Home > Uncategorized > Ayn Rand — a perverted psychopath

Ayn Rand — a perverted psychopath

from Lars Syll

Now, I don’t care to discuss the alleged complaints American Indians have against this country. I believe, with good reason, the most unsympathetic Hollywood portrayal of Indians and what they did to the white man. They had no right to a country merely because they were born here and then acted like savages. The white man did not conquer this country …

Since the Indians did not have the concept of property or property rights—they didn’t have a settled society, they had predominantly nomadic tribal “cultures”—they didn’t have rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights that they had not conceived of and were not using …

What were they fighting for, in opposing the white man on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence; for their “right” to keep part of the earth untouched—to keep everybody out so they could live like animals or cavemen. Any European who brought with him an element of civilization had the right to take over this continent, and it’s great that some of them did. The racist Indians today—those who condemn America—do not respect individual rights.

Ayn Rand,  Address To The Graduating Class Of The United States Military Academy at West Point, 1974

It’s sickening to read this gobsmacking trash. But it’s perhaps even more sickening that people like Alan Greenspan consider Rand some kind of intellectual hero.

Alan Greenspan isn’t just a bad economist. He’s a bad person. What else can one think of a person that considers Ayn Rand — with the ugliest psychopathic philosophy the postwar world has produced — one of the great thinkers of the 20th century? A person that even co-edited a book with her — maintaining that unregulated capitalism is a “superlatively moral system”. A person that in his memoirs tries to reduce his admiration for Rand to a youthful indiscretion — but who actually still today can’t be described as anything else than a loyal Randian disciple.

Ayn Rand and her objectivist philosophy have​ — as shown in Reich’s video — more disciples than Greenspan. But as Hilary Putnam rightfully noticed in The Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy (Harvard University Press, 2002) it’s doubtful if it even qualifies as a real philosophy:

It cannot be the case that the only universally valid norm refers solely to discourse. It is, after all, possible for someone to recognize truth-telling as a binding norm while otherwise being guided solely by ‘enlightened egoism.’ (This is, indeed, the way of life that was recommended by the influential if amateurish philosophizer – I cannot call her a philosopher – Ayn Rand.) But such a person can violate the spirit if not the letter of the principle of communicative action at every turn. After all, communicative action is contrasted with manipulation, and as such a person can manipulate people without violating the maxims of ‘sincerity, truth-telling, and saying only what one believes to be rationally warranted.’ Ayn Rand’s capitalist heroes manipulated people all the time (even if she didn’t consider it manipulation) via their control of capital, for example. Indeed, the person who says, ‘do what I want or I’ll shoot you,’ need not be violating any maxim concerned solely with discourse. But it would be a mistake to use such examples as objections to Habermasian ‘discourse ethics.’

In her diary from 1928, Ayn Rand approvingly quotes a statement made by a William Edward Hickman – “What is good for me is right.” Rand is enthusiastic and writes: “The best and strongest expression of a real man’s psychology I have heard.”

Later she models one of her heroes  – Danny Renahan – after Hickman. Renahan is portrayed as

born with a wonderful, free, light consciousness — [resulting from] the absolute lack of social instinct or herd feeling. He does not understand, because he has no organ for understanding, the necessity, meaning, or importance of other people … Other people do not exist for him and he does not understand why they should.

Who was this  Hickman that so inspired Rand?

Hickman was a notorious bank robber, child kidnapper and mass murderer. One of the most hated and heinous criminals in U. S. history.

How people like Alan Greenspan and Paul Ryan — not to mention all modern day ‘objectivist’ disciples — can consider Ayn Rand “one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century” is really beyond comprehension. It’s sickening.

  1. Helen Sakho
    June 12, 2019 at 11:38 pm

    This kind of sick mentality suits the current day discourse in all sciences perfectly. There was a time when there was a need for specificity. But this is so widespread now that even that there is gone.

    • June 13, 2019 at 6:40 am

      Not in the science I read.

