The Need for a Culture of Achievement

What does Ayn Rand have to offer to our era? The Russian-born American author rose to prominence as a novelist and philosopher in the middle of the 20th century, and attracted a large audience on the American Right with her sharp critique of communism. The comprehensive alternative she presented in her philosophy and her fiction championed individualism against collectivism—the fundamental ideological conflict of her era. That is why, despite her atheism, she enjoyed significant influence on the American Right and is still considered indispensable, even by many who had profound disagreements with her.

The issues of today are not quite the same, nor are the ideological alignments. Yet people are still seeking out Ayn Rand’s ideas and trying to understand her influence, if sometimes with less than edifying results. A recent piece in Quillette attributes her influence and relevance primarily to her pop culture celebrity and the magnetism of her dark and famously penetrating eyes. But there is much more to Rand’s enduring relevance, and to understand it, we have to delve into the substance of her ideas.

Ayn Rand’s influence was closely tied to her engagement with the big events of her era. She presented her ideas, to an extent unusual for a philosopher, embedded in commentary on the political and cultural news of the day. She offered new thoughts on epistemology and concept-formation in an article on the Republican National Convention of 1964. Her ideas on the relationship between reason and emotion were presented in a speech on the contrast between the two big cultural events of 1969: Woodstock and the Moon landing.

But because she was operating on a deeper philosophical level, her message transcends the particular context in which she wrote. In her introduction to the 25th anniversary edition of The Fountainhead, she quoted Victor Hugo: “If a writer wrote merely for his time, I would have to break my pen and throw it away.”

Her philosophy is particularly relevant to our current iteration of the culture war. I say the current iteration, because the roots of our culture war stretch back longer than we may think. There is little you can say about the ideological conformity of the social media era that she didn’t expose in The Fountainhead—a dissection of the ideological conformity of Modernist intellectuals during the Red Decade of the 1930s.

The theme of The Fountainhead, Rand later wrote, was “individualism versus collectivism, not in politics, but in man's soul.” Collectivism in the soul is embodied in the character of Peter Keating, the ultimate conformist whose only goal in life is to “read the room,” signal his virtue, and be what others expect him to be. But this creed is given its self-conscious voice by the novel’s main villain, Ellsworth Toohey. He is an essential character for understanding her era, and our own: the totalitarian intellectual.

In a way, characters like Toohey are an answer to the Jeffersonian assumption that the spreading light of knowledge and education would guarantee the triumph of liberty. By the early 20th century, tyranny was no longer championed by monarchs and their hangers-on; it had become a creed of the intellectuals. This is a conundrum with which the best authors of the time grappled. (See, for example, the character of O’Brien in Nineteen Eighty-Four.)

Rand uses Toohey to show how the psychology of conformity was given voice, justification, and encouragement by the collectivist philosophy of the era. Toohey helps her capture the funhouse-mirror quality of this ideological conformity, its essential emptiness and barrenness. In a moment of confession, here is how he describes the ideal world of the collectivist:

A world where the thought of each man will not be his own, but an attempt to guess the thought of the next neighbor who’ll have no thought—and so on, Peter, around the globe. Since all must agree with all. A world where no man will hold a desire for himself, but will direct all his efforts to satisfy the desires of his neighbor who’ll have no desires except to satisfy the desires of the next neighbor, who’ll have no desires—around the globe, Peter. Since all must serve all. A world in which man will not work for so innocent an incentive as money, but for that headless monster—prestige. The approval of his fellows—their good opinion—the opinion of men who’ll be allowed to hold no opinion. An octopus, all tentacles and no brain.

That sounds like an ordinary Tuesday in the hive-mind of Twitter. Toohey even grasps what is known today as “audience capture”: “I’ll have no purpose save to keep you contented. To lie, to flatter you, to praise you, to inflate your vanity.” In his collectivist future, the leader is the biggest follower of all.

