Friday, June 23, 2017

Ayn Rand, Culture and Immigration

Ayn Rand did not comment much on the cultural underpinnings of Western Civilization and its greatest creation, the United States of America. In general, she focused on the philosophical foundation of liberty such as reason, rational self-interest, individualism and individual rights. There are, of course, some very important exceptions in her writing on the topic of culture.

In The Fountainhead she illustrates the use of nihilism to undermine a culture and people's ability to recognize achievement. The villain's aim is to render his victims incapable of recognizing or even holding personal values by undercutting all cultural values. With the character of Ellsworth Toohey, Rand dramatized the soul, methods and intentions of the Cultural Marxists

For all its evil, Marxism exists within the Western intellectual tradition. In the cultural conflict of individualism versus collectivism, Rand wrote within that context of what was a schism or civil war within the West. Her early political writings were addressed to Americans concerned about the nation's future. In both "Textbook of Americanism" (1946) and "The Only Path to Tomorrow" (1944) her main focus was on "The greatest threat to mankind and civilization [which] is the spread of the totalitarian philosophy." In these essays it's clear that she is referring to totalitarian philosophies derived from the German Romanticism of Kant and Hegel.

Rand viewed the conflict as between reason and post-Enlightenment irrationalism and the resulting conflict between egoism and altruism. As she wrote in "The Only Path to Tomorrow":

The rise of the United States to a degree of achievement unequaled in history - by the grace of the individual freedom and independence which our Constitution gave each citizen against the collective.

Of course, Rand understood that the creation of the United States was not the result of a handful of political philosophers' writings or speeches. Leaders are vital. But, leaders require a receptive audience to affect real change. The American Revolution had leaders, but not "followers" in the usual meaning. The message of life, liberty and property found resonance in America. Why? Rand's answer was that the unique "American sense of life."

The question is where that "sense of life" came from. And, is it now dying. Rand did not much address the first question, but she did comment on the second. On this topic today, self-appointed spokesmen for Objectivism are simply an embarrassment. As an answer to the first question, they provide some cartoon-like schematic ala, Aristotle ➔ Thomas Aquinas ➔ John Locke ➔ Thomas Jefferson ➔ the American Republic. Needless to say, historical causation involves more than that. David Hackett Fischer's Albion's Seed is an great place to start on this topic.

Rand's most well-known and extensive essay on the American sense of life is "Don't Let it Go," which is available in the anthology Philosophy: Who Needs It. She contrasts the United States with Europe thus:

It was a European who discovered America, but it was Americans who were the first nation [Emphasis added] to discover this earth and man's proper place in it, and man's potential for happiness, and the world which is man's to win. What they failed to discover is the words to name their achievement, the concepts to identify it, the principles to guide it, i.e., the appropriate philosophy and its consequence: an American culture.
 Ayn Rand's mission was to provide that philosophy. She succeeded brilliantly. She probably didn't have the time, interest or training to delve into the issue of where this American nation came from that predated the Revolution by a century. It should go without saying (but, I'll say it), that Rand's contemporary, self-appointed interpreters at the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) have no such excuse.  

At the beginning of her essay, Rand makes one definitional mistake. (Although, she deserves much praise for defining her terms.):

A "nation" is not a mystic or supernatural entity: it is a large number of individuals who live in the same geographical locality under the same political system.

This definition is clearly inadequate. Yugoslavia was never a nation. It was a state that housed several nations. Rand didn't dignify them as nations. In her essay "Global Balkanization," she referred to them as "tribes." This is both inaccurate and unfair to the Czech, Croatian or Serbian nations. For that matter, she couldn't be unaware of the fact that Russia had been long known as "the prison house of nations." This is a small error by Rand on a topic the was probably of no great interest to her. 