  2. Rob
    June 13, 2019 at 12:19 am

    One small addition is required to expand the damage this sick philosophy has done to humanity:

    It’s sickening to read this gobsmacking trash. But it’s perhaps even more sickening that people like Alan Greenspan [and Paul Ryan] consider Rand some kind of intellectual hero. ~ Lars

  3. June 13, 2019 at 12:34 am

    Allow your chartered banks to lend vast sums into existence and hand it to speculators and eventually you will have a banking crisis that threatens to crash the payments. Indeed, in 1929 the predictable Minsky instability in fact did crash the payments system and kicked off the Great Depression. Rand witnessed the consequences as a young girl trapped in Eastern Europe at the time. She saw the gobsmacking hypocrisy of the bankers and financiers who had caused the problems with their arms around inventors and industrialists, like long lost brothers, twins, separated at birth. Much the same pattern is playing out today. Ayn Rand is simply a product of her times. Grow your youth into an economic system that is wildly unstable, evolving to devastating states of collapse and disfunction, and don’t be surprised when they grow up to spout philosophical nonsense, and near infinitely self serving bullshit.

    • Helge Nome
      June 13, 2019 at 3:49 am

      Right on Peter

    • Calgacus
      June 15, 2019 at 10:49 pm

      By 1929, Rand was a Hollywood screenwriter; the sort of financial instability that might have inspired her that way was in revolutionary Russia. She had supported Kerensky when young, but later said that the Whites were even worse than the Reds, IIRC.

      • Robert Locke
        June 16, 2019 at 7:01 am

        My wife’s father, was considered a “class traitor” by the Whites in the 1920s, but was arrested by Stalin’s henchmen as an anti-Bolshevikl and sent to the Gulag for 20 years; when released (1945) he was hounded by Whites and Bolsheviks until he escaped Russia, through his Polish wife (1957), to end his life in Poland. Harassment from vengeful Whites and Reds drove the man insane.

  4. Rob
    June 13, 2019 at 2:25 am

    Allow your chartered banks to lend vast sums into existence and hand it to speculators and eventually you will have a banking crisis that threatens to crash the payments. ~ Peter Blogda

    Is not that just what Quantitative Easing (QE) was post-GFC? Didn’t the banks, flush with new money, just turn around and speculate in markets around the world (such as commodities markets), thereby continuing to destabilize markets at the expense of local communities so they can further make predatory gains?

    Isn’t any theory of finance that justifies QE as legitimate means of backstop for a so-called failing market when the “market maker” fails a prescription for endless abuse of the public purse by predatory parasitic finance? How such a suggestion be called “heterodox” economics when it is really just more of the mainstream claptrap with some minor adjustments around the fringe.
    .

    Austerity through shock therapy
    .

    The commitment to privatize government property is one of the main components of the restructuring plans imposed by the “troika” of IMF, ECB (European Central Bank) and European Commission on euro- area countries when they avail themselves of aid from the euro rescue packages. (Deutsche Bank, 2011)

