As one considers the philosophy of Ayn Rand’s objectivism (which one should) — a clear eye toward worldview must be engaged at all times. For while some of the greatest conservative thinkers in our day have been inspired by her work in The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged — her overall philosophy, which stems from her first principle that there is no God — should and must be vigorously opposed (if not for the sake of truth – at least for the sake of humanity).
It’s not JUST the weight of the world that is his problem — it is that the ground beneath his feet is shifting.
Rand’s rail against collectivism juxtaposed with individualism is attractive to the tea party, libertarian, and Republican ideal. She has made many valid points for capitalism. Her narrative in Atlas Shrugged is engaging. However, I am concerned that her praise of capitalism is distorted and extreme to a dangerous degree if for no other reason than that it stands on a faulty foundation.
While it is true that socialism, communism (from which Rand came and to which she despised), Marxism and other collectivist sorts of “isms,” are based on false premises regarding the nature and character of man (and God); but so is Rand’s philosophy. The fact that she “borrows” from a Christian/biblical worldview to prop up her economic theory does not keep Atlas from shrugging. It’s not JUST the weight of the world that is his problem — it is that the ground beneath his feet is shifting (if you apply Randism).
Biblical framework of Capitalism
The weight of collectivism can’t be borne by the world’s economic system. True. But neither can all out capitalism (especially corporatism) bare the load. Rand’s posit that capitalism is the ideal for an economical system because the individualism of producers will benefit all, is a good point – to a point.
Adam Smith understood human nature and had a biblical worldview, he rightly assessed the need for free markets (liberty) and free enterprise. All things rightly understood, he took into consideration not only did God exist, but that He was Sovereign and active in the affairs of men and nations. Lest we forget His justice, it is best that we always err on the side of righteousness, not individual self-centeredness.
We are born in the imago dei (image of God) and thereby born to be free in every sense of the word. But that image is marred by sin. Religion (morality), laws, institutions, and governments all serve a purpose of helping us live up to our best human potential and to enjoy the inalienable rights that our Declaration of Independence expresses. Our greatest happiness lies in liberty, but not liberty that hurts others. Christ came for the purpose of setting us free – this does not mean we can use that freedom for selfish motives while we degrade the lives of others.
One of the functions of marriage is to keep sex, which can be both destructive and life creating and sustaining, in its proper place. In this way it can be enjoyed by humanity and becomes part of our happiness. Greed is inevitable due to our fallen state and Capitalism tends to keep it (greed) in its proper place. Like fire that can destroy (when it’s in the curtains) or be life sustaining (when it’s in the fireplace); individualism can be an advantage in the marketplace when it inspires people to service or help humanity by producing goods that make our lives better. And thus the producer should be rewarded, but helping others, being selfless is part of that reward. So Capitalism, as an economic idea, is the best system we have found. Rand got this side of the capitalism coin correct.
Unfortunately she did not sufficiently focus on helping others. So extreme is her capitalism that not only do the producers in Atlas Shrugged check out of society – they sabotage and destroy the inventions, productions, and industries that help mankind. So like Communism that killed millions and the French Revolution to which Robespierre justified the horrid violence against innocent men and women — Rand’s plot line justifies the actions of her heroes (ends justifies the means). The narrative is not realistic in depicting the harm and death that would inevitably follow. Capitalism removed from a biblical worldview is just as deadly as the philosophy of Marx and Mao.
Revolution is generally not a Christian idea. Why? Because innocent people get hurt the most in revolutions. This doesn’t mean that Christians are not to stand against evil in all it’s forms and to even go to war to defend a just cause. It simply means that violence is a last resort. The Crusades were a “response” to the Islamic hordes invasions. The Jihadist were allowed to occupy a great portion before the defense set in (the enemy always takes advantage of Christian virtues).
The American Revolution is more aptly named, The War for Independence. The colonies only took up arms after all other means had been exhausted. Remember Patrick Henry’s speech? The chains were already forged in Boston. The war was a defensive action. Perhaps Rand’s characters also had taken a long view and suffered with the government until they could no longer. But their own words regarding self-interest (and their less than virtuous lives) would make one think that it was an “evil” act to purposefully destroy industries that provide needed resources to humanity. They must have known that they would be causing death for many innocent lives including the most vulnerable.
Just as marriage is a good thing for society when adhered to on the principles of loving kindness, duty, and fidelity — so Capitalism has it’s place when it functions more as free enterprise and when it always keeps in sight the virtues of love, duty, and faithfulness to the less fortunate.
Rand despised the principles of duty and fidelity. Her view of marriage was anything but loving or kind. Her open marriage destroyed all these virtues. She can never be faulted for living up to her own highest non-virtue of self-interest. For Rand always and in every situation did what was “right in her own eyes.”
To see Atlas Shrugged or not to see (read)?
So should we ignore Rand? Absolutely not. Brilliant conservative minds such as Clarence Thomas see the truth that can be found in Rand’s novels. And like any other worldview or philosophy, to be uninformed on Rand is to our detriment. She followed the logical outcomes of Nietzsche and Schopenhauer. Her “superman” or idealized man was the one that could live without any care or concern at all for their fellow humans. She held forth a serial killer of her time as the epitome of this ideal. She was no different than Hitler in many ways, only instead of targeting Jews as the poison of society – she targeted the non-producers. Hitler called the Jew a vampire (sucking the life out of humanity) – Rand called the non-producer a “parasite,” “lice,” and “looter.” She contended that considering others is equal to “moral evil.” How can we ignore this woman? And, in other sense she describes the wicked conundrum that society finds itself in when it punishes the wealthy, the inventors, the producers…John Galt.
In the same way that we should reject notions of Social Justice that align themselves with liberal Marxist ideology, we should reject Capitalism aligned with Atheism. Nothing good or right for humanity comes from a godless universe.