Monday, October 5, 2009

randian confusion

Matt Yglesias says
One thing that does always strike me about Rand, however, is that there strikes me as something particularly odd about the Randian tendency to assume that the business executive class generally constitutes the most intelligent segment of society. As if an Albert Einstein is just a kind of middleweight hack but the VP for Marketing at Federal Express is one of ubermenschen.

One thing that always strikes me about people who have issues with Rand, is that they are so hung up on this particular choice of main character occupations in Atlas Shrugged (they are neglecting Fountainhead or We the Living or Anthem, although I'm actually ok with limiting attention to the former since it is a hundred times better and a hundred times less flawed than the others.) I'm also struck by the fact that the many other (minor, yes, but there) "good guy" characters who are musicians or scientists or mothers or teachers are completely ignored in order to cast the book this way as something written to soothe the egos only of business executives. In fact, it should appeal to anyone who takes pride in what they do.

The industrial world setting in Atlas Shrugged was appropriate to the times and the obvious choice for a writer from the Soviet Union whose parents' business was confiscated and the obvious choice for that plotline in general. That doesn't mean these are automatically supposed to be the only heroic or smart people in society. What analogy can you think of that would work for academic physicists? A lowly unaccomplished scientist sues the Nobel committee for recognition for a discovery he had nothing to do with on the grounds that scientific prestige should be distributed equally? Yeah right...