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Ayn Rand has come up in conversations with conservatives lately. She was my gateway drug into philosophy, and I even attended a taped lecture series of hers while in college. It’s fascinating to me that when I hear Paul Ryan and others espouse her as the source for justifying deregulation of the market, they neglect to talk about her atheism and her ethical stance against those who seek power for power’s sake.

I now see Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism as fundamentally flawed and dangerously simplistic. However, I understand it’s pull, and the influence of Atlas Shrugged and the Fountainhead still seems to be part of the American “self-reliance” and “trickle-down” myths. I just think it’s interesting that her fans seem to conveniently forget her outspoken atheism.

Any students of Ayn Rand out there? Thoughts?

grasshopper 4 Aug 3

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She takes some interesting truths and then thinks the world can be guided by simplistic aphorisms, completely discounting the facts of the world in many cases, and completely ignoring human nature in others.

Objectivism is fundamentally flawed, and the fact that in it's premise is that reason is the only absolute path to knowledge while being so inconsistent in it's principles is mind-numbing. but Rational Self Interest and personal responsibility are. She simply makes the same false assumption that a lot of people make, which is that financial success is proof of some inherent worth or intelligence, when the truth is there are many paths to success.

the problem with Rational Self Interest is that for most it equals selfishness, even though John Nash Jr. proved that the most rational self interest is to increase the success of all members of the group, because the total success of the group will then improve, including the success of those at the top. It is better to make a bigger pie and share it with everyone when you are getting a percentage of the pie, than it is to take the biggest share of a small pie, I don't have all the math but it's pretty fundamental.

She also refuses to acknowledge that society is not "a bunch of individuals living near each other", but an entity which has it's own needs, sometimes in conflict with the "pursuit of happiness" of the individuals in it. Unregulated ANYTHING that intersects with society is bad for society, even when it is good for a subset of that society.

@jellyfish "at the expense of no one" is the operating point. and "should" is a meaningless term without supplying the conditional it is based on.

as for "give the money", that is completely non-sequitor, it relates to nothing I said at all.

by the way, I was not arguing about Rational Self Interest, I agree with it. I was arguing about the simplistic nature of the way Rand presented it, and the way her followers implement it.


Full disclosure I only know about Rand from other people who have read her books. It just did not sound interesting to me. But I read the bible and that was mostly because I knew it was full of it. What you said does interest me. So maybe I should read and understand her a little better. It would take a lot less time than the bible.

I don’t think they are a waste of time. Some of her basic premises are very wrong, but there are also some valuable insights to be had. And, like the characters of Bible stories, her characters come up in conversation now and then. If nothing else, her stories are memorable.


It's the over-simplification, I think, that makes Ayn Rand's thesis so attractive to neocon economic fundamentalists. Like religious fundamentalists, they look for easy answers to difficult and complex questions. They both buy in to a mythology with a simple narrative based on false premises because it is easier than learning how the world really works.


I've dealt with too many objectivists to think of the entire philosophy as anything other than selfish, childish, abusive sociopathy. They were also all, to a being, horribly ablist. I refuse to have my worth as a human being reduced to how other people can use me.


When I was 19 and listening to The Smiths and feeling angsty I read her work like crazy because I wanted validation that I was a special individual rebelling against the mainstream and all that other stuff angsty kids do. Then I got over myself.


When I was young far more open minded, I read her books. What I got out of them was a vague sense of personal responsibility for my destiny, and a huge sense of doing everything in my power stop the very poeple she penned as heros. My belief in working as hard as you can to build and maintain community was strengthened. My disdain for the Christian right movement was strengthened by her writing.


Hell even the "Liberal" media ignores her atheism and talk against Power Strokes.

twill Level 7 Aug 4, 2018

Any Rand, a Russian-American novelist, has been and still is Paul Ryan's mentor and inspiration for his style of government. Ayn Rand's ideals are what these people have been pushing for years. They may not speak her name much but they push her policies.


I think hardly anybody outside the US reads or cares about Rand. She's generally regarded as having made selfishness into a philosophy and dismissed on that account. Seeing her on film she appears fanatic and socially dysfunctional, if not actually sociopathic. I've found nothing to like, either in the woman or her thoughts, and I won't be reading her any time soon.

