Ayn Rand and Selfishness


Ayn Rand is a lightning rod.  A lightning rod for many many different reasons.  But I wanna discuss a single one tonight.  That is, that Ayn Rand promotes a certain degree of selfishness.

I’m not necessarily a Rand fan-boy.  I do think that her book Atlas Shrugged, the only Rand book that I’ve read, is an epic tale of government encroachment.  However, her views on virtually anything beyond what she spoke to in that novel is new to me.  With the exception of one concept, that of her aforementioned concept of selfishness.

Ms. Rand is often accused of being cold, of being selfish.  She advocates a life that when viewed with skepticism, can be seen to be just that.  When she speaks of liberty, she speaks of total liberty.  The idea that no one is beholden to another.  That the needs of one does not trump the freedom of the other.

And because of that, I think that she gets a bad rap.

I don’t think that she means that individuals in society should act in such a way and manner that they don’t incur risk, or that would cause them inconvenience.  I don’t think that she advocates an individual to act in such a manner that would consciously cause another human being pain or discomfort.  Rather, i think she says that no person can be compelled to such acts by ANOTHER.

That is, I may, or may not, have an obligation in my self to be charitable and react to the human condition is such a manner that would exemplify the noble.  Be that as it may, YOU have no claim to my self and my liberty to demand that I act in such a manner.

These are the thoughts that I went to as I read this story.

Note, I am a runner and from Minnesota.  Plus I’m a sap.  I love this kinda Lassy stuff:

When Andover High School cross-country runner Josh Ripley heard the screams of Lakeville South runner Mark Paulauskas, Josh knew he needed to help. While other competitors in the Applejack Invite in Lakeville ran by, Josh stopped to see what was wrong.

In the first mile of a 2-mile junior varsity race held Sept. 16, Josh found Mark holding his ankle and bleeding profusely. Worried that Mark had punctured his Achilles heel, Josh carried the wounded runner for a half a mile to get him to his coach and parents. After making sure Mark was in good hands, Josh jumped back into the race.

This kid found it within himself to carry his opponent to the sideline, to his detriment, in order to demonstrate a camaraderie for his fellow runner.  I don’t think this is in contradiction to Rand’s, or mine, view of Liberty.  Which is, no individual has a claim onto my life other than me.

Which is entirely different from saying that I have a moral obligation to my fellow-man.

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1 comment
  1. Ed B said:

    I agree … and well put !
    Ed

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