In today’s session, we finished reading two extracts from Ayn Rand‘s 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged.
We continued discussion some of the issues Ayn Rand raises in that book: capitalism, free trade, individualism, the axiom of non-aggression, etc.
We read a few extracts from Rand’s 1974 address to the graduating students at West Point, “Philosophy: Who Needs It?” We also read a quote from John Maynard Keynes about the importance of philosophers in general and of economists in particular to influence the thinking of the ordinary citizen.
The next session (July 1st, 2009) will be about irony.
A criticism that is often made of Rand’s political philosophy, is that she championed the businessmen and industrialists, yet they are the ones (it is said) who created the present financial crisis. Some people assume this means Rand’s entire philosophy is therefore completely ridiculous and without merit.
Ayn Rand rarely gave credit to other philosophers or thinkers except Aristotle. However, she did inherit many ideas about libertarianism and free-market economics from other thinkers. Here is one, Gabriel Kolko, who writes about a flaw in Ayn Rand’s thinking:
“the lords of Big Business, far from being martyrs to the cause of free market capitalism and “America’s Most Persecuted Minority,” as Ayn Rand had put it, were actually the most powerful and implacable enemies of laissez-faire. The corporate giants had not only favored the Progressive era regulations [e.g. the New Deal], but had also originated them in an effort to cartelize the markets. Instead of a “persecuted minority,” the coporate giants were, in large part, a state-privileged elite. Far from championing free markets in principle or in practice, corporate barons had ruthlessly used the blunt instrument of government to erect barriers to market entry and bludgeon their competitors into submission.”
(from “An Enemy of the State” by Justin Raimondo, Prometheus Books, Amherst NY, 2000 (page 138-9), quoting Gabriel Kolko, “The Triumph of Conservatism” (Glencoe, Ill.: The Free Press, 1963).
So comedian Stephen Colbert is hardly the first to point out this flaw in Rand’s world view.