

You wrote that “every one of the 20th century disasters cited by Murrell were the result of government interference into the economy, not free people 'running amok.'"

And I say you offer no proof whatsoever to support your claim. I have read libertarian-conservative writings and criticism of FDR and the New Deal and there is little or no truth to it. Government records and the writings of numerous economists from the 1930s to the present show libertarian-conservative arguments have little validity. Your offer a link to anti-FDIC insurance data, but pre-FDIC and post-FDIC history show there is no truth to it.

Other links you give in regards to anti-government, pro-libertarian-conservatism demonstrates the real reason for the existence of libertarian-conservative philosophy. And that reason is simply one of pure unadulterated greed, which requires the opposition to any government regulation that interferes with the plundering of American wealth and workers.

Those of us--both past and present--who resent being reduced to slave labor have joined together over the last two centuries to support legislation that has stopped the worst exploitation of lower economic classes, and we are not going back to being slaves to a few wealthy people.

You write that “It is the political corruption of the private economy caused by coercive government interference in the free market that empowers and entrenches the ‘greedy SOBs.’” You also furnish a link to a New York Post article that supposedly pins the blame for the subprime mortgage crisis on Fed loosening of lending standards. But the fact is your comment and the article is a corruption of the truth.

David M

The Trickle Down Theory as espoused by the University of Chicago Economics Department was based on Ayn Rand's writings. This has been a real creator of solid wealth and economic growth. This theory based on simple cost models that any 2nd grader could understand and freedom from government regulations has lifted the living standards of everyone. In 2008, the 59 trillion dollars of financial gain worldwide has brought untold happiness to everyone on the planet. Ayn Rand's theories have been adopted with success by the street commodity dealers (you can find them on many inner city and suburban street corners selling much sought after pharmaceuticals that bring relief to the underlings) who are spreading their wealth around by purchasing things in raw cash. Ayn Rand was a true patriot related to the Russian Royal family and inspired by her family loss of hard won wealth.

Kenny T

Crypto-Fascist? Someone is obviously historically ignorant if they think that fascism advocated small government and individual rights. Whoever deemed that fascism was right-wing, was an intellectual moron. Christina Patterson only seeks to lay the blame away from herself and her posse of leftists seeking to 'improve' society at the sake of the individual. The government has forced altruism down the throats of its citizens for far too long.

Don Jakel

Christina,
It is obvious that you have no substantive facts to support your argument, because there are none. Every collectivist, socialist, communist system has failed or is failing, including the USA's semi-collectivist system we have endured for the past 80 years. Free market capitalism worked great in the USA for 150 years. We will bring it back when your pal, Obama, fails. He will be brought down by the bond vigilantes who will refuse to buy any more of our bonds issued to fund this massive expansion of government.

It is time to strike and not feed the looters any longer. We should withhold what capital we have, engage in legal tax avoidance, and limit our productive efforts to providing for our basic needs. In a matter of months, interest rates will rise dramatically, the dollar will decline, and hyperinflation will emerge. That will be the time for John Galt's speech. We must stand ready to dismantle our bureaucracies and rebuild a smaller government that will protect our individual rights.

C Ross

Unfortunately, just as there is no such thing as true altruism, there also is no such thing as true objectivity. All manner of things, happiness, thoughtfulness, or even consideration of others, are subjective in the human mind. If there were such a thing as true objectivity it would no longer be philosophical, but rather theological, and therefore a belief which then makes objectivity subjective.

This then makes rational self-interest a very considerate process toward others as well, particularly when rational is underscored with definitiveness of purpose.

Kelly

The economy already had an Ayn Rand.

His name was Alan Greenspan, and he didn't believe in using the Fed to pop asset bubbles--even though, as we now see, the Fed has no power to repair the damage asset bubbles can cause.

Everyone should forget about Ayn Rand.

Suzanne

I read Ayn Rand some years ago, and as a Christian I have a different perspective that works with her philosophy. God gives people free will, the ability to chose how they want to live their life. Having the government force people to give their hard or smart earned money to others is not the way to go. Or rewarding those who don't want to work is not good business. Many people who have made money, willingly work to help others with their money and I believe those endeavors are much more successful than a welfare state. I very much want to help people who want to help themselves I do not want to help people who just expect the government to support them and there are many of each type.