I can confirm what you say about her influence outside the US. A few years ago her "Atlas shrugged" was translated into German, but not by some renowned publisher, but by a little organization of libertarians. Her ideas are almost never discussed in germany, and if they are mentioned at all, the commentary is mostly dismissive, how simplistic this "philosophy" is, not to be taken seriously.

@Matias Interesting! And, comforting.


I loathe Rand. If I walk into someone's place and they have Rand on their shelf, then that is a huge red flag.

Don't be so quick to judge people based on the contents of their bookshelves. I have Atlas Shrugged, the Qur'an, the Bible, Mein Kampf, Das Kapital, and other controversial works. These are valuable for reference purposes, not for philosophical or political guidance.

Just having Ayn Rand shouldn't be a red flag. (Nor a bible or koran or any other book).

Before she went COMPLETELY off the deep end, I used to read Coulter. I think I would confuse the librarian when I would get Franklin and Coulter at the same time.

It's best to know your "enemy". I surely have a couple of Rand books around here (although they would be difficult to find, amongst the thousands of other books), but that doesn't mean I approve of her (and surely you know, she spent her final years surviving on government assistance)

@PBuck0145 Mein Kampf. Proud to say, I have never referred to that. It’s the toilet of books and a stain on humanity.

@Livia Ignoring reprehensible ideas will not make them disappear. They need to be understood and vigorously opposed.

My mum lived in London in the Blitz as a child and was forever changed by that. London looked like Aleppo in parts. She helped her dad pull bodies and body parts of neighbors from the rubble in an effort to find people. She knew all about Hitler and the holocaust and educated me on the concentration camps and from a very young age, I understood propaganda and history. I don’t need to read filth to understand what fascism and nationalism are or what they lead to. There are millions of books on the topic with sensible academic analysis. Mein Kampf is a propaganda tool. End of. I do anything but ignore fascism. I have made sure I know the warning signs, and I am very anti-fascist. I am not going to read a book that inspired the genocide of Jews and the systematic murder of gays, socialists, Roma and the disabled. Claiming Mein Kampf is a reference book is similar to when child abusers call their internet history “research”. No, I am 100 opposed to the ownership of that book. If you want to reference it, do a google search. It’s not something that should be bought or sold or be on a bookshop shelf. Any shelf.


Some time ago a group known as the Brights started with meeting in some cities including Seattle. I discovered a lot of conservative atheists and was puzzled. One guy gave me "Atlas Shrugged" and said it was the greatest book ever written. I started and only got part way when I thought what was this guy smoking. I ended up reading the whole piece of trash and then wondered what I was smoking to read the whole thing?


I read all of Ayn Rand's major works back in the mid 1960s and found her interesting, but , in a way I could not identify at the time, somehow off-key. Over time, like you, I came to see that her main messages were (1)greed is good, (20 I have the freedom do what I want and no one has anything to say about it, and (4) all government is bad.


Her 'big two' were part of my undergrad reading along with 'zen and the art' and 'foucaults pendulum'... they were what the cool kids were reading. My maleable mind though I was awesome for reading them.. have reread them since and see now how self indulgent and impractical they are

Each does have a profound moment or two though

Teter Level 4 Aug 3, 2018

It is interesting, although not many admit to liking her. Ryan was kind of different in admitting that. I think they are either atheists in private or simply dismiss that aspect.

Yeah, I admit to being a fan for awhile in my teens. I’m glad I didn’t get stuck there.

Conservative politicians who are Atheists in private? That sounds like another topic! 🙂

@grasshopper We know they exist but that doesn't stop them from using religion.


That’s great!


I read just enough of her work to recognize that I didn't admire her or agree with her.

Deb57 Level 8 Aug 3, 2018

The only people I have known who are fans of Rand are adolescent girls.

@JanGarber Haha! Funny! I was an adolescent girl when I first read "Anthem."


Not a student of hers, but I've heard enough of her ideas espoused to know I'm not a fan, especially since the conservatives have taken her up.


Not a fan.

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