    .
    A major hallmark of the stage of finance capital is accelerated accumulation of fictitious capital through asset- price inflation; recently facilitated by increasingly easy and larger allocations of credit to the financial sector. Not only have the banks and other financial institutions come to lend/invest more in the more profitable (albeit riskier) financial sector, instead of the real sector, but also government- sponsored “stimulus” monies are funneled or recycled through the banking system within this sector. “Instead of financing tangible investment to expand production and innovation, most loans are made against collateral, with interest to be paid out of what borrowers can make elsewhere. Despite being unproductive in the classical sense, it was remunerative for [borrowers/investors] . . . riding the wave of asset- price inflation” (Hudson 2012b).
    .
    The unsavory record of the Federal Reserve Bank indicates that, as Professor Tremblay recently put it, it has “a recurring and nagging tendency to create financial bubbles and economic booms and busts that end up—more often than not—benefiting large banks and their CEOs, at a huge cost to the real economy.” The professor further notes, “The Fed is really an institution primarily designed to subsidize large banks with public money” (2013). Win–win gambling is, of course, an oxymoronic expression. Yet, that’s exactly what Wall Street banks and other financial institutions are doing: they win as long as the financial bubbles they create continue expanding, but they also win when the bubbles burst; since they are then compensated for their losses with bail- out monies and all kinds of other shady rescue plans. Two such dubious plans that were, for example, used in response to the 2008 market crash to transfer trillions of dollars to the failed financial institutions were Term Asset Facility (TAF ) and Term Asset- backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF ).
    .
    For the financial elite to have pulled off such a successful financial coup has, therefore, a lot to do with the fact that market mechanism is subverted by monetary policy that protects the gambling behavior of the banking interests against losing outcomes of such behavior. “Just as the Greenspan Fed created the housing bubble and let the derivatives market explode, thus sowing the seeds of the 2007–2008 financial crisis,” points out Professor Tremblay, “the Bernanke Fed, using faulty economic analysis, has embarked upon a policy of zero short- term interest rates for many years” (ibid.). Bernanke’s open- ended quantitative easing (QE) is essentially tantamount to giving Wall Street banks good money in exchange for bad money, that is, in exchange for their toxic assets whose prices have artificially been kept at their inflated levels of pre- 2008 market crash. Professor Tremblay further writes:
    .

    It is becoming increasingly obvious that the Bernanke Fed’s monetary policy of fixing short- term interest rates at close to zero percent . . . was primarily designed not to help the U.S. economy but to shore up the super large American banks that were on the verge of bankruptcy when the investment bank Lehman Brothers failed on September 15, 2008. Indeed, with this policy, the Bernanke Fed has transferred hundreds of billions to these super banks at a huge cost to the rest of the economy and to international holders of U.S. dollars.
    .
    (Ibid.)

    .
    Who pays for, or what happens to, the massive fictitious capital that implodes and becomes toxic when a financial bubble bursts? The answer is, of course, the people—through extensive measures of austerity cuts. Under liberal capitalism of the competitive industrial era, a long cycle of economic contraction would usually wipe out not only jobs and production, but also the debt burdens that were accumulated during the cycle of expansion that led to the cycle of contraction. In the age of finance capital, however, debt overhead is propped up through its monetization, or socialization, even during a most severe financial meltdown such as that which occurred in 2008. Indeed, due to the influence of powerful financial interests, national or taxpayers’ debt burden is further exacerbated by the government’s generous bailout plans of the bankrupt financial giants, that is, by simply transferring or converting private to public debt. In essence, this is a policy of redistributing national resources from the bottom up. Not surprisingly, income and/or wealth distribution has increasingly become more uneven in recent years (Table 4.2). As Henry Blodget (2013) of Business Insider has shown, the already extremely unequal distribution of economic resources shown in Table 4.2 has become even more lopsided since 2009.

    • Rob
      June 13, 2019 at 2:28 am

      Citation: Ismael Hossein- zadeh (2014) Beyond mainstream explanations of the financial crisis : parasitic finance capital. Routledge.

  5. Rob
    June 13, 2019 at 2:31 am

    To enjoy privilege without abuse, to have liberty without license, to possess power and steadfastly refuse to use it for self‑aggrandizement—these are the marks of high civilization.

    I just listened to this (making an audio book of a text) and can only dream of a day when such is considered normal.

    • Craig
      June 13, 2019 at 4:26 am

      Right. So why do we bother fiddle faddling around with endless critiques of neo-classical economics that we all agree are correct, and instead consider policies that would directly benefit all legitimate economic agents by ending both private finance’s monopoly on credit creation and its de-stabilizing paradigm of Debt Only? Short answer: It’s what chattering intellectuals do. The wise start mass movements to actually do something about it.