This is all in contrast to the novel’s real purpose, which is to show us the totally independent man, someone with no collectivism in his soul: her protagonist, the young architect, Howard Roark. Explaining why he refuses payment and credit on one particular project, Roark says: “The only thing that matters, my goal, my reward, my beginning, my end is the work itself. My work done my way.”

Of central importance to The Fountainhead is the distinction between the “first-hander” and the “second-hander”—respectively, the person who acquires ideas and values first-hand through contact with reality and the person who deals with the world at one remove, adopting the opinions and tastes of others. Long before Instagram, Roark describes the latter as the sort of person who “can’t say about a single thing: ‘This is what I wanted because I wanted it, not because it made my neighbors gape at me.’”

Rand’s goal was to show us what it’s like to see the world purely through one’s own eyes.

Ayn Rand is known for her politics, but as she wrote, “I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason.” The deepest theme in her work is the need to see the world first-hand and to follow unfettered reason wherever it leads in pursuit of the truth. “Freedom,” she wrote, “is the fundamental requirement of man’s mind.”

The basic need of the creator is independence. The reasoning mind cannot work under any form of compulsion. It cannot be curbed, sacrificed, or subordinated to any consideration whatsoever. It demands total independence in function and in motive.

The dominant many contemporary “progressive” doctrines, by contrast, are second-handedness turned into a system. “Critical theory,” for instance, denies on principle our ability to see the world first-hand, to see things as they really are, and instead insists that everything is filtered through “social constructs.” We all have no choice, in this outlook, but to be Peter Keating—leaving us vulnerable to manipulation by the latest Ellsworth Toohey. The current variation on this outlook may be relatively new, but it has deep philosophical roots to which Rand provided detailed philosophical answers, including in technical works of philosophy defending our ability to know reality first-hand in the deepest sense.

But she had greater influence as a champion of thinking as an ethos. This line from Atlas Shrugged, in particular, speaks to our age: “There are no evil thoughts except one: the refusal to think.” This was not a mere rhetorical flourish. She really did regard the refusal to think, not just as evil, but as the essence of evil. In her morality, the most basic choice is the choice to think:

In any hour and issue of your life, you are free to think or to evade that effort. But you are not free to escape from your nature, from the fact that reason is your means of survival—so that for you, who are a human being, the question “to be or not to be” is the question “to think or not to think.”

Elsewhere, she wrote:

Nothing is given to man on earth except a potential and the material on which to actualize it. The potential is a superlative machine: his consciousness; but it is a machine without a spark plug, a machine of which his own will has to be the spark plug, the self-starter and the driver; he has to discover how to use it and he has to keep it in constant action. The material is the whole of the universe, with no limits set to the knowledge he can acquire and to the enjoyment of life he can achieve. But everything he needs or desires has to be learned, discovered and produced by him—by his own choice, by his own effort, by his own mind

To be “in focus” is the highest term of praise in Rand’s philosophy, and the worst thing one can be is “out of focus.” “Focus” here refers to “a full, active, purposefully directed awareness of reality”—to thinking as a moral choice. It is her answer to one of the oldest conundrums in philosophy: How can one knowingly do evil? Her answer is that to be evil is to be deliberately out of focus. One does evil because one does not know what one is doing—but the lack of knowledge is not mere ignorance. It is the choice not to know, to push knowledge out, to refuse to examine the meaning and implications of your actions.

The doctrines now widely derided as “wokeness” constitute a system for this kind of evasion. It offers a program of self-censorship that consists of closing oneself off from the expression of any ideas that might be labeled as wrong. Potentially offensive tweets, books, comedy specials, statues—they all have to go, purged in a ritual of purification. Paralyzed by the fear of evil thoughts, adherents embrace the refusal to think.

But notice that the fully independent man’s individualism is expressed, not just in his thoughts, but in his work. In The Fountainhead, Howard Roark explains the “meaning of life”:

Roark got up, reached out, tore a thick branch off a tree, held it in both hands, one fist closed at each end; then, his wrists and knuckles tensed against the resistance, he bent the branch slowly into an arc. “Now I can make what I want of it: a bow, a spear, a cane, a railing. That’s the meaning of life.”
“Your strength?”
“Your work.” He tossed the branch aside. “The material the earth offers you and what you make of it.”

