Category Archive 'Ayn Rand'
17 Feb 2015

Ayn Rand 110th Birthday Humor

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AynRandLaughs
Ayn Rand laughing and smoking in Valhalla.

Ayn Rand would be 110 years old this month. Her birthday was February 2nd.

Mallory Ortberg (who keeps everyone at Galt’s Gulch in stitches every summer) imagines a Harry Potter novel as written by Auntie Ayn:

“Don’t you see?” Dumbledore said. “Voldemort himself created his worst enemy, just as tyrants everywhere do! Have you any idea how much tyrants fear the people they oppress? All of them realize that, one day, amongst their many victims, there is sure to be one that rises against them and strikes back!”

“Of course,” Harry said calmly. “Tyranny is any political system (whether absolute monarchy or fascism or communism) that does not recognize individual rights (which necessarily include property rights). The overthrow of a political system by force is justified only when it is directed against tyranny: it is an act of self-defense against those who rule by force.”

Harry took up his wand. “First I’m going to kill Snape,” he said evenly, “and then I’m going to dissolve the estate tax.”

“But why -” Dumbledore began.

“Wealth must be earned, not kept,” Harry said. “A man who inherits wealth he does not deserve will lose it in a generations’ time. He has no inherent right to keep it if he cannot earn it, but it does not then stand that the government has a stronger right to it. It is his, to keep or to lose, as long as he is living.”

Read the whole thing.

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Meanwhile, Jim Dowd contends that Ayn didn’t really die in Manhattan in 1982, but has been living on, all these years until quite recently, secretly in Massachusetts.

110 year old philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand perished in a snowstorm that covered much of the Northeast this week. Thought to have died in 1982, it was revealed she simply faked her own death to avoid paying debts on the successful treatment of her lung cancer which ran into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, her being philisopically opposed to Medicare.

Having escaped to East Gloucester to live under an assumed name, she was known for loudly rejecting help from neighbors. “Do not condescend to me with charity,” she shouted at Bob D’Palazola who just recently tried to remove snow from her driveway with his snowblower as he had for many elderly neighbors on the street.

“I thought she was nuts,” said the plumber and good Samaritan, “Considering how much she smokes there is no way she should be out there shoveling herself. I tried to get her reconsider but she started yelling about how indebtedness corrupting the fiber of the soul of man and I’m like screw it, Ill just go do my brother-in-laws house.”

Other neighbors were shunned by the centenarian objectivist when they attempted to bring gifts of fresh baked cinnamon buns and hot cocoa during a “senior wellness check” organized by residents. Mary Ellen Katzen, a local volunteer, claimed to have been berated at Rand’s door. “She started yelling about how the strong owe nothing to the weak and I was just like, ‘have some cinnamon buns’ but she batted them away told me to blow them into brass coins and spread them at the winds for the poor of spirit. What does that even mean?”

Read the whole thing.

22 Jan 2015

Sullydish Readers Defend Rand

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Ayn-Rand-008

Andrew the Illegal Immigrant, like many other people, blogged about the recently-gone-viral letter from Ayn Rand to her niece who wanted a loan, but (being a Rand villain) Andrew described Rand’s missive as “amazingly horrible.”

Andrew Sullivan does get these occasional fits of actual integrity in his blogging, though, and yesterday he passed along this highly effective demurral from one of his readers:

I don’t see what is so “horrible” in what Ayn Rand wrote to her niece. First, the niece didn’t ask for $25 as a gift; she asked to borrow it. If you read the letter, Rand gives TWO examples of where a similar request was made, and the money was NOT used to accomplish the stated goal, nor was it paid back. Second, Rand didn’t insist on charging interest, merely getting the principle back. Third, she simply insisted the niece be honest and A) spend it on what she said, and B) pay the loan back when she had the chance instead of spending on something else.

Or if you don’t want to be horrible like her, I too could use some new clothes to improve my employment opportunities, and a $250 (inflation adjusted from 1949) Amazon gift credit in reply would help. And you shouldn’t be horrible about insisting that I really use it for clothes, or that I pay it back, much less according to some terms. If you did insist, you would be “horrible” just like her.