Leslie

Somehow I doubt that many of the con responses have actually read Atlas Shrugged or another of Rand's prolific works. As she states "the common bond amongst men is not the exchange of suffering, but the exchange of goods. Money demands that you sell, not your weakness to men's stupidity, but your talent to their reason."

American has forgotten the roots on which it was built. We have the unearned expectation that others help pay our medical coverage, our mortgages, our retirement. We have become lazy and entitled. Please, America, embrace the true notion of Objectivism, which is to expect nothing more in life than exactly what you have worked for; expect nothing from people except what you have earned through work not through guilt or pity; expect work to hurt and do it anyway.

John Galc

Christina conjures up an explanation laying waste on her perceived ideological foe, the rights of individuals. Quick to toss the book without reading or understanding it, Christina may be perhaps another paid-for advocate in a world of agendas.

Fact is, the Federal Reserve Bank increased the mandatory reserve requirement of member banks from $8 billion to $848 billion in December 2008. As a private corporation, the Fed basically controls the money supply. And if it weren't for the quid pro quo of Woodrow Wilson's need for paying his campaign's expenses, perhaps there would not be a Federal Reserve Bank of 1913. Antitrust law makes monopolies illegal, yet capital is fundamental to all business and the trading of capital is the natural Fed business. Stripping away credit for the automotive business so heavily dependent on its use in maintaining sales because the price of vehicles relative to man-hours has increased while the purchasing power of the dollar is being drained, actually reallocated to a select minority.

The current economic malaise appears to be an engineered collapse, makes you wonder about the World Trade Center when you view AE911truth.org and the youtube videos.


z.

No one group is greedier than government--money, power, control. Greed should not be equated with rational self interest. They are different.

Bill Scott

What collectivists and pie-in-the-sky, glib elites like Patterson ignore is the most basic of human characteristics: motivation. What's to motivate "producers"--people who work for a paycheck, people who build businesses, people who strive to improve their lives and those of their families via their own efforts--to continue working, when their government confiscates more and more of their earnings, then gives it to nonproducers?

It may be illegal to not pay federal taxes, but what would happen to Obama's, Reid's and Pelosi's grand tax-and-spend plans, if we producers simply chose to drop out? I, as a producer, can choose to quit working and go on the public dole.

So, go ahead, wanna-be European-style socialists. Tax the "nothing" I'm earning and transfer that nothing to the "more-deserving" as you see fit. Can you spell "ZERO?" I'm through slaving half of every year, just to pay for nonsensical feel-good programs that, historically, only increase dependency and undermine self-motivation.

Do I hear an echo of Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged?" This time around, though, it won't be the captains of industry who drop out, as they did in "Atlas." No, this time, the grassroots producers are quitting. Imagine what will happen to federal tax revenues, if/when all of us working-level producers simply quit! Do you really think China and Saudi Arabia will keep buying U.S. debt, knowing American citizens are quitting, thereby not paying taxes into federal coffers?

Without an opportunity to better our lives through our own labors, where's the motivation to ever work again? If 50% or more of everything we earn is confiscated and wasted on "spread-the-wealth" programs, why work? If our elected officials--most of whom have NEVER held a real job or run a business--want to take more and more from me, then I quit.

Bottom line: Rand's principles aren't about greed or selfishness. They're about individual freedom and motivation. And her words and philosophies still ring true.

Karl

Miss Patterson has created an exemplar of what would be called, in a book of falacies, building a straw man. She misrepresents Ayn Rand's ideas and then tears them down as if they are real.

Pete Chin

Ms. Patterson:
"And he writes a hell of a lot better than Ayn Rand"

Not.

"The Fountainhead" continues to sell 100,000 copies a year in 2009, a mere 66 years after it's publish date of 1943.

"Atlas Shrugged" sells 200,000 copies every year, a mere 52 years after it's publish date of 1957.

How many tens of millions of high school students were helped to write better by reading "Anthem" as required English reading?

Too bad Ayn Rand wasn't a good writer.