This theme is developed most fully in Atlas Shrugged. The settings for Rand’s novels tended to follow her own experiences, but at a delay of a few years. Her first novel, We the Living, was about independent-minded students struggling to survive in the early years of the Soviet dictatorship—just as she had been doing a few years earlier. In The Fountainhead, her heroes were mostly artists and intellectuals at the beginning of their careers, struggling to break through with their creative visions. In Atlas Shrugged, written after she had become a bestselling author who mixed with business magnates, her heroes are businessmen who are also pursuing their creative visions, but this time in the form of building rail lines and inventing new metal alloys.

Rand’s moral philosophy is best-known for her defense of self-interest. But its real heart is her defense of the central virtue that gives meaning to the self: productiveness, the embrace of work and the spirit of work. Behind that is a rational, secular ethics in which morality is based on the requirements of human life, of which the central requirement is productive work. It is, she wrote, the recognition “that your work is the process of achieving your values, and to lose your ambition for values is to lose your ambition to live—that your body is a machine, but your mind is its driver, and you must drive as far as your mind will take you, with achievement as the goal of your road.”

A few years back, sociologists Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning published an influential study in which they described three kinds of cultures, each defined by what lends people status and gives their lives meaning and value. A culture of honor is epitomized by the practice of dueling, using violence to answer a perceived insult. In a culture of dignity—think of Frederick Douglass or Martin Luther King, Jr.—one’s sense of value is primarily internal and one can patiently bear injustice without diminishing it. Campbell and Manning call our current culture one of victimhood, in which the source of status and meaning is one’s claim to oppression, suffering, and “marginalization.” Hence the obsessive ferreting out of “microaggressions,” no matter how trivial.

This describes the activist Left, but it also increasingly describes resentful American conservatives, who have adopted their own obsession with victimhood and martyrdom—an insecure fixation on the fear that somehow, somewhere the “elites” are looking down on them.

Rand’s answer lies in her advocacy of productive work. In place of a culture of honor, or dignity, or victimhood, she offered a culture of achievement, in which work, innovation, and productiveness give life its meaning and value.

In my own book on Atlas Shrugged, I likened Ayn Rand’s approach to the Ancient Greek legend of the contest between Homer and Hesiod, the two greatest poets of the early Classical world. Legend has it that they met and tested their verses against one other in a kind of ancient poetry slam. Homer ran rings around Hesiod, but the judge gave the award to Hesiod anyway, because “he who called upon men to follow peace and husbandry should have the prize rather than one who dwelt on war and slaughter.” This sums up a basic problem that has resonated down the millennia. In more modern times, defenders of the Enlightenment have lamented that the sturm und drang of the irrational Romantics and their dangerous obsessions with blood and soil, were usually presented in a more dramatic and stirring form than the Enlightenment’s ideals of peace and scientific discovery.

Ayn Rand set out to correct this defect, lending all the color and drama of literary Romanticism to the Enlightenment values embodied by heroes who are architects, inventors, and philosophers. She wrote the kind of novel in which two of the main characters bond over their heroic effort to stem a break-out at a steel furnace:

In the few moments which Rearden needed to grasp the sight and nature of the disaster, he saw a man’s figure rising suddenly at the foot of the furnace, a figure outlined by the red glare almost as if it stood in the path of the torrent, he saw the swing of a white shirt-sleeved arm that rose and flung a black object into the source of the spurting metal. It was Francisco d’Anconia, and his action belonged to an art which Rearden had not believed any man to be trained to perform any longer.
Years before, Rearden had worked in an obscure steel plant in Minnesota, where it had been his job, after a blast furnace was tapped, to close the hole by hand—by throwing bullets of fire clay to dam the flow of the metal. It was a dangerous job that had taken many lives; it had been abolished years earlier by the invention of the hydraulic gun; but there had been struggling, failing mills which, on their way down, had attempted to use the outworn equipment and methods of a distant past. Rearden had done the job; but in the years since, he had met no other man able to do it. In the midst of shooting jets of live steam, in the face of a crumbling blast furnace, he was now seeing the tall, slim figure of the playboy performing the task with the skill of an expert.