This is the one thing often missed in Ayn Rand’s works: the heroes keep their promises, and pay what they owe “to the last dime”, often at great cost.

And another of Andrew’s readers added:

I’m a bit miffed at how ill treated this letter is in your post. What an invaluable lesson this is about debt! …

Most people in the US think nothing about taking on a new credit card – or a fancy new degree – and the mountain of “irresponsibly” laid down debt literally destroys their lives. It destroys their entrepreneurial spirit; it destroys their educational, relational, and employment opportunities; it destroys their quality of life and entrenches mild- to severe poverty; and it degrades them psychologically and virtually eliminates any taste for risk taking and enterprise, locking them into “getting by” employment to constantly service the debt.

Would that they had someone as wise as Rand cautioning them to think reeeeealy hard before taking on $40,000 for that BS Degree or $10,000 for a late-model car when they could be driving around a reliable beater. Think of the suffering that could have been alleviated if such lessons were taught to the entire generation of then-17 year old millennials who are currently groaning under their debt.

And let’s look at the massive handicap our national debt has on this same generation and their children. Would that anyone in Congress had had an aunt as shrewd as Ms. Rand! Look at the Greek debt or historic Latin American debt. How “horrible” would it have been to have a tut-tutting aunt make people painfully aware of the potential repercussions of their decisions before undertaking them? How much global suffering could have been avoided with a little more tough love from a wiry, stick-in-the-mud Aunty like Ayn Rand?

Read the whole thing.

19 Jan 2015

Letter From Auntie Ayn

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ayn-rand50

Mallory Ortberg shares with us a characteristically morally engagée letter from Ayn Rand to a relative who asked her for a small loan.

The Letters of Ayn Rand is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. It is a perpetual source of comfort and inspiration to me. Every morning, Ayn Rand must have thrust herself forth from her steel bed and asked herself “What is the most Ayn Rand thing that I can do today?”

On May 22, 1949, the answer was to write a letter to her young niece, who had sent her a short note asking to borrow $25 for a new dress. …

Read the whole thing.

Andrew Sullivan (characteristically anti-mind, anti-man, anti-life) thought that this letter was “horrible.” Some of us, on the other hand, find dear old Ayn’s dramatic moral scrupulousness endearing, if perhaps just a little tiny bit daft.

30 Dec 2014

Dagny’s Texts

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Dagny_Taggart_by_kait_wrait
Kait Wraith, Dagny Taggart

Mallory Ortberg imagines Dagny Taggart texting:

Francisco
Francisco are you awake?
Francisco?

what is it
Francisco, I can’t sleep
I’m sorry
I had a bad dream
the one about the Communists?
I don’t want to talk about it
tell me about the root of money again, Francisco

what time is it?
Come on, Francisco
tell me
I’ll help get you started
“Money is a root of exchange…”

Dag, please
I have to work in the morning
“Paper is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist…”
you don’t even need me to tell you what money is
I like the way that you tell it best
all right
all right, I’ll tell you about the root of money
do that voice you do for the looters, ok
do your looters voice

I’ll do my looters voice
k

14 Dec 2014

If the Left Could Learn One Thing…

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SmugLiberal

Robert Tracinski was challenged to identify one thing the Left could learn from Ayn Rand. Naturally, he felt initially at a loss to restrict the list to one thing. So he thought and thought, and concluded in the end that the left really needed to learn to think critically.

The War on Poverty has spent trillions of dollars over 50 years and has merely fixed poverty into place. Yet if you advocate the expansion of the welfare state, you are regarded as proving how deeply you care about the plight of the poor. Criticize the welfare state, and you are regarded as callous and indifferent to all human suffering.

