05/02/2012 – 2012 and Randian “Virtue” of Selfishness Part 2

Ayn Rand. Fanboys Assemble!

 “I swear—by my life and my love of it—that I will never live for  the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”

Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

It is a common assertion of the disciples of Ayn Rand’s philosophical vision of Selfishness to justify it by saying that sacrifice is something is something “contradictory to nature.”

Can selfishness seriously be raised to an ethical (or as Rand would say, a “rational”) level? Rand herself claimed that no philosopher had ever managed to offer a reason why there should even be a code of values to follow in the first place. ( A “hint” to the Randians: “To make life easier for everybody”). While I seriously doubt her assertion was true, [1] there remains a further question. What made Rand decide on Selfishness as her moral compass?

There is plenty of room for speculation, but essentially Rand’s Virtue of Selfishness can be reduced to this quote by her:

“I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows.”

The “rest” that “follows” is the appeal for the rationalization of naked greed dissembled as a logical and worthy enterprise. This is the Randian rational self-interest trope, AKA her “pursuit of happiness” taken to the extreme. Can you imagine a world where everyone took this applied pathology as the starting point of morality?  Well, it would much look like the sociopathic world we have now, but worse. (Thankfully, and I’m being ironic here, that the policeman inside the heads of our country’s citizens moderates sociopathic tendencies for the most part). And what makes egoism such a fail in terms of its application? Well, you’d be wading through a tornado of selfish pricks with competing self-interests to deal with. Yo, Randians! Sounds like fun to you, or what?

I can’t help but think that the followers of Ayn Rand are held hostage to a hero-worship that has arrested the development of their consciousness and common sense. To insist on the virtue of selfishness is to deny that human beings are social animals. I understand that in neoliberal, libertarian and Paleo-Conservative thought, they piss on rationalism and logic when they claim that  looking out for others is a bet made by suckers. “Living for the sake of another” means that you would gladly live in someone else’s shoes. Would the head of JP Morgan trade places with an African child soldier? Would Mark Zuckerberg trade places with a Latina trying to cross the US-Mexico border? No, they would – and so would you – do everything in their power to keep such a life away from them, and in that effort, keep the wheels of oppression grinding away as if their was no tomorrow.

I’m sick of fanboy Randians. They don’t know what they are really pushing for.


[1] Aristotle, who happened to be Rand’s favorite philosopher, provided her with the rational framework of her philosophy. The Greek Philosopher did present a line of reasoning for activating the “good will” within one towards the benefit of others (friendship) in his Nicomachean Ethics.  Rand distorted the self-love thesis of Aristotle and took it to an extreme abstraction where she proposed that the only justifiable act must be one of self-interest only, and where the benefits of others is ignored or must dovetail into the benefit of self-interest.

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