Rand’s style often caused her to be misunderstood and dismissed as some kind of Nietzschean. But her goal was to give the air of self-assertiveness and the dramatic intensity of the Romantics back to the Enlightenment values of science, reason, and productiveness. Critics may complain that she wrote for “adolescents,” but her appeal to intelligent and ambitious young people is obvious: She understood that they require a vision of a life of work as something more than drudgery, accepted either as a duty or as an imposition.

She also understood that the young, when inflamed with a passion for work and achievement, would devote themselves to things more useful and edifying—and more personally fulfilling—than the hectoring didacticism of the activist Left or reactive trollishness of much of today’s Right.

The best outcome of the culture war is that culture wins: Instead of trying to cancel other people’s projects, we should respond with exciting creations of our own, highlighting what our philosophy and worldview have to offer. As an answer to contemporary grievance-mongering and self-pity, Ayn Rand’s vision of a culture of achievement is worth taking seriously.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://quillette.com/2022/01/05/the-need-for-a-culture-of-achievement/
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There is much of Rand which is consistent with Stoic notions. In Stoicism, there are cardinal ideals, and one of these is Virtue, which has a Greek interpretation as “knowledge” or “value”. This is very similar to the ideal that Rand was promulgating, in which the highest ideal is that of “work”. Stoic ideals are good ones for our age.

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True, but “Objectivist” ones are not. Our society is not suffering from a surfeit of selfishness masquerading as rational self-interest. Rand’s system of “ethics” is founded on a false dichotomy between altruism/collectivism and capitalism/self-interest. There’s a reason she mostly appeals to adolescents: her views are simplistic and her prose is heavy-handed.

Read Marcus Aurelius instead.

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Oh, boy - is this thread ever gonna blow up…

Once upon a time I read Ayn Rand’s major works; the first as a sophomore in high school. It was interesting but not particularly inspiring; we discussed it as a novel.

A few years later I read another of her books and thought I’d try out what she was suggesting. Basically, selfishness, or “acting in accordance with one’s own vision, needs, desires, direction” (I’m paraphrasing - anyone who’s read Ayn Rand more or less knows her thrust). The result: I quickly alienated my friends. After about a day of this I saw what was going on and dropped it, and her. Fortunately my friendships had pre-existed my “Ayn Rand phase” and were long-enough lasting, and strong enough, to survive it.

I’m not an academic philosopher but from what I’ve read, Ayn Rand has contributed just about zero to or in the field. Neither am I an author nor literary critic but from what I’ve read, she’s not considered a great novelist either.

A couple of problems with her work:

  1. She’s quite (out)dated. Her attitude toward the environment, for example, is scornful. In Atlas Shrugged two of the main characters are enjoying a road trip: "her legs stretched forward; she liked the wide, comfortable space of the car’s seat and the warmth of the sun on her shoulders; she thought that the countryside was beautiful.

    “What I’d like to see,” said Rearden, "is a billboard”…

    Then she smiled. “But think how often we’ve heard people complain that billboards ruin the appearance of the countryside. Well, there’s the unruined countryside for them to admire.” She added, “They’re the people I hate.”
  2. Every “philosophical argument” she makes (that I remember) takes the form of a monologue, speech, diatribe, outburst; or a really “motivated” dialog, by which I mean, highly unrealistic and pretty clearly intended to prove the point Ayn Rand is trying to make. The problem of course is that when you author both sides of a “debate”, it is just too easy, to make that debate’s outcome into whatever you want. Consider this passage when 2 characters (Rearden and D’Anconia) are having a “very enlightening” discussion:
    “I didn’t seek to talk to you. But you’ve asked for it and you’re going to hear it. To me, there’s only one form of human depravity—the man without a purpose.”

