It's not going to happen.

Albert Ellis, founder of rational emotive behavior therapy, called Objectivism a religion and diagnosed Rand as a manic-depressive narcissist and a “fucking baby.”

I didn't know much about Ayn Rand before reading Mean Girl by Lisa Duggan. I knew that she wrote some novels – turned those novels into some kind of philosophy – and smoked using one of those Cruella De-Ville cigarette holders.

I became interested in Rand after listening to a lecture series on the history of philosophy by Leonard Peikoff; who I found out later was Rand's philosophical "heir" and had created the Aynd Rand Institute. I found Peikoff's lectures strange in how they dismissed certain philosophers. He seemed to spend a lot of time explaining why Immanuel Kant made no sense. This, I later learned, was my first introduction to Objectivism.

Duggan doesn't like Ayn Rand very much, and I can't say I do either. If you think Atlas Shrugged is a brilliant work of contemporary literature, you may want to skip this post.

Blame the Bolsheviks

Back in Mother Russia, Ayn Rand was a young Jewish girl whose father was the owner of a pharmacy. Up until the Bolshevik revolution. It was this moment that seems to be the catalyst for Rand's anger and subsequent philosophical ideology.

Her father's pharmacy was appropriated by the state. Instead of remaining in their home, they were forced into shared accommodations. Rand moved from upper middle class to just another proletariat and it was a very painful experience.

In the twentieth century, the rise of socialist collectivism and the influence of Immanuel Kant ruined everything.

These events are why Rand moved to America, changed her name, and started working in Hollywood. Socialist collectivism is what turned Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum into Ayn Rand.

Erasure and Dismissal

The purity and nobility of the western setting depends on the erasure of histories of the violence of empire, slavery, and settler colonialism that brought these Europeans to this setting.

America! The birthplace of Capitalism! Where the marketplace of ideas is how one gets ahead. Where meritocracy rules the roost. Where Greed is Good.

This seems to be the literal white-washing that is given to America in order to establish the base beliefs of Objectivism. The core Objectivist belief is that our own individual happiness is most important and we should be measured by our productive output. This is a rejection of collectivism and an embrace of meritocratic capitalism. It wholly ignores that some individuals are provided opportunities for success and others have the deck stacked against them. America is not a meritocracy and never has been.

When taking questions from a graduating class at West Point, Rand was asked about the genocide of the Native American and how she accounts for it in her idealized view of America:

If you study reliable history, and not liberal, racist newspapers, racism didn’t exist in this country until the liberals brought it up...I do not think that they have any right to live in a country merely because they were born here and acted and lived like savages. Americans didn’t conquer; Americans did not conquer that country. – Ayn Fucking Rand
European imperial domination conceived as technological and cultural advancement, rather than as violent conquest. America is imagined as a clean slate for pure capitalist freedom, with no indigenous people, no slaves, no exploited immigrants or workers in sight.

Shrugged

She promoted the Entrepreneurial Self, attacked solidarity and socialism, and posed as the ultimate rebel, the icon of capitalist freedom.

I finished Mean Girl agreeing with Albert Ellis' opinion that Rand is a "fucking baby". Objectivism is a crummy philosophy based on an idealization of capitalism and individual freedoms without taking into account historic and modern oppression.

What makes me sad is the embrace laissez-faire capitalist ideas by current day libertarians. I hear Ayn Rand is very popular in Silicon Valley. So is micro-dosing psychedelics and dopamine fasting and Whim Hoff breathing. A true utopia.


Thanks for reading another edition of Booked! If you're interested in Ayn Rand and Objectivism I suggest you go and do your own research. If you disagree that Ayn Rand was a terrible person with some very bad ideas, maybe just keep that to yourself.

I recently finished Zen Mind, Beginners Mind. If you're into meditation as a daily practice, it's a pretty inspiring read. I'm not a Zen Buddhist by any stretch of the definition, but found some value in the book that I could apply to my practice.

Catch you next week!