Ed Kilgore brought my attention to an article by Hunter Baker defending Ayn Rand. It was published in The Federalist, of course, The Devil And Ayn Rand: Extending Christian Charity To John Galt’s Creator. I feel very much about Ayn Rand as most conservatives economists have thought about Karl Marx over the last hundred years, “Do we really have to discuss this stuff again?” Those economists had a point, because Marx was really more of a political philosopher than an economist. So there isn’t much to talk about with regard to his economics. In Rand’s case, it is so much worse because she really adds nothing to the philosophical conversation.
I know Objectivists hate it when I say it, but Ayn Rand was a bad novelist who headed a very successful cult. And as a cult leader, she was ultimately a failure. Who is her most famous fan? Paul Ryan. But Ryan doesn’t follow her philosophy. He just takes the parts he likes — the parts that say worship the rich and hate the poor — and dismisses the rest. The people who continue to read her tiresome novels are almost all hardcore Christians. They don’t hold up the heroic man as the greatest good. So in as much as there is anything to “get” in Ayn Rand, they don’t “get” it.
The funny thing is that Baker hasn’t really written a defense of Rand. He’s written more a call for civility. He wrote:
That’s interesting, because it is so not Ayn Rand. One thing I especially remember about her is how she hated seeing a debate between an Platonist and an Aristotelian. And afterwards, they went out to lunch. They were friends. They strongly disagreed about philosophy and yet they could stand to be around each other! It was as though they accepted each other’s shared humanity! What traitors! From Rand’s perspective, the Aristotelian should have stabbed the Platonist to death while screaming, “Don’t worry! This isn’t real; it’s just a shadow!” (“Metaphysics: Objective Reality”; what a joke!)
So I have a very hard time showing Rand any kindness. I might feel differently if she hadn’t been a liar. But she most clearly dismissed philosophers she didn’t understand. And that’s assuming she even read them. I tend to think that mostly she hadn’t read them. She had a philosophy in search of a justification. This is, of course, exactly the opposite of what she claimed. And this is why she claimed that the only intellectual debt she owed to anyone in history (Itself the height of hubris!) was Aristotle. And Whittaker Chambers called the lie to this in his scathing 1957 review of Atlas Shrugged, Big Sister Is Watching You. He noted her total reliance on Nietzsche. It was only long after her death that we were able to see her notes proved that in fact she was totally enamored with the philosopher, even if her understanding of him was superficial at best.
But the best part of Baker’s article is his claim that Rand didn’t hate the poor:
Wrong! Rand was very clear that a man’s value was judged by how much he was paid. What’s more, her lowbrow taste in art made her hate cutting edge art. So doing the job of modernist painting well would not engender love in her. But based upon her novels, it is hard to say what she thought of people who did a job well. From We the Living through The Fountainhead and up to Atlas Shrugged, we always see the same thing. People on the left are not just philosophically evil, they are also incompetent. So she defined performing a job well with believing what she thought was correct.
One can’t apologize for Ayn Rand. One can either defend her philosophy, which almost no one can stomach. Or one can admit that she should be dismissed. And she shouldn’t be dismissed lightly. She should be dismissed the way that Ayn Rand deserves to be dismissed: as the fascist that she was.