    "That is true."
    Even as a teenager I could see the flaw in that. I mean, really? There’s only one form of human depravity and that is the man without a purpose? I can list several forms of human depravity that are worse than that - so can you. Many of them committed in the name of a “purpose”. But in a novel you can’t stop the discussion and say “Hey, wait a minute, you’re full of it.”

There’s another way of evaluating a person’s work, besides close reading, looking for bad faith, poor logic, authorial “cheating”, etc. You can look at how it plays out in real life. Personally I quickly found out that trying to act like Ayn Rand’s characters, didn’t work out well at all. I’ve read of others who went through their “Ayn Rand phase”. Best of all, look at Ayn Rand’s own life. She convinced her apparently devoted husband, who was apparently a good man, to go along with her having an affair right under his very nose. When her devotees (acolytes? groupies?), finding out she was sick from smoking tobacco cigarettes, suggested that perhaps she recant just a little bit, writing that she’d been wrong about smoking and suggesting “don’t do what I did, it did not turn out well”, she flatly refused. From what I can tell she drove away love and drove goodness out of her life. And (am I misremembering?) basically died alone.

I like the way Bertrand Russell treated philosophers in his A History of Western Philosophy. He didn’t just discuss their philosophy, but also “situated” it and them together. Seeing for example how it worked out for them. When you perform this test on Ayn Rand she gets pretty close to a big fat zero.

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Rand’s characters were caricatures, exaggerated cartoon figures who exemplified specific values. Her work is interesting, but can you imagine a person actually saying some of those things? Many of these critiques are reasonable. Yet, Rand’s work which celebrates persons trying to do their best. That’s a good thing.

This is actually not true. In today’s world, collectivism IS in the ascendancy, and is destroying individualism. In many universities, applicants for positions are required to submit “diversity inclusion equity” (DIE) statements, which affirm the dedication to these “values”. It is not enough to say that “I will treat all fairly”. You must do more.

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And what pray tell does reason dictate when individual interests in the pursuit of achievement collide especially when there’s an imbalance of power preventing that equitable pursuit? Ignore it?
If achievement is the goal then barriers that stand in the way of it might best be removed & that’s often only achieved through activism. Just because some of it is flawed doesn’t make it all unhelpful.
Let’s face it, the right’s love affair with Rand is more about maintaining the status quo than a genuine interest in achievement.

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Except that Roark is about as plausible as Thor. Real engineers and creators and builders always work within some imposed restraints. The totalizing ego of Roark rightly is self-marginalizing. Rand’s conceptions are fantasy. As I used to say to the TFMers, at least the commies have tried to make their system work. TFM/Ancap is so unworkable in practice that all we’ve seen is is comedy, like that effort in – where was it? – New Hampshire? to form a libertarian utopia that dissolved into farce.

False dichotomy. Classical liberalism quite understands the value of the individual, but it is nonsense to say that anyone ‘sees things as they really are’, without the constructions that makes the mind possible. CRT no doubt takes that to an absurdity, but at the same time seeing things ‘as they really are’ is not possible. Every educated person should understand that.

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Agree to disagree. The U.S. (at least) is and always has been a deeply individualistic society, which has both benefits (high level of innovation, entrepreneurship and achievement) and downsides (a fragmented civil society, insufficient investment in public goods). Despite the faddish attachment to “socialism” on the part of overeducated twenty- and thirtysomethings, soul-crushing collectivism remains a phantom menace.

It’s also a way to rationalize selfishness. That’s why I regard Rand’s philosophy as an anti-ethic: morality requires that we transcend self-interest, not lionize it. Ideologies founded on extreme altruism are equally unworkable, which is why Communism has proven to be an abject failure every time it’s been attempted. Every real-world economy is a mixed economy, and every individual
(with a few hyper-narcissistic exceptions) is motivated by a mixture of self-interest and regard for others.

