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article imageOp-Ed: Misunderstanding Ayn Rand

By Alexander Baron     Jan 2, 2012 in World
Bruce Levine is a psychologist who is critical of both the mental health industry and corporatism; his heart is in the right place, but he is on shaky ground when he attacks Ayn Rand.
Levine's anti-Rand polemic was apparently first published on AlterNet before Christmas, and was recently republished on Mathaba, an independent news site that while still offering some excellent alternative analysis to the mainstream media, has become increasingly bizarre in some of its pronouncements especially since the beginning of the revolt against Gaddafi.
While Dr Levine makes some valid criticisms of Rand's personal life, he fails dismally to understand her anti-authoritarian philosophy. Many great and simply famous men and women have led less than exemplary personal lives. For example, the actor Richard Burton was a heavy smoker (like Rand), an extremely heavy drinker if not an alcoholic, and married no less than 5 times, including twice to the same woman. Burton's fellow Welshman the poet Dylan Thomas drank himself to death aged 39.
Conversely, mass murderer Josef Stalin doted on his daughter, while in October 1933, a British journalist wrote incisively of the Führer: “Politically, Hitler's life is black with crime. But the private life of Hitler is without reproach. Alone among his fellow leaders his shield is pure.”
Even if Levine were not a Jew, he would certainly prefer life under Rand to life under Hitler. Rand herself was a Jew, a refugee from Soviet Russia, but unlike so many supposedly revolutionary or radical Jews who have embraced both communism and socialism with open arms, she saw through the shallow slogans, the rhetoric of the greater good, and the notion that if only the state controlled everything, all would be peace, light and roses.
The biggest chimera pushed by the left nowadays is racism; she tackled this non-problem in her book THE VIRTUE OF SELFISHNESS: A New Concept of Egoism which was published in 1964, a time when the word was barely used if known to the majority of Americans (or anyone else), and when the (equally duplicitous term) racialism was preferred.
In an essay called simply Racism, she pointed out succinctly that “...the smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights, cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.”
Rand's defence of minority rights extended to those of homosexuals. In 1971, she said of homosexuality “It involves psychological flaws, corruptions, errors, or unfortunate premises .... Therefore I regard it as immoral ... And more than that, if you want my really sincere opinion. It's disgusting.”
Today, such a public pronouncement would see her denounced to high heaven, but what did she say about the rights of homosexuals to practise their perversion? Here she is in her own words.
This is the classic Libertarian position of freedom for the thought we hate; freedom for the deed we hate; freedom for everything we hate as long as they don't try to force it on us, to make us love it, to give them special privileges the rest of us don't have. And most of all, as long as they don't expect us to subsidise it.
How exactly has this defence of homosexuals to do what homosexuals do to each other, of witches to cast spells, of prostitutes to ply their trade, of heroin addicts to stick needles in their own arms AND TAKE THE has this turned America into a selfish, greedy nation as Bruce Levine claims?
Rand's contempt for all forms of collectivism may have been pathological, but was it wrong? In The Monument Builders she writes: “Socialism is not a movement of the people. It is a movement of the intellectuals, originated, led and controlled by the intellectuals, carried by them out of their stuffy ivory towers into those bloody fields of practice where they unite with their allies and executors: the thugs.”
And again, she is spot on.
Unlike Bruce Levine, Ayn Rand was not a doctor, and she certainly did not have much of a bedside manner, although in her TV interviews she comes across as considerably more humane than in her writings, but the role of a doctor is to administer treatment that benefits the patient, even if the medicine is unpalatable and the therapy is at times painful. The socialists and other collectivists say nice things, they have a good bedside manner; they talk about protecting minorities - then pass and enforce repressive laws against the majority; they talk about redistributing the wealth - then steal from the rich with repressive taxation and use this money to build cumbersome, inefficient bureaucracies and protect jobs or entire industries that should be allowed to die.
This clip from the film Other People's Money pits the caring, responsible almost socialistic company boss played by Gregory Peck against ruthless parasite Larry the Liquidator played by Danny de Vito. It is clear which of these Bruce Levine would sympathise with, and equally clear who would get Ayn Rand's vote. It is also clear who is right. The rhetoric of Larry the Liquidator may seem harsh, as does Miss Rand's at times, but it is not he who is the parasite, it is the humane character played so empathetically by Gregory Peck. We have actually seen this scenario played out in the real world. Whatever his failings as a human being, and whatever his actual role in the phone hacking scandal and related sordid practices, Rupert Murdoch along with Robert Maxwell has dragged the newspaper industry kicking and screaming into the 21st Century, and since the death of Maxwell (in 1991) he has done so virtually single handed. This is undoubtedly the main reason he is hated so vitriolically by those mainstream journalists who do not work for him. If it were not for Murdoch, the newspaper industry would have died the death long ago because of the restrictive practices of those behind the scenes.
According to the Socialist Workers Party, Murdoch sacked 6,000 workers in 1986. The move of “Fleet Street” to Wapping resulted in at times violent demonstrations that these braindeads supported, but Murdoch's actions beg the question, if he was able to sack 6,000 workers yet increase productivity, what was he doing wrong? He was running a business, not a charity. It is a sad fact that throughout history the organised labour movement - and those like the SWP who pose as friends of organised labour - have consistently opposed the introduction of new technology. If they had succeeded, you wouldn't be reading this article now, because there would be no such things as computers, much less the Internet.
Returning to Ayn Rand, like all of us, she was far from perfect; she certainly had a rather narrow view of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and although she understood the evils of taxation including the futility of taxing the rich, she does not appear to have tackled the banking system to any great degree, this being the cause of our malaise, arguably since the founding of the Bank of England in 1694.
The major criticism made by Bruce Levine is that Rand set up herself as God:
“now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over the earth, this god whom men have sought since men came into being, this god who will grant them joy and peace and pride. This god, this one word: I.”
The point he misses is that in Rand's world, this applies equally to him, and to every other human being on this planet:
“every man—is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.”
Clearly, Bruce Levine is a caring individual, and his rational self-interest is helping others; that is what turns him on, and as far as Ayn Rand cares, he can do it to his heart's content. As long as he doesn't do it with other people's money.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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