I don't imagine that people will be buying Obama books in 2061 in those numbers.

I don't imagine that people will be reading Ms. Patterson's Blog postings in any numbers in 2010....

Don't confuse good candidate branding/marketing for good writing.

Thanks for the breath of absurdity for the day, Ms. Patterson.

Crabby

Christina, only liberals run to mommy or daddy to "fix it." The rest of us are adults and can take care of ourselves, if only the government would get out of the way. We're not whiners, slackers, or cry-babies.

But I haven't met a liberal yet who hasn't sat on his or her duff and waited for someone else to "fix it" or try and find someone else (certainly not them) to blame for their problems. Grow up.

Mark

Christina isn't worthy of a retort. She represents all the cowards who are afraid that in a free market system she'd be passed by due to inferiority.

You can find me in the Gulch.

Eddie Willers

To Kelly:
The Ayn Rand institute has formally and publicly denounced the actions of Greenspan as not aligned with Objectivism. Though he was mentored by Ms. Rand, the institute disociated itself with him.

BR

I would like to congratulate Ms. Patterson for writing a courageous expose on the sorry state of Objectivism. The torrent of comments she has engendered shows simple desperation on the side of Ayn Rand fans. Of course Greenspan is one of the most notable Objectivists, and of course he was responsible for a lot of what has happened with the economy. The fact that he faced up to it and said he was shocked by people's lack of ability to self-regulate makes Objectivists dissociate themselves from him in panic.

I will admit that the high book-sale numbers are a bit of a mystery. I guess there is something seductive in a philosophy that encourages selfishness and greed above all else. I find that disgusting, but so are some other human traits. I guess all we can do is take the good with the bad.

Micah

I never knew until today that I was a "crypto-fascist"'(I stand with Ayn Rand). Can anyone tell me what that means? Last time I checked fascism was a system that promoted the good of the collective right along side of socialism or Communism. As for crypto, maybe Ms. Patterson was just totally confused and unable to understand ideas that promote prosperity.

Marcus

To BR:
I suggest actually reading Rand before you try to argue against her ideas. You attempt to equate selfishness with greed. Had you read her books, you would understand that the protagonists are always those that produce great products that are worthy of just compensation, and it is that compensation that motivates them to create quality products. The antagonists, or second-handers (looters), are the greedy ones looting the producers. The looters seek compensation for having produced nothing of value. Rand exalts those who advance mankind, "The great creators—-the thinkers, the artists, the scientists, the inventors," and despises those who would stand in their way, or attempt to leech off of their achievements.

I was "seduced," as you would say, by her philosophy, because it inspired me to reach for greatness and to pursue excellence in both engineering and music. Selfishness is about Rearden engineering a miracle metal that is stronger than steel after 10 years of labor-intensive lab experimentation; it is about Galt creating a motor that runs on static electricity; it is about Roark creating architectural masterpieces through his uncompromising artistic vision.

"He ignores the driving preoccupations of the world around him: wealth, status, social standing among the elite. Roark takes pleasure in the act of creation."--Wikipedia

By the way, do any of those names ring a bell?

“The creators were not selfless. It is the whole secret of their power—that it was self-sufficient, self-motivated, self-generated. A first cause, a fount of energy, a life force, a Prime Mover. The creator served nothing and no one. He lived for himself. “And only by living for himself was he able to achieve the things which are the glory of mankind. Such is the nature of achievement."

I suggest changing the word "greed" in your retort to "achievement." The next time you decide to be disgusted by something, I hope you at least understand what it is that disgusts you. I hope you now understand why there were so many opposed to Christina's ignorant viewpoint, because both of you are attempting to argue against something you know nothing about.

If you want to learn more about her philosophy but don't have time to read her books, then here is a good source:

http://www.nasonart.com/personal/lifelessons/fountainhead.html

It's Roark's end speech

Frank

@ Christina Patterson:
Thank you for showing and proving that we have nothing to fear, intellectually, from those that oppose Rand's ideas and ideals. Your response was quite comical. It may scare you that you and your counterparts will have to actually take some responsibility, but guess what? We are coming, and we will win. To you and all your cohorts, "We do not need you."