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I read a few of Rand’s books in the early 1970’s. At the same time I was also wasting time reading shit like The Teachings of Don Juan, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and The Limits to Growth. It was a weird time.

Rand’s writing wasn’t great, and much of what she wrote was unrelentingly preachy and over the top, but I will say she led me down thought pathways I otherwise wasn’t hearing. Knowing her history, I can now see where she was coming from.

Solzhenitsyn was way, way better. My favorite of his was “The First Circle”. After reading it I could never see a meat truck without wondering…

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I think that there is something ambiguous about the collectivist/individualist dichotomy. At the end of the day, the individuals always strive to maximize their own benefits. In the so called “individualistic” cultures, people put the emphasis on individual achievement and the individual benefits are commensurate with the individual effort and achievement. In the “collectivist” cultures, the maximization of individual benefits is achieved through group membership, not via the achievement and effort of the individual. The Middle Ages offer an example where different groups were awarded different privileges and these privileges were hereditary. One of the big reasons the Third Estate got its revolutionary fever in France was that the very commercially successful bourgeois were excluded from the distribution of lucrative government positions allocated to the hereditary aristocracy. The “progressive” ideology is a throwback to these dark times. It insists on allocating outcomes on the basis of group identity. And the funny thing is that the group identity is based on the most primitive characteristics such as skin color and gender. I say “primitive” because it is not different from how the caveman saw the world through the prism of basic biological traits. Some “progressivism”!

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Our society is suffering from a surfeit of selfishness masquerading as altruism/collectivism.

FIFO. The selfishness of capitalism is self-evident- Adam Smith termed it as the ‘vile maxim’ contrasted with the far more powerful and pervasive influence of the ‘invisible hand’. What is less apparent to the uninitiated is the harm done by an unwillingness to wipe out the waste and supposed public good of obsolete and unnecessary labour in public employment with the same casual ruthlessness with which market competition operates.

That money is a precious and finite resource which should be utilised for real public goods, and wasteful labour can never fall into this category, because the waste is double-edged. This doesn’t mean we should simply get rid of public workers, but their interests would be better served by retraining for purposes which are of real value and service to society, rather than in many instances being more of an encumbrance and imposition upon the average citizen.

90% of citizens don’t need to fill out tax returns- most can be handled by the almost automated process of employer PAYE common in many advanced economies. A small portion of this labour could be reallocated to sifting tax avoidance from tax evasion common to the top 10% of the income spectrum- people with enough money to hire clever accountants. But the other 80% of workers can be reallocated into a general pool- with those with mathematical talent enquiring into textbooks which are bought more than once every twenty years or any form of I-pad expenditure for classrooms (which are of limited utility for education, in this context)- in other words to take a hatchet to wasteful government expense.

Another example is the welfare bureaucracy. The money spent on the main three welfare programs could average out at $7,000 per adult citizen- steadily removed at a rate of 25% to 33% per dollar earned in income. Dissolving the demeaning practice of having civil servants question low income and precarious workers on the pretext of a supposed indolence which is more often than not a matter of regional or local unemployment is not just a prehistoric and bureaucratic paper Leviathan, but it also blames what is normally caused by critically low morale and the health problems it causes on simplistic answers like laziness.

Get rid of it! Turn these petty officials with a little government mandated authority into public servants, mandated to serve the true masters in a democracy- the citizens. The can be helpful- 24 hour mental health crisis hotlines are proven to reduce the pressure on people actually useful to society- like police officers and EMTs.

There are plenty of places where committed public servants can be of real use. Social care is useful. Addiction services should be a low cost alternative to what the market offers. Many older conservatives actually complain when their meals on wheel are withdrawn. Another thing which might be useful is tracking down essentials like food which are wasted by those who don’t want to see poor people fed for free and compensated for at roughly the wholesale price (roughly 60% of retail)- to be distributed to food banks- all of which would require public workers as drivers, loaders and logisticians to get the food to the charities.