If your brain is now feeding you a torrent of counter-arguments, half-remembered bits of Paul Krugman columns about how European socialism or the Great Society was really a roaring success—all I’m asking is that you take a few moments to stop that process and really, genuinely consider whether those of us on the right might have a valid point to make about the achievements of capitalism or the shortcomings of the welfare state. Assess how comfortable you are doing this. Assess whether you’re even able to do it, whether you’ve ever bothered to find out enough about our counter-arguments to fairly consider them.

Then ask yourself this. Which big-government regulatory or welfare programs would you choose to eliminate? Realistically, they can’t all be successful. Any task requires a certain amount of trial and error, and certainly there must be some programs where the costs have overwhelmed any conceivable benefit. Can you name such a program? Would you campaign to eliminate it if a politician proposed its repeal?

If you can’t name such a program, if you’ve never really asked yourself the question, ask yourself why.

The gap between the left’s laudatory self-image and the less-than-spectacular results of its programs is widely interpreted on the right as evidence that smug self-congratulation is the real purpose. It doesn’t matter whether a government program actually works, so long as you can pat yourself on the back for being progressive enough to vote for it. But I’m beginning to wonder whether the actual goal is the avoidance of evil thoughts. Ask yourself: how much of your political self-image is tied up in regarding yourself as better and purer than those wicked “deniers” on the right?

Read the whole thing.

04 Dec 2014

Nathaniel Branden, 9 April 1930 – 3 December 2014

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Ossian
Anne-Louis Girodet de Roucy-Trioson (1767-1824), L’apothéose des héros français morts pour la patrie pendant la guerre de la Liberté [Apotheosis of the French Heroes Who Died for their Fatherland During the War for Liberty also known as “The Spirit of Ossian Welcoming Napoleon’s Marshals into Valhalla”], 1802. Musée National du Chateau de Malmaison, Rueil

Reason and Huffington Post are both reporting this morning that Nathaniel Branden died yesterday in Los Angeles after a long illness.

Reason:

Nathaniel Branden, the man who turned Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy into a popular intellectual movement, died today at age 84.

He and Rand famously broke over complications involving a long-term affair of theirs that ended badly in 1968; the tale is told at length from his perspective in his memoir—the most recent edition called My Years with Ayn Rand—and interestingly, from his ex-wife Barbara Branden’s perspective in her 1986 Rand biography, The Passion of Ayn Rand.

After the break with Rand in 1968, Branden had his own highly successful career as a hugely popular writer on psychology, and he is a pioneer of the vital importance of “self-esteem” in modern culture.

Unlike the way the concept has been denatured over the decades, Branden, still Objectivist at heart, wrote with the understanding that creating a worthwhile and valuable life from the perspective of your own values was key to self-esteem, and thus to psychological health. That is, self-esteem wasn’t something that should be a natural given to a human, nor our birthright, but something to be won through clear-eyed understanding of our own emotions and their sources, and our values and how to pursue them.

Branden was vital to the spread of Rand’s ideas in two distinct junctures: by creating and publicizing the ideas inherent in her fiction through nonfiction and lectures via the Nathaniel Branden Institute in its lectures and magazines from 1958 to 1968 (a task Rand would almost certainly not have attempted without his prodding and aid).

Then, after Rand broke from him and all “official” Objectivists were required to revile him, Branden was a living example that intelligent admiration for and advocacy of Rand’s ideas need not be tied in with thoughtless fealty to Rand as a person, or to the pronouncements of those who controlled her estate, with all the attendant flaws and occasional irrationality: that one need not be an official Randian to spread the best of Objectivism.

Read the whole thing.

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HuffPo:

Born in Brampton, Ontario, April 3 1930, as Nathan Blumenthal he received a BA in psychology from the University of California Los Angeles, an MA from New York University and a Ph.D from the California Graduate Institute.

As an undergraduate he wrote a letter to Ayn Rand regarding her novel The Fountainhead, which earned him a phone call from the novelist/philosopher. He and his girlfriend, Barbara Weidman, visited Rand’s home north of Los Angeles and became close friends and associates.