Rhys

It's not right that we should have to even debate this issue. Who is this frightened child, Christina Patterson, who is allowed to write for this magazine, hypocritically calling itself "BusinessWeek"?

Sean

FDR saved the country? He brought us from the brink of disaster? Need I remind you that government intervention consisted of huge price fixing under the NIRA, which destroyed small businesses and created government owned monopolies that raised product prices? Or should I remind you that Keynes wrote a letter to Roosevelt, imploring him to stop "reforming" the economy, and just use government spending to bolster the private sector, not destroy it?

Should I remind you that Roosevelt failed at all of his private ventures (working at a law firm, an investor) and his economics professor called him lazy? And he is the hero we entrusted to save us? If he was such a good leader, why did we stay in the Great Depression for as long as we did, but as soon as WWII came, we were out?

FDR was probably one of the worst presidents we had, yet he is lauded as some great leader. Do not use him as an example of this counter-Rand argument.

The clothes you wear, the cars you drive, the house you live in were not given to you; they were built and sold for a profit to mutual benefit. The seller and you made a profit: You have shoes and a house, and the seller has money. There was no loss. But there is a philosophy saying that that trade was evil, and you should be ashamed because there are poor people in the world who might never have shoes.

If your philosophy tells you that sacrificing yourself and devoting yourself to weaker others is good, I have a question. Mother Theresa, called a saint and savior, lauded as the utmost moral being, helped countless people in India. Could she have been considered great and moral if there was no poverty and suffering in India? If people were happy, could an altruist be moral?

If you answered no (the only logical choice) then you understand something about selfless ethics: there has to be death and suffering in order for there to be morality. Capitalism asks you not to suffer, but to be prosperous and be happy; altruism asks you to be needy, deprived, and weak. Capitalism is life, collectivism is death.

When people whine about the greedy, selfish investors, venture capitalists, and hedge funds, they have a mindset that says such people are evil and immoral. But a banker does not steal money, only trades it to mutual benefit (the trader would not enter into an exchange if he was going to lose something). His success is a direct result of his talent: The more opportunities you find, the greater his prowess, the more successful he has.

Did he steal money (yes if he took government money)? No, but he created money for his partners and himself. His symbol is a dollar and a handshake. The government only moves money around and doesn't create anything. Its authority only comes from guns, not opportunity. When the government gets involved in the market, it is only through force or coercion and not free will and opportunity. Try not paying your income taxes and you might very well see a gun.

Ayn Rand asks you to live, the government threatens your life, and altruism/collectivism thinks you’re great only if you are suffering. Why is there a debate on this?

BR

To Marcus:

Your summary of what seduced you about Rand makes interesting reading--thanks.

I don't see why you have to accuse people who disagree with you of not reading the books. I did read them and I found them repulsive. Why can't you accept that? Do you not see how someone else can have another opinion? Is that not allowed in Rand's philosophy? I simply don't think that selfishness creates a better life for the maximum number of people possible, which I think should be the goal. I don't buy the whole "if you help someone you are making them weaker" argument either.

Anyway, clearly we can't resolve the whole issue here. Thanks again for your answer.

James B

The contents of more than a few posts here demonstrate a much less than clear understanding of Objectivism and its life-promoting possibilities not only for those who practice it but for all those who interact with those who do.

BR, the only means by which 'the maximum number of people possible' can live the best life possible (within the constraints of each individual's immutable circumstances)--a life 'as it might be and ought to be'--is for all people to be free to live lives of rational self-interest, i.e., to live consistently in accordance with the principles of Objectivism, protected from all coercive forces by a government limited strictly to the protection of individual rights, i.e., the rights to life, liberty, property and the unrestricted pursuit of happiness. To help further your understanding of Objectivism, I exhort you to read carefully Craig Biddle's 'Loving Life' and then Leonard Peikoff's 'Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand.'

