Thursday, November 5, 2009

More non-sniping at Ayn Rand

2005 was before I paid attention to the internet so I was happy Alex Tabarrok reposted his thoughts on Ayn Rand originally from her 100th birthday. They very eloquently and logically state exactly what I most like about Atlas Shrugged. For example:
It used to be commonly said that “Until Robinson Crusoe is joined by Friday there is no need for ethics on a desert island.” Rand replied that it was on a desert island that ethics was most needed because on a desert island you cannot free ride on the virtues of others; if you are to survive you must yourself exercise the virtues of rationality, independence, and productiveness.
(Except I don't really buy that she was such a strong feminist. But I also don't buy that she was anti-feminist, as is often said, due to some isolated statements of what constitutes femininity. I completely disregarded those, along with all of her other nonsense about ethics of aesthetics, primarily in Fountainhead. I think she was a realist and an individualist who probably couldn't have cared less about feminism in itself.)

And his last paragraph restates much better what I recently said in objection to MYglesias's (and others') whining.

As is true of most people who are extremely forceful and black and white about their beliefs, Rand attracted a worshipful following and loatheful antifollowing. Most supporters are extreme moralistic (rather than pragmatic) libertarians, and most dissenters are the liberals who hate her advocation of capitalism or conservatives who hate her adamant atheism. Her supporters tend to adopt the same aggressive and black and white style, and her dissenters mostly object not to the content of her work but to this style of presenting her case and some distorted interpretations that arise when a black and white style is used instead of a thorough discussion of the nuance. When something like Alex's notes comes along, I have renewed hope that the middle ground may worm it's way into the mainstream debate.