9thdoctor

Obama on Ayn Rand in Rolling Stone

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http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/obama-and-the-road-ahead-the-rolling-stone-interview-20121025?page=3

Have you ever read Ayn Rand?

Sure.

What do you think Paul Ryan's obsession with her work would mean if he were vice president?

Well, you'd have to ask Paul Ryan what that means to him. Ayn Rand is one of those things that a lot of us, when we were 17 or 18 and feeling misunderstood, we'd pick up. Then, as we get older, we realize that a world in which we're only thinking about ourselves and not thinking about anybody else, in which we're considering the entire project of developing ourselves as more important than our relationships to other people and making sure that everybody else has opportunity - that that's a pretty narrow vision. It's not one that, I think, describes what's best in America. Unfortunately, it does seem as if sometimes that vision of a "you're on your own" society has consumed a big chunk of the Republican Party.

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Wow. It's obvious Obama didn't understand Ayn Rand in college and STILL doesn't understand her now. I would bet that his exposure to her in college was as an enemy-philosopher of the collectivist movements he so eagerly embraced. Obama really thinks that man is a cog to be used as a serf for the State collective. HOW ON EARTH he still has as many projected Electoral votes as he does now speaks volumes of the Americans lost in the self inflicted downward spiral of collectivist brute worship and envy. Oh reason, raise thy banner high once again that man may no longer grovel for bread, but command his own life!

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Wow. It's obvious Obama didn't understand Ayn Rand in college and STILL doesn't understand her now.

He doesn't actually say that he read her in college. He says we, so he's not telling a personal story here. It's somewhat ambiguous in that respect, and the content is just left-wing boilerplate. I love the Paul Ryan "obsession" bit, I mean talk about desperation.

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Wow. It's obvious Obama didn't understand Ayn Rand in college and STILL doesn't understand her now.

He doesn't actually say that he read her in college. He says we, so he's not telling a personal story here. It's somewhat ambiguous in that respect, and the content is just left-wing boilerplate. I love the Paul Ryan "obsession" bit, I mean talk about desperation.

I agree. It's very unlikely Rand was on the curriculum or the radar at his college. That response was a result of staff research, as you say, boilerplate.

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Well, you'd have to ask Paul Ryan what that means to him. Ayn Rand is one of those things that a lot of us, when we were 17 or 18 and feeling misunderstood, we'd pick up. Then, as we get older, we realize that a world in which we're only thinking about ourselves and not thinking about anybody else, in which we're considering the entire project of developing ourselves as more important than our relationships to other people and making sure that everybody else has opportunity - that that's a pretty narrow vision. It's not one that, I think, describes what's best in America. Unfortunately, it does seem as if sometimes that vision of a "you're on your own" society has consumed a big chunk of the Republican Party.

I wish I could say I am even remotely surprised.

But I'm not.

Liberals, leftists and progressives habitually distort the living hell out of Rand all the freaking time without even a citation, a second thought, or any possible pretense at intellectual honestly. It is a reflex, to them.

It is simple intellectual warfare. Defame the opposition and twist their message beyond recognition. Strawman the opponent so as to make as many people as possible prejudiced against them. Prevent any honest engagement with what the opponent actually wrote by inflaming prejudices.

This is in fact a confession of weakness. If their principal technique is to avoid the opposition's arguments, this means they cannot deal with these arguments.

Obama belongs at Burning Man, not 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

I've known libertarians that went to Burning Man.

Burning Man is a countercultural event and one which I'm not a huge fan of but "countercultural" and "anti-libertarian" are scarcely the same thing.

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This is in fact a confession of weakness. If their principal technique is to avoid the opposition's arguments, this means they cannot deal with these arguments.

Precisely. Great observation.

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Impressive. Yaron Brook milked every last drop out of this opportunity. Good for him.

I'm thinking Obama might start regretting his admission of even knowing about Rand, instead

of contrasting his principles, and hers so explicitly.

"Uh, Ann who? never heard of her.."

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Thanks Dennis.

He did a competent job on this presentation.

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I take the "sure" as indicating that Barack Obama has read something by Ayn Rand. But his answer to the next question isn't framed in terms of his own experience... and it could have been produced by anyone on the Left in present-day American politics.

As Andrew notes, it's perfectly acceptable, on the Left, to indict Rand without ever reading anything she wrote.

I actually think it goes farther than that—actually reading Rand, let alone studying her work, would be looked upon as proof of intellectual and moral contamination.

Talk about a self-defeating approach.

Robert Campbell

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I read his response and sense that the guy may have actually read some Rand--probably The Fountainhead.

His one-paragraph "critique" of Rand is far more vanilla and far less of a caricature than one would usually find by the average National Review writer...

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I actually think it goes farther than that—actually reading Rand, let alone studying her work, would be looked upon as proof of intellectual and moral contamination.

I'm not sure this is true of everyone on the left but I've certainly seen some people with views that are pretty damn close to this.

One of my acquiatances actually thinks that reading The Fountainhead might subject him to a form of subconscious/hypnotic mind control. Yes, seriously. He's not a bad person IMO, he's just... rather in the grip of silly prejudices (and in this case a silly superstition). Don't worry, I'm working on fixing him.

But yeah, I think Robert is right that some people do indeed think that actually reading Rand automatically makes one 'contaminated' somehow.

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Here's a good piece in Reason Magazine about this:

http://reason.com/blog/2012/10/25/obama-thinks-ayn-rand-is-for-teens-for-p

Branden noted that Rand's detractors rarely deign "publicly to name the essential ideas of Atlas Shrugged and to attempt to refute them. No one has been willing to declare: 'Ayn Rand holds that man must choose his values and actions exclusively by reason, that man has the right to exist for his own sake, that no one has the right to seek values from others by physical force--and I consider such ideas wrong, evil and socially dangerous."

