Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Ayn Rand Institute's Altruism as Appeasement

In the last decade, or longer, the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) has veered sharply to the political and cultural left. This sad reality has been documented on this blog and elsewhere. During this period these Obleftivists have sought moral sanction and social acceptance from the enemies of the American people (academia, Soviet Valley, globalist corporations, the media). 

New ad for the Yaron Brook Show
The above cartoon is not hyperbole. Obleftivists don't just uphold abortion as a right in the first trimester and as a necessary evil. ARI has accepted and trumpets the full blown leftist view of abortion on demand through all nine months of pregnancy (and thereafter?) as a positive good, as "sacred." ARI's strict adherence to their open borders (for America, not Israel) dogma hardly requires more discussion. As for the sacred right of self-defense, Yaron Brook has this to say
I don't think guns matter. If they took if they took all our guns it doesn't matter and if we kept all the guns it doesn't matter that much. What matters a thousand times more is what's happening in our schools. 
The question is why ARI is self-destructing in this manner. In part, Obleftivists live in existential fear of being blacklisted by the Cultural Marxist gatekeepers who rule public discourse. They seem to understand that if ARI moved to the "right," it/they would be smeared and purged in the manner of Lauren Southern, Stephen Molyneux, Katie Hopkins and Paul Joseph Watson. It's much safer to appease the left by joining the witch hunt against such people. But, the question remains: why? 

The answer can be found in Ayn Rand's seminal essay "Altruism as Appeasement." This article should be read along with "The Comrachicos" and "The Cashing-in: The Student "Rebellion."" "Altruism as Appeasement" was published in the January 1966 issue of The Objectivist and was republished in The Voice of Reason. Rand examines the all too common phenomenon of intelligent people morally appeasing the left in order to have a seat at the table with the cool kids:
It is an attempt to apologize for his intellectual concerns and to escape from loneliness of a thinker by professing that his thinking is dedicated to some social-altruistic goal ... Some degree of social metaphysics is almost always involved in the psychology of such a man, but it is hard to tell whether it led to or resulted from his surrender ... Basically, a social metaphysician is motivated by the desire to escape the responsibility of independent thought, the realm of values, in order to be permitted to use his mind
She notes that such sell-outs exist on the right as much as the left. She takes to task "conservatives" who appease the left. It's an apt examination of who are today called "cuckservatives," such as George Will. But, the more dangerous variety are liberals. They have surrendered to the loony left and continue to appease the monsters. One has only to look at the Democratic Party to substantiate this sad reality.

Ayn Rand's argument is that this sell-out happens at an early age in high school or college. The question remains, once sold can one buy back one's soul? Yaron Brook was raised by socialists. He has stated that he was a socialist until high school. He must have internalized the values and thinking methods of socialism during his most important formative years. There is ample evidence that he still remains on the cultural left and seeks its moral sanction. Both this blog, ARI Watch and others have documented Brook's cultural leftism. 

Yaron Brook will argue that he has replaced the altruism of socialism with the self-interest of capitalism. However, Brook's version of "self-interest" is a crude materialism based on short-term expediency to maximize short-term profits. Ayn Rand's description of the late stage appeaser fits Brook perfectly:
The pretense at any belief in altruism vanishes from his mind in a very few years, and there is nothing left to replace it: his independent capacity to value has been repressed - and his fear of the brute [President Trump's deplorables] makes the pursuit of values seem hopelessly impractical ... One of the bitter penalties of the appeasers is that even the most brilliant of them turn out, as persons, to be conventional, empty, dull. If their initial crime was the desire to be "one of the boys," this is the way in which they succeed. 
The above could very well explain how so many Obleftivists have arrived at their shallow materialism. 

The hallmark of cuckservative or Obleftivist appeasers is their practice of always "punching right." They are notorious for reserving their moral outrage and sharpest barbs for those on their right. From attacks on President Trump, to ignoring or supporting the Deep State's coup attempt, to muting or memory holing Ayn Rand's hostility to second wave feminism and modern "art," Obleftivists only have enemies to their right and appease the left at every opportunity. They will also allow the left to choose the issues and frame the debate on contemporary culture and politics. As Ayn Rand described the appeaser's inevitable slide to complete moral degradation:
Moral cowardice is fear of upholding the good because it is good, and feat of opposing the evil because it is evil. The next step leads to opposing the good in order to appease evil, and rushing out to seek the evil's favor. But since no mind can fully hide this policy from itself, and no form of pseudo-self-esteem can disguise it for long, the next step is to pounce of every possible or impossible chance to blacken the nature of the good and to whitewash the nature of the evil.  
This quote from 1966 by Ayn Rand accurately describes ARI's trajectory of the last ten to fifteen years, or since Yaron Brook took over. 

