Equality's Own Anthem - Chapters 11 - Anthem by Ayn Rand

Russ Roberts: I mentioned, when we started this conversation, that I had gotten less--I was enamored of her when I was a teenager intellectually, enamored of her, and then got turned off by the lack of recognition of the role that caring for others has in our lives and community and other things. But--and this 'but' is important; and I mentioned earlier her moral defense of capitalism--I think it's really important: You're an historian; I'm just speaking from my own personal perspective here--I think it's incredibly important that defends the morality of freedom, and the morality of capitalism. And we've gotten so far away from that, that reading those quotes from her, it's a breath of fresh air. It reminds me of--I read a biography of Maggie Thatcher recently. And, when you read what Thatcher said about liberty, it's just so jarring because it's so out-of-step with--a politician couldn't say those things any more. And so I think it's incredibly important. And I have sympathy for Rand's romanticization of business. But I do also think that was dangerous. I think that's unfortunate that she romanticized business, because I think she helped people become confused about capitalism and business. So, I'm pro-capitalist, but I'm not pro-business. And I think she was pro-both. And I was, I was kind of shocked by how, and I didn't know about this: when came out, how many business people were about it, because it was, 'Yeah! I'm an okay guy. I'm okay! I'm a good person. It's okay to just care about profit.' And although, you know, part of me rebels a little bit about that, at the same time, I understand that, if you never defend that--if no one is out there defending that, freedom is going to have a tough time flourishing.

Open Ethical Challenge: Atheist Ayn Rand vs. the Atheist Communists

This product contains two sets of vocabulary activities for the novel Anthem by Ayn Rand.

Ayn Rand vs. the Communists* -- 3 Cases

Russ Roberts: But, I want to come back to your point about the Kindergarten of Communism, because I think it's a really interesting tie-in to Hayek, even though she didn't like Hayek. Or thought he was flawed. Which is: So, Rand was an atheist. She hated religion, viewed it as a form of anti-reason, I assume--was one reason she hated it, not more than reasons, but she also didn't like this moral imperative of some religions to help other people. And, it's interesting that she saw Christian morality as the Kindergarten of Communism. It says in the Old Testament: Love your neighbor as yourself. That's not a very Randian thought. And what Hayek argues in is that we have this natural tendency to take the ethics of our and extend them out into the larger extended order of society at large. And I think that's what he saw--I think correctly--as the root attraction of socialism, and of Communism. That, the family is a pretty great thing. And certainly, in our family, we care for each other and we take care of each other. And therefore we need to do that more widely. And he said, 'That's the road to tyranny. And if you try to take the extended order of the marketplace of bringing it to the family, you are going to destroy the family.' And so, we need to live in two worlds at once: A world of small group ethics, which is the family or close friends; and the larger order of strangers who we trade with and exchange with and interact with through the marketplace. And I think that's an incredibly deep insight into why modern life is challenging. Politics--political economy--is challenging. And it's interesting to me that he would have been very sympathetic to that remark that the morality of--she called it Christian morality, but it's also the morality of the family--that, to love one's neighbor as oneself, to love one's family members as one's self, to care about others--is the natural impulse toward collectivism.

Collectivism – Anthem by Ayn Rand

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Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead still survives « Jon …

Russ Roberts: It reminded me a lot of Steve Jobs. Walter Isaacson's biography paints him, I think, in a very mixed way. Which is, that he's a very difficult person to get along with, and yet people want to be around him all the time. And I felt the same response here, to Rand. Before we leave religion, I just want to add, ask you to talk about one more thing I didn't know anything about, which is: She was very much an antagonist of William F. Buckley's, in both directions. And I didn't know about that. So, talk about the role that religion played, especially how Buckley and the in the 1950s were revitalizing conservatism, but saw libertarianism--which is sometimes thought of as on the conservative spectrum, and of course it is to some extent--was dangerous. And similarly Ayn Rand viewed Buckley and the conservative rise in the 1950s and 1960s and as a bad thing as well.

The Marxist and Bolshevik Roots of Ayn Rand’s …

Jennifer Burns: Yeah. I mean, it was sort of a turf war. It was a battle over who gets to control this movement, and what do we call it, and what's important to it. And Rand had been kind of involved during the early war years--the late 1930s, early 1940s. And she saw Buckley and his ilk coming along. And, you know, there's this famous moment where she meets Buckley and she says, the first words out of her mouth, are, 'How can someone so intelligent still believe in God?' And, you know, it just rubs Buckley the wrong way. You know, she's kind of a high-end modernist: Bohemian, anti-religious, pro-rationality. And he's trying to bring back, you know, Catholic conservatism and religious conservatism. So, I think Buckley's perspective is: Free markets are great, but we need then to be married with more traditional ideas about virtue and restraint, because if left to themselves, you know, markets may encourage all kinds of self-destructive or selfish behavior. So we need to kind of modify that. And guilt is good. And having people worry about social norms is good. And Rand is the total opposite. You know: We need to markets from these atavistic ideas about morality. We need to free all of ourselves from guilt. We need to move forward and pursue our own interests and fulfill our own personalities and lead the ethical life way. And we need to create a new morality that supports that. So, they more opposite. And, you know, Buckley kind of took some joy in needling her. Like, he sent her these postcards; and we'd find these postcards in her archives, and he would be like, 'Hey, I saw you getting into a taxi and I waved, and you didn't wave back.' And meanwhile, she's like, 'I hate you.' Because, then he did sort of the ultimate, he had her book to review, , and he gave it to Whittaker Chambers.

What is the synopsis of Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead"? …

Jennifer Burns: Very tasteless review. Very tasteless review. It's interesting though that Rothbard, who had this kind of checkered relationship with Rand, when it came out he, like, peppered Chambers with these letters, saying, 'How could you write this horrible thing? You're a horrible person.' And then, like 5 years later, he's writing to Chambers again and he's like, 'Oh, my God, you were right. How did you know? How could you tell? You just read that book and you knew exactly. I went through it all; that's exactly what happened to me.' And so, you know, Chambers put his finger on something important about Rand; it also was a really intense review, very negative. And I think there's a bit of, you know, discrimination going on for Rand for kind of daring to play in these circles, as a woman wasn't particularly certified or educated or didn't have a, you know, connections in the United States--it's sort of like, 'Who are ?' Like, you know, 'You're not part of our movement. Get away.' And so, then, the kind of irony of that story is that Rand would go away. I mean, had a [?] publishing articles about her--like, every couple of years they'd have to publish an article about Ayn Rand because their readers loved her so much. So, what I was sort of showing as an historian was there's this conflict and it's never really resolved. It's just attention that's always there, and it's always being kind of worked through in different ways. And it's still around today.