  6. Rob
    June 13, 2019 at 4:40 am

    I see no mass movement in America. I see no sense of urgency. I see no sense of need to do anything close to your repetitive chatter in the comment section of an insignificant blog. Let me know, oh wise one, when you cease chatting and start moving 🙄

    • Craig
      June 13, 2019 at 9:25 am

      Writing a book is at least a start. It hard getting even local media to pay any attention to you without a platform. It’s like a catch-22. I’ve been trying to get Andrew Yang’s attention as he at least has half of the ingredients with his “freedom dividend”. Unfortunately you can’t even leave an instant message on his facebook page without first donating. I understand your frustration Rob, but your recent serial lashing out needs to be better channeled.

      • Rob
        June 13, 2019 at 9:44 am

        I commend you, sincerely, for writing the book. I will read it. Can’t promise exactly when, but in the near future. Agree, some better channeling is on order :-)

        The vision you are seeing is good; the intention is right. I am not sure the methodology is practical, but I am always open to new ways to solve the very real pressing problems humanity is facing.

        I could see you vision is a utopian community of some sort, but how to implement in our current world, and if it would really solve our problems I cannot say.

        I am new to economics, so I am careful to not get ahead of what I think I know.

        All the best.

  7. June 13, 2019 at 7:04 am

    Rand was more of a psychologist than a philosopher. It is ironic that from time to time these psychological theories pop up that deny obvious facts about humans such as our social lifestyle based on empathy and reciprocity. Any social animal that is not prosocial would simply die out. Morality emerges from our mutual obligations to each other. We now know that primates, elephants, and dogs understand fairness, for example. And chimps have a primitive notion of justice (i.e. an action designed to restore fairness).

    And contra your first commenter, this is the discourse that is current in science.

    I agree that Rand was probably seriously mentally ill. Her psychological theories are consistent with psychopathy or sociopathy. And Greenspan was more than a dupe, since he implemented her ideas across the globe over a period of decades. He was the high priest in her sociopathic cult. He only recanted after the global financial crisis.

    Our problem is that people who lack the capacity empathy are content to manipulate people for their own ends. and are thus drawn to business and public office. How we bring humanity back to commerce and politics is unclear at present. Though politicians like Alexandra Ocasio Cortez bring me some hope (shame we don’t have any like her in the UK). I’m also encouraged by the mass movement initiated by Greta Thunberg, and by Extinction Rebellion.

    • Rob
      June 13, 2019 at 8:54 am

      I would not call Rand a psychologist, that is an insult to the profession and the field as legitimate study. You are closer to the truth that she was mentally ill, but that is somewhat of an excuse for sociopathic behavior. There are many in society like her. Are they all mentally ill? She was a sophist. You are on point and right out about our animal cousins. This side of our evolutionary nature was ignored in the “nature red in tooth and claw” and “survival of the fittest” narrow view, while ignoring the clear evidence of other forms of animal behavior (including human altruism) that tell a different story. Don’t excuse Greenspan as being a “dupe” as he was a highly educated person. When elite, highly educated, fool themselves due to ideology and greed that should not dismissed lightly as mere naivete. He is responsible for the harm he caused untold numbers. A “dupe” is the poor old women, many minorities, who had the fly-by-night brokers come into their homes and flip charts while reciting the mantra, “You will save $300 a month,” while ignoring the downside soon to eat them out of house and livelihood. We bring humanity back into commerce by first, practicing what we preach in our own lives, second, demanding socially and politically that these values matter, and that means putting our consumer dollars where our values are. Stop patronizing and spending money on businesses that violate these norms even if it means inconvenience.

      I am encouraged too by some of those movements we are seeing. We need more.

      • Econoclast
        June 13, 2019 at 11:23 pm

        As a stupid late teen I briefly fell for this ugly woman’s bilge, reading Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged while sunbathing on LA beaches and waiting for good-looking girls to discover me. I am the only person I know who read the entire John Galt speech in Atlas Shrugged. My definition of mindless endurance.

        When I think of male-female criminal sociopathy two people come immediately to mind: Ayn Rand and Dick Cheney. And she was a hypocrite to boot, receiving Medicare in her old age.