In order to convince others of the rightness of laissez-faire capitalism, it is not enough merely to demontrate the morality of laissez-faire capitalism as a corollary of rational self-interest in a social setting; it is necessary also to demonstrate its peerless economic efficiency and, in particular, the net detrimental effects of government regulation at all levels of society and the economy. To this end, a broadening of vision is required; a vision that sees not only the local and immediate effects of an action (or policy) but also the potentially myriad knock-on effects of that action (or policy), which may take months or years to manifest fully. As a means to gaining this vision, I recommend, among others, Henry Hazlitt's 'Economics in One Lesson,' then Andrew Bernstein's 'The Capitalist Manifesto,' and finally, for those who desire a complete and integrated understanding, George Reisman's 'Capitalism.'

Finally, Alan Greenspan is no more of an objectivist than is Barack Obama or George W. Bush. Whatever principles of Objectivism Greenspan might have espoused in his less obfuscated earlier years he most assuredly renounced upon accepting the position of chairman of the Federal Reserve System. To assert that Greenspan while chairman of the FRS, arguably the most coercive and anti-capitalist of all government regulatory systems, was an objectivist is to assert a contradiction that surely betrays a lack of understanding of Objectivism or economics or, more probably, both. Incidentally, the only objective solution to the Federal Reserve System is, of course, its abolition.

Ron Berrington ex Unisys, NZ

"CompEng" (I was one, too) lacks understanding of Objective philosophy. Rand did not espouse mindless self-gratification but rather rational self-interest. One would have thought that a "CompEng" would examine the wiring diagram before attacking it with a (rather blunt) soldering iron.

JP Miller

I am happy to hear that Christina Patterson accuses Ayn Rand of purple prose. Many critics think Rand dry and incapable of evoking emotion. Of course she is neither. Nor is she a fascist or a hidden one. She spent her life fighting collectivism and statism of any flavor including fascism (the nominal private ownership of business with total state control). She opposed the mind numbing control of the state, the collective, the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the Reich with every breath she took because they destroy man's tool of survival--his mind.

Obama is at least a good enough writer that it is clear he has a low opinion of Americans, "They need an assurance that somebody out there cares about them, is listening to them--that they are not just destined to travel down a long highway towards nothingness." (Obama from The Audacity of Hope.) It sounds a lot like Ms Patterson's sneering attempt on Rand and her admirers, "But human beings are simple creatures. Hit us and we'll run screaming to our mummies and daddies…"

Ayn Rand rather wrote about heroic characters, who were strong, capable, and efficacious, who built, created, and accomplished goals through the means of independent thinking, without mooching off the state or anyone for support. Her heroes were the very essence of American heroes who neither grant the unearned nor seek it. No such hero can succeed without a philosophy grounded in reality and guided by reason. The philosophy Ayn Rand created, Objectivism, is the very opposite of the neo-Kantian solipsism Ms. Patterson slings at her.

The kindest thing I can say about Christina Patterson's article is that she has not read or comprehended anything Ayn Rand wrote. I am more inclined to think that, because she got every point wrong that she was maliciously attempting to smear Miss Rand. Reality is the final arbiter for Rand, and that is no solipsism.

Ayn

"The kindest thing I can say about Christina Patterson's article is that she has not read or comprehended anything Ayn Rand wrote. I am more inclined to think that, because she got every point wrong that she was maliciously attempting to smear Miss Rand. Reality is the final arbiter for Rand, and that is no solipsism."

I agree with this. It's very easy to point a finger on the term "greed"--especially for those who do not fully understand why it's a popular adjective for "honest" businessmen. We have to remember that Rand never used this term personally to describe her protagonists, she mainly borrowed the term from those who refuse to understand how capitalism works. I have to emphasize that her philosophy upholds not the capitalists who use power to get more than what they worked for but rather those who work through honest means--whether you are a small store owner or a CEO. Rand salutes those who work in exchange for something as valuable. No more, no less.

Ayn Parel

For Ms. Patterson

"So you think that money is the root of all evil?” said Francisco d’Anconia, "Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?"
-Atlas Shrugged

Ron H

Name calling? If the term were accurate, how does "crypto-fascist" bolster a case on what to do about the economy?

When a business (or person) succeeds for having a better product or technology, we complain that it's dog eat dog. When the federal government picks winners and losers through tax policy, regulations, and bailouts, we call it a big brain and a cool head.

