A musing, more than anything.
Chris Kluwe is a pretty good NFL punter and unusually good at tearing apart bad ideas. He’s been the leader in the movement to end homophobia in sports and went out of his way to endorse same-sex marriage and equality. He’s profane, intelligent, and a true Californian. Not surprisingly, I like him a lot.
This Salon article is an excerpt from his new book, focusing on his reaction to having read the gigantic tome that is Atlas Shrugged. He pretty much distills the major issue with the book as a corner piece of a variant of libertarianism- it’s a work of fiction. I don’t mean that in the idea that only serious peer-reviewed papers can contribute to political philosophy, but rather than a work of fiction gets to get rid of all the issues with the world that exists today.
The nomination of Paul Ryan as MItt Romney’s vice-presidential candidate sparked a number of articles that look back at Ayn Rand’s body of work. The 2012 consensus- it’s terrible. This is consistent with the reception upon the release of Atlas Shrugged in 1957, in which Whittaker Chambers of the National Review stated “Out of a lifetime of reading, I can recall no other book in which a tone of overriding arrogance was so implacably sustained. Its shrillness is without reprieve.”
John Galt and all the sorta-Messiahs of Rand’s books, are people who live in a world where unavoidable tragedy and endemic inequality aren’t an issue. Or rather, they’re not an issue to the titans of business that get to play the heroes. Kluwe points out that society exists in many ways as a way to not let unavoidable catastrophe cause swaths of the population from being ruined and without hope. The welfare state exists and in many circles should be expanded because it’s trivially easy to see people getting hit in the gut by random chance.
Besides living in a place where unexpected crap just doesn’t exist, it also ignores what President Barack Obama was getting at when he said “You didn’t build that.” Yes, you can exist apart from the tyrants in government and he weak people who rely on society- well, unless you count the roads you need to succeed. And bridges. Airports. Electrical infrastructure. Some system of justice. Regulation of the coal mine that’s belching pollution onto your mountain resort for the elite. And so on.
The surge in outsider articles in the past year have a common theme- authors were very into Rand until at the latest about 20 years old. Thus they thought it was a great ideology until they learned of all the other ones.
It seems that on the free market of ideas, Ayn Rand’s Objectivism is valued pretty low.