        Her political groupthink, libertarianism, is one of the most dangerous and disingenuous political belief systems on the planet today. If it weren’t harmful, it would simply be naive.

        Notice the photo Lars posts. The tall bald-headed buy is “moderate” Republican Gerald Ford, once Dick Cheney’s boss. No one should be fooled about the good old days of “moderate” Republicanism. It’s all Ayn Rand wannabe selfishness-worship.

        Without cooperation and empathy we are doomed. Maybe we are anyway. 415ppm and rising.

      • Rob
        June 14, 2019 at 12:14 am

        Your brilliant Econoclast. I love reading your comments.

      • Econoclast
        June 14, 2019 at 12:37 am

        Thank you for the compliment, Rob.

        You earlier said, “I see no sense of urgency.” I as well, but that is changing. I live in Oregon, where a wonderful woman with a wonderful name — Kelsey Cascadia Rose Juliana — at age 15 offered to be lead plaintiff in a current case before the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Juliana v. United States. Five years have passed and Kelsey is in college. Her case was heard in Portland last week. Stay tuned. She is Oregon’s version of Greta Thunberg. Kelsey is a member of an Oregon phenomenon called The Children’s Trust, which is helping shape the leaders of the future. So also is the national Sunshine Movement.

        I fight to keep the oil trains out of my spectacular Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area with these young people in Portland. This work helps me channel my rage and despair. Otherwise my 84 year-old body would shrivel. Just saying.

      • Rob
        June 14, 2019 at 12:55 am

        I guess I should qualify that statement, for it isn’t fair to those like yourself. In fact, I think I need to rethink my despair and pessimist view in light of individuals like you and Craig. I waver, I guess. There is a sense of urgency I think. Some are more consiously aware, others vaguely so. Those who are acting like yourself are aware, and it seems, making a difference. For that I am grateful for individuals like you and Craig and all those that bring some goodness into this crazy world as they pass by. I will try to follow your example and look into the sources you note.

        Just before my wife was recruited by Toyota from Microsoft I was about to launch a new startup. It’s mission statement was to create a new business model for the Fissured Workplace (i.e., contingent staffing) that would bring ethics back into the global supply chain and attempt to stop happening to high-tech/high-skilled workers what happened to low-skilled/

      • Rob
        June 14, 2019 at 1:07 am

        … it was structured as a social benefit corporation, and would apply a model after co-ops and employee ownership enterprises. It’s corporate charter was progressive and it’s business plan was based on hard data. I had access to the real numbers from both sides of the industry (lead business and vendor) so I knew how much was being extracted by the middle-men. If the larger public knew they would riot in the streets (or perhaps not, as many feel so helpless).

        Alas, an unforseen event (good for us no doubt) meant such plans must be put on hold, perhaps to never be taken up again, as I am not getting any younger :-)

        There is a twist to this story though, and a very unexpected one. I recently discovered that Japanese investors have bought up many of the major US technology platforns in staffing the contingent staffing space. Who knows, there may be more than one way to skin this cat?

  8. Rolando
    June 15, 2019 at 8:27 am

    Is this person venting? Why don’t you start from Ayn Rand’s foundational premises and proceed to critique her philosophy. I find it strange that you express such disgust for Objectivism and not once do you explicitly present to the reader the premises of Objectivism and how they are flawed.

  9. Econoclast
    June 15, 2019 at 3:10 pm

    I’ll bite.

    By “this person” I must assume you mean the posting author, Lars Syll. Lars so frequently critiques the entirety of Rand’s favorite “social” system — market fundamentalism, or as it was called in her time, laissez-faire capitalism” — that he sometimes is critiqued in this blog (wrongly, I feel), as a “Johnny one note”. On its premises, market fundamentalism isn’t a social system at all, but a collection of selfish individuals. D. H. Lawrence said this: “the essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic and a killer.” Put that together with Rand’s worship of selfishness and you have a culture of sociopaths. That’s the essence of her moral high ground.