After the publication of Rand’s magnum opus Atlas Shrugged, Branden created the Nathanial Branden Institute and presented lectures on Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism. Branden systematized Rand’s philosophy, something she had not done, and presented lectures on the ideas, published as The Vision of Ayn Rand.

These lectures were attended in person, or heard on tape, by thousands across the country and around the world including by many leaders of the nascent movement of modern libertarian.

Branden also began a romantic relationship with Rand, with the knowledge and consent of his wife, Barbara, and Ayn’s husband, Frank O’Connor. As is often the case in such relationships it did not end well and Rand and Branden had a stormy split in 1968.

Branden went on to promote his psychological views on self-esteem. He acknowledged his role in creating a spirit of intolerance within Rand’s circles, but he never repudiated the fundamental ideas, and in fact, defended them his entire life.

Read the whole thing.

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The young Nathaniel Branden was apparently an enfant terrible, notoriously arrogant, inflexible, and intolerant. He is generally supposed to have been principally responsible for the cult-like quality of Ayn Rand’s private circle, and reports abound of the young Branden conducting inquisitorial trials for deviationist infractions leading to the defendant’s excommunication and expulsion.

But, after the notorious break-up with Rand, he behaved with admirable dignity and restraint. While Rand hysterically denounced him and slandered him with false accusations, he avoided responding, merely relocating to the other side of the continent and building a new career as a pop psychologist counseling Californians on how to cure their neuroses by cultivating self-esteem.

It was amusing to see how thoroughly the former head of the rigid and formal Rand Jugend became Californianized. The later Branden began to speak well of pot smoking, and had himself photographed in guyabera shirts lounging beside a swimming pool.

Despite all that, he remained staunchly libertarian, and advocated essentially the same kind of politics and economics he had when he was Ayn Rand’s lover and deputy fuehrer. The only real difference was in his new-found personal modesty and sense of humor, overlaid with a thick layer of California squishiness.

His memoir of his time with Ayn was tasteful, discreet, and obviously quite honest. Reading his later writings, no one was ever moved to worship him in the way true believers once had, but one could not avoid kind of liking him and according him a bit of grudging respect. Molliter ossa cubent.

nathaniel-branden

29 Jul 2014

Randian Harry Potter, Book 2

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HarryPotterMerpeople

Mallory Ortberg‘s Randian Harry Potter is back.

The merpeople brandished their spears fiercely. Harry looked around. Ron, Hermione and Gabrielle Delacour drifted lazily through the water, arms bound uselessly behind their backs. Where was Fleur? And where was Krum?

Harry turned to face the merpeople. “The true test is not whether a Triwizard Champion can perform an act of charity — an act of mercy — whether I am capable of saving these victims, these leechers, these children. I can, I assure you. The question is whether I can do without them, whether I can exist solely as my own entity. Whether I can perform an act of accomplishment.”

Harry carefully began placing the heaviest stones he could carry over the rope connecting Ron and Hermione, until they were hopelessly enmeshed in the lake bed.

“The answer, of course,” he said clearly, “is that I can.” He swam away. He swam alone. He had lost the task, perhaps, but he had won the only tournament that truly matters — the tournament of self.

“I hope you’re not expecting me to apologize,” Harry said without looking up the next day when a very muddy and a very angry-looking Ron and Hermione appeared in front of the door to his study. “And don’t come any closer. You’ll track lake water all over my new rug.”

Hat tip to Leah Libresco.

Earlier episode.

15 Jun 2014

Ayn Rand’s Alice in Wonderland

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alice

Mallory Ortberg imagines the result if Ayn Rand had written Alice in Wonderland.

If everybody minded their own business,” the Duchess said in a hoarse growl, “the world would go round a deal faster than it does.”

“Which would not be an advantage,” said Alice, who felt very glad to get an opportunity of showing off a little of her knowledge. “Just think of what work it would make with the day and night! You see the earth takes twenty-four hours to turn round on its axis–”

“Talking of axes,” said the Duchess, “chop off her head!”

“You have no right to do that,” Alice said calmly. “The removal of heads does not fall under the purview of government.”