Securitized bundles of toxic debt don't happen without Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the picture. They are the result of government interference to create a market for risky mortgages. If no one had been willing to buy the mortgages and if the government hadn't used regulatory threats to insist banks make the loans, the bundles wouldn't exist.

C. Jeffery Small

There is no need to respond to Christina Patterson's comments. Her words speak for themselves. They contain smears and misrepresentations without one wit of an actual idea represented. Reading these two pieces of opinion is exactly like listening to an adult attempt to "debate" a screaming child throwing a temper tantrum. The child doesn't know how to reason and argue a point, so it substitutes yelling and whining in its place, expecting that shear volume will drown out the opposition and win the day.

It's sad--but more important, it's disgusting that we live in a culture that is permeated by these "children" who both act in this manner or else respond positively to it. And, at a fundamental level, it is the decay of our culture to such a level that is ultimately responsible for the current state of the world.

Regards,
C. Jeffery Small

Albert

Christina Patterson is the problem, not the solution.

She fails to mention our capitalist system also produced Ford, Edison, Gates, and millions of other entrepreneurs.

Causality Seeker

Oh dear, Christina. She really has missed the point, hasn't she? Those "idiots" were doing what human nature leads them to do, making the best of the situation in which they find themselves. If cheap credit and government policy intervention had not allowed a distorted market for credit, this would not have been possible.

annoyed of england

And what's more, one of Rand's central points is that humans are far from "simple creatures." They have the capacity to act with a volitional consciousness on a rational basis. I'm sure I don't need to produce a list of man's achieve to demonstrate this. Unfortunately people like Christina think only government employees are capable of deciding who deserves and who does not, and by suspending the use of rational thinking, they can put off the day when such an unsustainable system comes home to bite us on the rear. How on earth can anyone read Atlas and perceive the main characters to be anything but moral; they ask nothing of anybody else. There are many things we could potentially call Ayn Rand. Fascist is certainly not one of them.

Ryan Wilson

From the analysis of both rebuttals, it is obvious Christina Patterson was not fit to contribute a response on the same intellectual level as Onkar Ghate.

The statements made in Christina Patterson's response clearly demonstrate an ignorance of Objectivist philosophy and Ayn Rand's novels. Ayn Rand's philosophy was not a promoter of greed, but of rational self-interest, resembling very closely the Declaration of Independence.

Christina Patterson should begin by reading the Constitution (and other works of our country's Founding Fathers), Objectivist philosophy, and Ayn Rand's novels. Because clearly she has never researched into these writings, but yet feels equipped to speak on them like an expert?

"It’s time, boys and girls, to grow up. Just thank your lucky stars that the new guy in the White House has a big brain and a cool head. And he writes a hell of a lot better than Ayn Rand."

Right...I believe this Christina Patterson is better suited to writing tabloids and on other immature irrelevancies, than serious matters such as economics and business.

John

Anyone notice the huge difference in tone and rationality between the two views? One is reasoned, presenting an idea and defending it, and one is angry, insulting, and ranting. No points for identifying which is which.

By the way, "crypto-fascist"? How does advocating for the removal of government controls over life, liberty, and property be fascist? Does she understand the meaning of the term?

Frank

Typical. One presents a thoughtful, cogent argument; the other engages in emotional diatribe. I'll listen to the "cooler" head, thanks.

Stephen Grossman

Travis says unregulated, shadow banking is proof that America has a capitalist economy. But this is the pragmatist isolation of facts from each other. Yes, there are parts of the economy that are unregulated. But there are parts that are regulated.
We have a mixed economy. The capitalist part produces wealth. The regulated part drains wealth from the capitalist part.

Specifically, money is supplied by government and the financial industry is overwhelmingly controlled and subsidized by government, whatever parts may have been left free. Government's massive inflation of money and credit, not backed by production, profit, and savings, pushed through the economy like a pig through a python, bloating industry after industry with unsustainable investments, i.e., a boom. This destructive government money and government credit eventually went to the unregulated, shadow banking industry and the boom boomed.

But without that worthless, counterfeit, government money and government credit, there would not have been a massive amount of unsustainable investment. And there would have been no boom and no bust. Travis is implying that only a totalitarian socialist economy is consistent with government money and government credit. Agreed. See Soviet Union, North Korea.