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About 1:45 minutes into the video Yaron Brook says

"... part of what collectivists do is they try to explain individualism in wrong, unappealing terms."

Only a few months ago what Yaron Brook did was try to explain Ron Paul in wrong, unappealing terms.

After his remark above he chatters about the virtues of individualism, rationality, productivity, honesty, integrity, independence, pride, self esteem, etc.

As many ARI watchers have noted, the most disconcerting thing about ARI people is their monumental hypocrisy. They are fine, even eloquent at times, in mouthing generalities, but what it means to them in practice is something else again. After “freedom and individualism and Americanism” you get ... well, everyone by now knows what you get. The gap between the fine words and the particulars brings to mind the Cold War epithet “masters of deceit.”

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Impressive. Yaron Brook milked every last drop out of this opportunity.

Brook did well, but I'm surprise that he didn't address the issue that, contrary to what Obama claims, liberals/socialists/commies are not really "thinking about more than themselves" or wanting "everybody else to have an opportunity," but, rather, they are actually the ones who are focused on how much money or power they can get for themselves (in exchange for nothing). I'm surprised that Brook didn't point out that those who support collectivist statism are only displaying the pretense of being motivated by helping others, since they don't voluntarily spend their own time and money helping others, and that their real motivation is freebies and/or power over others.

J

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@Mark, wow. laying into Yaron when Obama is the POS who is slandering Objectivist ideology.

Is Mark wrong about Brook and those at the ARI? Aren't they sometimes hypocritical and destructive? Don't they sometimes appear to be competitively motivated by envy of those who are brighter and more successful at promoting liberty than they are?

J

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Impressive. Yaron Brook milked every last drop out of this opportunity.

Brook did well, but I'm surprise that he didn't address the issue that, contrary to what Obama claims, liberals/socialists/commies are not really "thinking about more than themselves" or wanting "everybody else to have an opportunity," but, rather, they are actually the ones who are focused on how much money or power they can get for themselves (in exchange for nothing). I'm surprised that Brook didn't point out that those who support collectivist statism are only displaying the pretense of being motivated by helping others, since they don't voluntarily spend their own time and money helping others, and that their real motivation is freebies and/or power over others.

J

Wow. I think that is actually very important. People think of Rand as advocating a type of selfishness that is socially destructive. They tend to think, "What if other people acted this way?" rather than, "How would I act if I accepted this morality?"

Waking up the people who are being taken advantage of, like Rearden experienced, is the only option. If a philosophy asks only that you examine your situation and correct anything that is unfairly hurting you, then the people who do take advantage of others won't change, but the people being taken advantage of might.

It's no use hoping that people will change for the sake of others', they have to realize how it can benefit themselves.

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Good one, Dennis.

I figured when Obama referred, in the 2008 campaign, to the Republicans switching over to making “a virtue out of selfishness,”* he knew perfectly well of Rand and her influence (and perfectly well how squarely that virtue of selfishness is set against genuine, Christian virtue).

To the remark in Rolling Stone, there is related liberal sentiment here, in an issue of In Character devoted to the subject of self-reliance. Self-reliance is a topic many readers in America would associate with the famous essay by Emerson. It was fitting that Nietzsche was a fan of Emerson, however discomfiting that may be to Emerson's liberal heirs, classical and not-so-classical.*

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

John Aglialoro, a co-producer of the film Atlas Shrugged Part II was quoted recently in an interview:*

“The left dismisses Ayn Rand,” he says. “The version of her that they attack is childish, it’s a cartoon.” But he understands why. “I wish she didn’t say ‘selfishness’ as she did. That she was for ‘selfishness.’ She was human, and probably meant that in a rhetorical way. But if she was on this earth again, maybe she’d put it another way.”

No. And she would be right to decline that alteration. The center of pure self-interest is pure selfishness. That pure form of selfishness is articulated—expressly, by the name selfishness—in The Fountainhead, where it is contrasted to a variety of conceptions commonly accepted as selfishness. Her novel argues that the latter are incoherent and at odds with pure selfishness, which entails independence and a certain kind of integrity. It is not only those unfitting parts in common conceptions of selfishness that are attacked as immoral in our culture. It is also pure selfishness, as exposed by Rand in Fountainhead, that is daily attacked in moral criticism of behavior by voices such as those speaking Christianity.

Rand was right in the Preface to The Virtue of Selfishness to defend her choice of the term selfishness as naming a core of human being needing to be championed. I would wish only she had added, “See also The Fountainhead.” Yes, selfishness in common parlance entails things excluded and antithetical to the selfishness Rand applauded. That makes for an invitation to further examination of the phenomena and the concept of selfishness. I mean among open-minded readers. Such are not those who understand well enough what is Rand’s ethical egoism and understand well enough the selfishness she was holding up as a glory, but are then smearing it for the sake of religion and politics, in a word, for the sake of old mistaken morality.

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Impressive. Yaron Brook milked every last drop out of this opportunity.

... those who support collectivist statism are only displaying the pretense of being motivated by helping others, since they don't voluntarily spend their own time and money helping others, and that their real motivation is freebies and/or power over others.

J

So only individualist freedom lovers ever do volunteer work, donate to charity or lend their broke brother-in-law a hundred bucks?

Come on, J. Leftists might all be powemongering hypocrites, but they are not all misanthropic cheapskates either.

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