The Duchess gasped.

“A society that robs an individual of her head,” Alice continued, “or in any way attempts to limit the freedom of her head, is not, strictly speaking, a society, but a mob held together by institutionalized gang rule. You cannot promote the aristocracy of non-value at the expense of individual liberty.”

The Duchess fell silent.

“I am going to build a railroad here,” Alice said. “There is nothing you can do to stop me.”

“By the way,” Alice said as she turned to leave, “The appropriate posture of a worthy woman to a worthy man is hero-worship, not in chopping off his head. She never loses the awareness of her own sexual identity and theirs. A properly feminine woman does not treat men as if she were their pal, sister, mother—or leader. There will never be a woman president.”

Read the whole thing.

28 May 2014

Harry Potter Shrugged

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HarryPotterShrugged

Mallory Ortberg imagines how the saga might have read if Ayn Rand had written Harry Potter.

“Give me your wand, boy,” Voldemort hissed.

“I cannot do that. This wand represents my wealth, which is itself a tangible result of my achievements. Wealth is the product of man’s capacity to think,” Harry said bravely.

Voldemort gasped.

“There is a level of cowardice lower than that of the conformist: the fashionable non-conformist.”

Voldemort began to melt. Harry lit a cigarette, because he was the master of fire.

“The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities. The minimum wage is a tax on the successful. The market will naturally dictate the minimum wage without the government stepping in to determine arbitrary limits.”

Voldemort howled.

“I’m going to sell copies of my wand at an enormous markup,” Harry said, “and you can buy one like everyone else.”

Voldemort had been defeated.

“He hated us for our freedom,” Ron said.

“No, Ron,” Harry said. “He hated us for our free markets.”

Hermione ached with desire for the both of them to master her, but nobody paid her any attention. They had empires to build.

Read the whole thing.

30 Mar 2014

“Mozart Was a Red”

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A short play by Murray Rothbard, poking fun at the cult of personality a certain great libertarian author used to run.

Actually, Mozart really was a red. Ever seen Die Zauberflaute, an opera propagandizing for Freemasonry and the enlightened rule of scientific experts?

15 Feb 2014

Belated Valentine From Ayn Rand

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From MEP Daniel Hannan via Troy Senik.

13 Dec 2013

Barbara Branden (née Weidman, May 14, 1929 – December 11, 2013)

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Barbara Branden, first biographer of Ayn Rand, died Wednesday at age 84. Astonishingly a laudatory obituary written by James Peron was published on the Puffington Host .

One of the great figures in modern libertarianism has died today: Barbara Branden. Barbara, 84, was born in Winnipeg, Canada. It was there that she met her husband, Nathaniel Branden. And, while the couple divorced, Barbara was close to Nathaniel her entire life.

Barbara and Nathaniel became friends because of their mutual admiration for Ayn Rand’s novel The Fountainhead. While a student at the University of California, Los Angeles, Nathaniel wrote a fan letter to Rand, who worked as a scriptwriter in the area. Rand called him and invited him to visit her home. On the second visit he brought Barbara with him. They married in 1954.

During the writing of Atlas Shrugged, Barbara was one of the small circle of friends allowed to read the manuscript while it was in process. In 1958 she and Nathaniel organized the Nathaniel Branden Institute, to present systematic presentations of Rand’s Objectivist philosophy. Barbara gave a series of lectures on Principles of Efficient Thinking.

She and Nathaniel divorced but remained friends for the rest of their lives. In 1984 she published a biography of Rand, The Passion of Ayn Rand, which was later made into a film with Helen Mirren and Eric Stoltz. Barbara was not entirely pleased with the film.

Barbara remained active in Objectivist and libertarian circles for her entire life. She offered a nuanced, always sympathetic perspective on Ayn Rand. While sometimes critical, she never lost her admiration for Ayn. Even though the Brandens had an acrimonious split with Rand, after a relationship between Ayn and Nathaniel ended, Barbara always told me that, knowing everything she knew then, she would do it all over again.

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