Stephen Grossman

Christina Patterson calls Rand a fascist because Patterson is using equality/inequality as the basic political alternative. In the context of inequality, capitalism and fascism are identical. Within the context of inequality, the difference between the ability to produce and the ability to force others to obey is non-basic. The proper, rational alternative of individual rights/collectivism is not Patterson's context.

Everything exists. Everything is limited. Know your limits (especially in waterfront bars).

Lt.

Is it just me or is Patterson a toxic mix of Bertram Scudder and Ellsworth Toohey?

Her "argument," which is little more than a half-thought-out emotional screed devoid of any rational point or argument whatsoever, could have been plucked right out out the fictional columns and screeds of Rand's antagonists.

Seriously. Go read the moralizing rants preached and/or published repeatedly by Bertram Scudder or Balph Eubank. Rand had these people nailed decades ago, and they haven't changed a bit. They're stuck in a permanent state of arrested intellectual development--probably stopped learning and thinking at the end of elementary school.

She had them dead to rights, and they know it. Hence, the visceral hatred and irrational responses her critics often display at the mere mention of her name.

Jennifer K

If Christina is representative of the opposition to Ayn Rand's ideas, the future is looking a whole lot brighter. Her ilk will be washed away like the bugs that accumulate on my helmet visor.

Ross C

I like how every comment I have read sides with Rand.

I agree with Jennifer, maybe the future is looking up.

Sterling

I, too, am glad to see the overwhelming agreement with Ghate's argument.

I think his landslide on this argument is the fact that he explicitly states a solution to the problem where as Christina simply says, "We don't know what will get us out of it." I think we should take her word for it. She certainly doesn't know how to fix the problem where as we, us Objectivists, do.

Joshua

People often sneer at the objectivist use of the word 'selfishness.' The term has been black-balled by society, though it's true definition provides no moral evaluation. When asked why she used the term selfish, Ayn Rand replied, 'For the very reason you are afraid of it.'

The kind of selfishness, or greed, which Ms. Patterson uses interchangeably is heavily reliant on a subjective or whimsical application--or decisions made without rational understanding.
To label Ayn Rand a subjectivist, rationalizing the world to fit her own designs, is to over look two of her concurrent themes that are present in her every thought: The law of identity--A is A, and nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.

Ms. Patterson is further characterized by her textbook solutions and rhetorical questions, which suggest an attitude of blind faith--that 'someone' will fix the problem 'somehow,' and philosophical impotence suggesting, 'we don't know what will get us out of it.' Clearly an institution of men, created by men, will be better equipped to solve the issues that individual men cannot understand?

As for Fascism, on of Ayn Rand's books was made into a feature film in Italy under Mussolini--without her authorization--and was later banned by the government.

jason

Was this staged in preference of the objectivist viewpoint? Why else would they pick an intellectual midget to dispute rationality? Oh well.

Espresso Logic

Did AR and RR ever cross paths?

RR is my hero. I just discovered AR, and I'm sorry it took 52 years.

FP

Ayn Rand is no more a secret admirer of fascism as Blah Blah-Blah is a quite supporter of Capitalism. Let's be clear. Ms. Rand is a radical for happiness and Capitalism. Ms. Blah-Blah is a radical for self sacrifice and big government.

TOM

Rand teaching influenced Greenspan, and this contributed to the financial collapse last year. Markets without rules lead to caosis. A few greedy investors who leverage and take major risk can affect everyone, even those who weren't involved in the transactions. This is why Rand's philosphy on less government regulation is a ludicris corupted point of view. Any government official,(AKA Larry Sommers and Greenspan) should be held accountable for allowing this to happen.
Brooksy Born, the head of the Agriculture Commodities exchange, tried to regulate derivatives, but Greenspan and Sommers had Congress pull the rug from under her. Look where we are now.

Anthony R

1) Greenspan definitely contributed to the financial collapse. But please tell me how controlling interest rates and the money supply is 'free market.' Alan Greenspan abandoned Rand's principles long ago.