    Syll begins his post with her own words in contempt of American Indians. Elsewhere, her words reveal a core premise: man’s “own happiness [is] the [sole] moral purpose of his life.” I’ll offer a snarky aside: evidently women weren’t supposed to have happiness as their sole moral purpose.

    I’ll say again: Rand’s political philosophy is dangerous, shallow, anti-human, and naive. Perhaps fine for people who chose to live as isolated individuals, but not a good basis for any social system. I prefer John Donne: “No man is an island entire of itself; every man
    is a piece of the continent, a part of the main … any man’s death diminishes me,
    because I am involved in mankind”.

  10. Ken Zimmerman
    June 18, 2019 at 11:34 am

    Before getting into this discussion of Ayn Rand and Randian philosophy, if that’s what it is, we need to consider the social. Unlike what is often assumed the social is not “ready-made.” It is not an inherent part of human life. The social is better viewed as the connection of non-social things. It is those actions, movements that connect those things. Social is then better viewed as a process, as it comes and goes. Second, humans sometimes act socially and sometimes not. Rand is correct when she claims there is no society, with the proviso that when they choose humans can and have created society, many of them. Being social such as building societies or just organizing a youth baseball club or creating a law in Congress are choices humans can make, but don’t have to make. By such absolutist statements as there is no society or humans are objectively only selfish, Rand has betrayed what she says is the point of her philosophy. Rational Individualism (Rand’s Objectivism) is certainly one choice humans can make as the underpinning for their lives, but it’s not the only one. In fact, from an “objective” perspective collectivism (Rand’s bogeyman) is a superior choice if for no other reason than it increases the likelihood that each person will survive (be alive longer). There are certainly many instances of the use of Randian philosophy in attempts to subvert existing cultures surreptitiously. Reagan may have been wrong about many things, but at least he tried to make changes in the openness of sunlight (except for Iran-Contra of course). This is not the case with GW Bush and certainly not with Trump. Using any philosophy, Objectivism, Marxism, Fascism in this way should frighten all of us.

    Now, was Rand what Psychiatrists and Psychologists call a sociopath or psychopath? That seems likely. Whether her pathology was environmental, or the result of physical brain problems is difficult to say with certainty. Several telling aspects of her early life indicate environmental. First, she was Jewish in Russia in the early part of the 20th century. A very tough gig. Second, she was an intelligent, female Jew in Russia in the early part of the 20th century. An even tougher gig. And then she was a middle-class Jew in Russia … Tougher gig still. Then she got political just before the revolutions began in Russia. Twelve at the time of the February Revolution of 1917, she favored Alexander Kerensky over Tsar Nicholas II. The subsequent October Bolshevik Revolution under Vladimir Lenin disrupted the life of her family. The family lost everything. They survived, but just barely. During her time at university shortly thereafter, she declared herself an atheist and a pure rationalist. After completing university in 1924 she immigrated (don’t know if it was legal or not) to the US, where she was promptly overwhelmed first by New York City and then by Hollywood. I’ve treated psychopaths with many fewer environmental influencing factors.

    It’s clear that Rand was a racist, bigot, egotistical to the point of self-admiration, and that she displayed many of the characteristics of today’s cult leaders. Particularly, she was superficially charming and charismatic, felt no sense of guilt or remorse, lied a great deal, acted as an authoritarian, took sexual advantage of those around her, recognized no boundaries in gaining and keeping power, used sycophants to spread her message, viewed anyone outside her circle as an enemy and/or inferior, and viewed people only in utilitarian terms as assets or objects. These characteristics are also common for sociopaths and psychopaths. But sociopaths and psychopaths take the next step to acting in any way necessary to implement these characteristics in the world around them. But is her philosophy trash and gibberish and is Alan Greenspan a bad man for following this nonsense? Perhaps so. But humans are often gullible and foolish. Among those who drank poison at the command of Jim Jones were lawyers and businesspersons, as well as laborers and short-order cooks. Based on Greenspan’s books and other public testimony, he was not the sharpest tool in the shed.

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