In most cases what gets attributed to failures of the free market is actually a function of government waste and its corrosive influence on the middle classes spending power. Yes, the American system is an exception, but that is mainly a failure of government to act as a proper referee, regulate monopolies (one area where regulators are a necessary evil see: Matt Stoller’s Substack BIG) and the fact that the cost of America’s regulatory bureaucracy is $2.2 trillion against a GDP of $24 trillion- with the key distinction that unlike many other countries the regulatory and legal costs are disproportionately borne by smaller competitors instead of more reasonable ‘regressive’ taxation such as the VAT systems most advanced countries use extensively, including the Nordic social democratic states.

When it comes to regulations most countries do it better, at lower government costs and in a fairer way. In the UK when I buy turmeric I can be reasonably assured it doesn’t contain rat droppings. In America there is a maximum amount per weight. Similarly, we have regulations on electricians which are stronger than in America, but instead of sending out a college graduate with a clipboard we make our electricians get properly trained and certified. Inspections other than for new builds (which are still only occasional spot-checks) are exceptionally rare.

The US averages 2,620 civilian deaths through house fires per year. The UK had 286 deaths in 2019. That’s roughly half the deaths per capita, our system is cheaper to run and it passes less cost onto house builders.

I actually think Ayn Rand was wrong. We should care about our fellow citizens- but our laser focus should be on ruthlessly reforming government expenditure with a view to freeing up money to be spent towards the common good. The argument between capitalism and socialism is a facile one- instead we should ruthlessly sack any politicians who isn’t willing to completely disrupt bloated government bureaucracies.

The key in America is the IRS- they should ruthlessly pursue those within government who perpetuate government waste- whether it’s labour or money they happen to be wasting. It is a radical reform every advanced economy will have to undertake sooner or later.

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The idea that one should be selfish to be true to one’s nature has an earlier incarnation in Emerson’s essay Self Reliance:

The doctrine of hatred must be preached as the counteraction of the doctrine of love when that pules and whines. I shun father and mother and wife and brother, when my genius calls me.

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Oh good, another Three Layer theory: Honor, Dignity, and Victimhood.

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Not going to wade too far into this because it can be a deep hole. I’m pretty much an objectivist but of course, like any rational person, I don’t buy anything from anyone wholesale, including Rand.
What I do want to point out is that in so many comments here there is a lack of intellectual sophistication with respect to what Rand was saying. Rand’s selfishness was an enlightened selfishness, where it was selfish to hold other people and society in great value and to work for the good of others, =as a selfish act=. What someone values reflects their selfish nature. If you value altruism that is still =your= selfish value. What is dangerous is the constant use of selflessness as a way to obtain supremely self-involved power, but not in a healthy selfish way acknowledging your own inherent desires honestly, but serving your crippled psyche through sociopathic or psychopathic behavior clothed in concern for others (see Nancy Pelosi).

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Obviously much more could (and has) been written about the flaws in Rand’s perspective, but I think the lack of intellectual sophistication lies in her writings themselves. There’s a good reason that vanishingly few philosophers take her seriously.

You’re just redefining and restricting the broad range of human motivations to fit your psychological schema. Religious believers make a similar move when they argue that atheists are religious too: they simply redefine all worldviews as “religions.”

As opposed to serving your crippled psyche through overtly sociopathic or psychopathic behavior (see Donald J. Trump).

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Is it because there are vanishingly few philosophers, period?

Noam_Chomsky

https://faculty.fiu.edu/~harrisk/Paper%20Assignments/Articles/Philosophy%20is%20a%20waste%20of%20time.htm

Neil Degrasse Tyson:

if you are distracted by your questions so that you can’t move forward, you are not being a productive contributor to our understanding of the natural world. And so the scientist knows when the question “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” is a pointless delay in our progress.

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In case you’re actually interested in the issue and not just trolling, a scientist/philosopher responds:

Not sure what the picture of Chomsky is going there. He’s not a philosopher.

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He’s on this list of 50 most influential living philosophers.

I guess they were having trouble filling it.

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