Yaron Brook's policy has long been to hire like minded "intellectuals" at ARI. For example, there is Ben Bayer, instructor and fellow at ARI. A recent interview of Bayer by the American Philosophical Association (APA) is most revealing on the phenomenon of intellectual opportunism as self-interest:
I first got excited about philosophy in high school as a member of the debate team. At first, I was interested in it for purely instrumental reasons: I needed to know about how to argue for and against the positions of Locke, Rousseau, Kant, Mill, Nozick, and Rawls ... Initially I also read Rand’s book for purely instrumental reasons. I wanted to enter an essay contest about the book and win some money for college. I knew I would disagree with Rand’s individualist philosophy, but I thought that I could still write an impressive critical essay.
He continues by claiming that the character of Howard Roark in The Fountainhead changed his moral outlook:
I was also scared by the fact that I recognized too much of myself in Roark’s rival, Peter Keating, the conventional architect who derived his standards, interests, and values from other people. I began to reconsider my views in moral and political philosophy.
One can review his recent work for ARI in order to decide how much Peter Keating remains in his sub-conscious. And, there's this:
I went on a road trip with my family while listening to U2’s Joshua Tree on my Sony Walkman.
Not Rush. Not authentic American rock and roll such as Aerosmith, Lynyrd Skynyrd or the Steve Miller Band. Nope. It was Bono's anti-American anthem that was required listening for all leftists back in the day. Note how Bayer is careful to not say anything that would trigger the APA leftists. The entire interview with the ever loathsome APA can be cited as an example of appeasing the left by accepting them as one's moral equal. For further details see "The Chickens' Homecoming" by Ayn Rand from the June 1970 issue of The Objectivist and reprinted in Return of the Primitive

Ayn Rand identified a concept she discovered as "psycho-epistemology." Her definition: "Psycho-epistemology is the study of man’s cognitive processes from the aspect of the interaction between the conscious mind and the automatic functions of the subconscious." And, as Leonard Peikoff elaborated, "“Psycho-epistemology,” a term coined by Ayn Rand, pertains not to the content of a man’s ideas, but to his method of awareness, i.e., the method by which his mind habitually deals with its content."

It is fair and reasonable to question whether the cultural leftists at ARI have or can repair their psycho-epistemology that was programmed by socialism at a young age. For that matter, can any young person associated with ARI escape the pressures of "group think" so obviously at work there? 

It's no accident that such key Objectivist concepts and insights as psycho-epistemology and social metaphysics have been Memory Holed by ARI.  


  1. Wow, great piece - very insightful!

  2. Thank you, Grant. It's a very fine article.

  3. Amazing how someone can get one thing right and another so blatantly wrong.

    While you should be free to feel however you want, be offended as much as you desire, disdain and condemn the practice of abortion to your hearts content, one should NEVER codify the rights of a potential being that is dependent upon another for existence over an actual being.

    Like it or not, a fetus until it leaves the womb, is not only dependent upon the mother but constitutes a risk to that mother before it can exist as an independent being. (child birth, while safer with modern medicine, is still full of risks) We can talk all day about the morality of using abortion as an alternative to responsible behavior or birth control. We can discuss how often this type or that type occurs. We can pile on with a whole lot of stuff about the viability of the fetus as stage X, Y, and Z. But until the fetus is free of the womb, it cannot have rights above and beyond the right of the mother over her own body.
    In legal terms, to codify such a thing opens a pandora's box. (and that is not a 'slippery slope' fallacy because of how legal precedence actually works). As soon as you can say the 'life' of the [dependent] pre-born fetus must take priority over the choice of the mother, the same reasoning can be used [legally speaking] by the man with two failing kidneys to have one of your two healthy ones. The same reasoning can be used by the man who is starving to eat half your dinner. The same reasoning can be used by the man with no home to commandeer your spare bedroom.
    If the fact the fetus will die is a problem than anyone facing a similar risk of death can make a claim (again, legally based on such a precedence) upon another who has a solution to their problem. If it's the life of the other that is the hinge point, anything is possible by way of the same argument. You only need one kidney. You can survive on half your dinner. And you can't sleep in two beds at once.

    (You may notice that some of the latter two examples already exist in law - redistribution of wealth is exactly that same kind of reasoning. Funny how the two opposite extremes of the so-called political spectrum can both pursue the same type of base logic for different reasons isn't it?)

    1. Thanks for making my point. Too many Objectivists won't acknowledge grey zones in reality. You're points are valid for the first trimester. After that, it's hard to discern when human life begins. Such life's dependency doesn't make it any less living. Babies are totally dependent on their parents. That doesn't make it okay to leave babies in the woods for the wolves.

      On the color continuum, where does green become blue? That's the problem with abortion. I favor erroring on the side of caution.

      Grant Jones