Rand understood the importance of the nation-state. It is clear that she knew Marxist inspired "globalism" would mean the death of freedom, much less prosperity:

Championed and propagated by "liberals" for many decades, internationalism is collectivism applied to the relationships of nations. Just as domestic collectivism holds that an individual's freedom and interests must be sacrificed to the "public interest" of society - so internationalism holds that a nation's sovereignty and interests must be sacrificed to the global community. (Ayn Rand, Los Angeles Times, November 4, 1962)
Read the above carefully. It is a position that Rand had consistently held for decades. She was an advocate of America First long before it was cool. As she observed in her Los Angeles Times column of October 21, 1962,

For decades, the "liberals" have regarded "nationalism" as an arch-evil of capitalism. They denounced national self-interest - they permitted no distinction between intelligent patriotism and blind, racist chauvinism, deliberately, lumping them together - they smeared all opponents of internationist doctrines as "reactionaries," "fascist" or "isolationists" - and they brought this country to the stage where expression such as "America First" become terms of opprobrium.

At the time she argued that the battle was over a pro-liberty domestic policy and not foreign policy. I doubt she ever conceived of that the West would ever allow the mass invasion of Europe and the USA by illiterate barbarians - it should go without saying that this is the issue of our time. I'm equally sure that she would be appalled at a "liberal" institution bearing her name.

Some readers may take offense at my use of the term "barbarians" above. Ayn Rand would not be one of those persons. She often used the term "savages" when discussing backwards people. For example, her characterization of Arabs in this clip:

The following audio is an excerpt of the Q and A in her guest lecture at West Point. At 9:24 she is asked a question on the Holy Trinity of America Hate: slavery, Indians and Japanese-American internment. Note that this litany hasn't changed in over forty years. The answer is worth a listen on her views on neo-lithic, and other backwards, people.

 After listening to the above two audio recordings, ask yourself if it is conceivable that the same women would approve of the mass invasion into the West by the most violent, barbaric and backwards people on the face of the earth.

If more proof is required, there is the following quote from her 1965 article "The Obliteration of Capitalism." Rand thought this statement was sufficiently important to quote it herself in her essay "The Age of Envy" from 1971:

It is to the Mohammedans, the Buddhists, and the cannibals - to the underdeveloped, the undeveloped, and the not-to-be-developed cultures - that the Capitalist United States of America is asked to apologize for her skyscrapers, her automobiles, her plumbing, and her smiling, confident, untortured, un-skinned alive young men!

It never occurred to Rand that the West's traitorous leaders, at their most depraved, would simply import Mohammedans and cannibals (that's a nice touch) to facilitate the skinning, torture and rape. Although, she knew full well that the elites' purpose was to permanently wipe the smiles from their own people's face. Nor would she have imagined an organization that bears her name would be one of the most vociferous cheerleaders for such depravity.

Fortunately, a growing number of individuals are rejecting "Official Objectivism" or, more accurately, "Obleftivism." Both, Ed Powell and Ed Mazlish have written excellent essays deconstructing ARI's deconstruction of the USA. Lindsey Perigo is usually overwrought and "over the top." However, his essay "Make Objectivism Great Again" is worth reading. In it, he correctly observes that "Trump Derangement Syndrome" is alive and well at ARI and in other such circles. Their antipathy to Trump does illustrate the snobbery of the "gated community" crowd. I don't see any cure soon for what ails them on the horizon.  


  1. Great post, Grant, thanks. What is its source? Thoroughly enjoyed it. I'll be putting the link into a special folder to keep.

  2. Thank you for a great article. It seems to me to touch on something about which I've speculated for some time, that while America was a direct result of "Aristotle ➔ Thomas Aquinas ➔ John Locke ➔ Thomas Jefferson ➔ the American Republic", the American sense of life was present among those who came to America before the republic. They were people who either were self reliant or developed self reliance after they came. In a sense, those people were the 'fertile soil' in which the 'seeds', the ideas, 'were planted and grew'. What I see now in America are significant numbers of people who simply refuse to consider the idea of self reliance. Instead they vote for the 'safety' of the nanny state which will take care of them.