Trying to Understand the World We Live In: Ayn Rand, the Economic Crisis and the Tea Party Philosophy – 08/31/2011

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“In her philosophy of Objectivism, Rand advocated reason as the only means of acquiring knowledge and rejected all forms of faith and religion. She supported rational egoism and rejected ethical altruism. In politics, she condemned the initiation of force as immoral and opposed all forms of collectivism and statism, instead supporting laissez-faire capitalism, which she believed was the only social system that protected individual rights. She promoted romantic realism in art. She was sharply critical of most other philosophers and philosophical traditions.
The reception for Rand’s fiction from literary critics was largely negative, and most academics have ignored or rejected her philosophy. Nonetheless she continues to have a popular following, and her political ideas have been influential among libertarians and some conservatives. The Objectivist movement attempts to spread her ideas, both to the public and in academic settings.”

“The late-2000s financial crisis spurred renewed interest in her works, especially Atlas Shrugged, which some saw as foreshadowing the crisis, and opinion articles compared real-world events with the plot of the novel. During this time, signs mentioning Rand and her fictional hero John Galt appeared at Tea Party protests. There was also increased criticism of her ideas, especially from the political left, with critics blaming the economic crisis on her support of selfishness and free markets, particularly through her influence on Alan Greenspan. For example, Mother Jones remarked that “Rand’s particular genius has always been her ability to turn upside down traditional hierarchies and recast the wealthy, the talented, and the powerful as the oppressed”, while The Nation alleged similarities between the “moral syntax of Randianism” and fascism.”

“Rand named her philosophy “Objectivism”, describing its essence as “the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” She considered Objectivism a systematic philosophy and laid out positions on metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, political philosophy and esthetics.
In metaphysics, Rand embraced philosophical realism and atheism, and opposed anything she regarded as mysticism or supernaturalism, including all forms of religion. In epistemology, she considered all knowledge to be based on sense perception, the validity of which she considered axiomatic, and reason, which she described as “the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses.” She rejected all claims of non-perceptual or a priori knowledge, including “‘instinct,’ ‘intuition,’ ‘revelation,’ or any form of ‘just knowing.'” In her Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, Rand presented a theory of concept formation and endorsed the rejection of the analytic–synthetic dichotomy.
In ethics, Rand argued for rational egoism (rational self-interest), as the guiding moral principle. She said the individual should “exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself.” She controversially referred to egoism as “the virtue of selfishness” in her book of that title, in which she presented her solution to the is-ought problem by describing a meta-ethical theory that based morality in the needs of “man’s survival qua man”. She condemned ethical altruism as incompatible with the requirements of human life and happiness, and held that the initiation of force was evil and irrational, writing in Atlas Shrugged that “Force and mind are opposites”.
Rand’s political philosophy emphasized individual rights (including property rights), and she considered laissez-faire capitalism the only moral social system because in her view it was the only system based on the protection of those rights. She was a fierce opponent of all forms of collectivism and statism, including fascism, communism, socialism, and the welfare state. Rand believed rights should be enforced by a constitutionally limited government. Although her political views are often classified as conservative or libertarian, she preferred the term “radical for capitalism”. She worked with conservatives on political projects, but she disagreed with them (and they with her) over issues such as religion and ethics. She denounced libertarianism, which she associated with anarchism. She rejected anarchism as a naïve theory based in subjectivism that could only lead to collectivism in practice. Some non-Objectivist philosophers, such as Norman P. Barry and Chandran Kukathas, have questioned her consistency in rejecting anarchism, while some self-proclaimed Objectivists called on her to endorse anarcho-capitalism.
Rand’s esthetics defined art as a “selective re-creation of reality according to an artist’s metaphysical value-judgments.” According to Rand, art allows philosophical concepts to be presented in a concrete form that can be easily grasped, thereby fulfilling a need of human consciousness. As a writer, the art form Rand focused on most closely was literature, where she considered Romanticism to be the approach that most accurately reflected the existence of human free will. She described her own approach to literature as “romantic realism”.
Rand acknowledged Aristotle as her greatest influence] and remarked that in the history of philosophy she could only recommend “three A’s”—Aristotle, Aquinas, and Ayn Rand. She also found early inspiration in Friedrich Nietzsche, and scholars have found indications of his influence in early notes from Rand’s journals, in passages from the first edition of We the Living (which Rand later revised), and in her overall writing style. However, by the time she wrote The Fountainhead, Rand had turned against Nietzsche’s ideas, and the extent of his influence on her even during her early years is disputed. Ayn Rand shared with Nietzsche the cult of human ego, which The Fountainhead intended to express. That is why she quoted a passage from Beyond good and evil which illustrates this cult in the manuscript of the book. She nonetheless decided to move it out once The Fountainhead was going to be published, because of her rejection of Nietzsche’s mysticism and irrationalism .
Among the philosophers Rand held in particular disdain was Immanuel Kant, whom she referred to as a “monster” and “the most evil man in history”, although Objectivist philosophers George Walsh and Fred Seddon have argued that she misinterpreted Kant and exaggerated their differences.
In 1976, Rand said that her most important contributions to philosophy were her “theory of concepts, [her] ethics, and [her] discovery in politics that evil—the violation of rights—consists of the initiation of force.” She believed epistemology was a foundational branch of philosophy and considered the advocacy of reason to be the single most significant aspect of her philosophy, stating, “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.””

“John Galt is a fictional character in Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged (1957). Although he does not appear in person until the last third of the novel, he is the subject of its often-repeated question “Who is John Galt?” and of the quest to discover the answer.
As the plot unfolds, Galt is acknowledged to be a creator, philosopher, and inventor who symbolizes the power and glory of the human mind. He serves as an idealistic counterpoint to the social and economic structure depicted in the novel. The depiction portrays a society based on oppressive bureaucratic functionaries and a culture that embraces stifling mediocrity and egalitarianism, which the novel associates with socialistic idealism. In the novel’s ideology, the industrialists of America were a metaphorical Atlas of Greek mythology, holding up the Earth, whom Galt persuades to “shrug,” by refusing to lend their productive genius to the regime any longer.”

“The book’s opening line “Who is John Galt?” becomes an expression of helplessness and despair at the current state of the novel’s fictionalized world.”

“The use of Galt as a symbol in the context of political or social protest has taken root in some places. The phrase “going John Galt” or simply “going Galt” has been used to refer to productive members of society cutting back on work in response to the projected increase in U.S. marginal tax rates, increased limits on tax deductions, and the use of tax revenues for causes they regard as immoral.”

“”Who is John Galt?” signs were seen at Tea Party protests held in the United States and at banking protests in London in April 2009.”

“The Tea Party protests are a series of protests across the United States that began in early 2009; see List of Tea Party protests, 2009. The protests are part of a larger political movement called the Tea Party. It focuses on smaller government, fiscal responsibility, individual freedoms and upholding a conservative view of the Constitution.”


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