2) Christina, the Objectivists you spoke of did grow up. If you try to take our sweets now we won't cry about it. We will punch you square in the nose.

To your credit you have gotten past being a Terrible Two. Unfortunately you're stuck at Fascist Five. If Rand was a crypto-fascist she at least had the sense to hide it. You, on the other hand, declare it openly. You say, "sacrifice yourself or go to prison." How very mature of you.

SnowDog

Greed is good! How can it be bad?

DAVID BOLDING

It appears to this humble observer that Christina has not read Rand.

Paul Beaird

In such a busy world, with 10,000 things to read every hour, one has to decide quickly what is worth reading in its entirety or to drop.
Ignorance of his subject is a big clue. When Christina Patterson thinks that Ayn Rand's morality of rational self-interest has anything to do with the Marxist misinterpretation of Capitalism as "dog eat dog" (which isn't true of Capitalism or dogs), then you can stop reading. If you keep reading and you find her equating the heavily regulated financial market, whose major mistake was believing government's promises to back unjustified mortgage loans, (remember Fannie Man, Freddie Mac?, and then equate that with Capitalism, clearly hasn't read von Mises, Ayn Rand, George Reisman, or Andrew Bernstein's book on Capitalism.

And, the laugh of her brief colums, if she thinks Barack Hussein Obamba writes better than Ayn Rand, it explains why Christina Patterson is such a pedantic writer herself. Two women, one man, which one has the runaway best-seller, still selling strong after half-a-century?

If you're reading this and in doubt, pick up Atlas Shrugged and see for yourself what all the fuss is about.

Laura Francis

Ms. Patterson's comments are the perfect example of the debater's technique: "If you can't intelligently defend your position, resort to personal, emotional attacks." It would be laughable if it weren't also the technique and opinion of so many of our government representatives.

Paul McElroy

Whenever I hear leftists, progressives, and in general the whole communist/socialist/fascist (authoritarian) crowd tell capitalists to "grow up," all I really hear is a child telling grown adults to accept enslavement and tyranny and to do so without so much as a struggle or a whimper.

Ms. Patterson is a pessimist on the subject of human nature; there is no convincing her of the virtue of selfishness.

M Erovich

About a 100 years ago Russia and much of Europe was full of Christina Pattersons and her ideas. They had "grown up" into 70 years of communist tyranny known as Soviet Union.

In that country the brightest scientists, doctors, professionals and highly skilled workers all thought they didn't need much to enjoy life and could give away 90% of results of their labor to the "public good." It did not bother them that much of what they gave away went to kill and control people in the country and other parts of the world. The education system bred more of such "happy" selfless slaves.

The global political elite seems to have figured out a way to build societies similar to that of the old Soviet Union without actually calling it communism. It is simply frightening that the majority in the US is scared of "capitalist greed" and thinks the new "cool headed" (!) czar will show the path to bright future. "Grown men don't need leaders."

Kshitiz

I have read Ayn Rand only about a year back. Before reading her, I had read "The Alchemist" which was difficult for me to understand as it only proclaimed like following your dream. If we consider dream as one's passion then Alchemist appears to be partially correct but it is very localised and does not give a comprehensive picture.
After reading the Alchemist, I came across "Fountainhead" by Ayn Rand. This book gave me some idea about a different line of thinking about hard work and following one's passions honestly but still it wasn't very comprehensive for me.
Further on, I came across "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand. This book was very complicated but provided a comprehnesive outlook of the ideas woven into a ideal life. I liked it but still trying to understand it fully. but the ideas given in the above acticle by Christina Patterson that Ayn Rand supported dog eat dog policy do not seem correct. I think, the author needs to understand Ayn Rand's writings more closely.

Werner

What matters here is what libertarianism and objectivism mean in practice. There is no such thing as a limited state. Governments don't work that way as everyone knows, I hope. These limited government types want the military "stuff" without the "other" stuff. Well so do Marxists. Every Communist nation is basically run as if it were an army. In the US, there are people who work for outfits which would never exist without government subsidies. These people often call themselves libertarians. There are career soldiers whose only contact with private enterprise is the local 7/11. Who is kidding whom here?

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