Wearer of Pants
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Norman, OK
Device: Amazon Kindle DX / iPhone
Regarding the problems with her philosophy, it's not something I care to get into in any detail... there's a lot of discussion all over the internet regarding Rand's thinking and its problems. There's a reason she is rarely taken seriously in the academic community. And by that, I mean she is largely a joke. Sometimes economists take her seriously (which has had rather unfortunate fall out) but that's generally because it really works with their 'religion' of some sort of magical 'free market' that doesn't exist and has never existed and could probably never exist.
As her background, yes, I'm sure that impacted her thinking and Stalinism was a nightmare but that doesn't mean "let's all run in the opposite direction and declare that true" either. Neither are rational projects. Sympathy for her life doesn't equate into giving her thinking (or writing) a free pass.
Her book did have enormous impact. So did the Communist Manifesto... that worked out well, no? Enormous impact also doesn't mean anything in terms of quality. 'The Secret' has had a lot of impact too... Regrettably.
We ARE interdependent. It doesn't matter if one likes it or not. in the vast majority of cases, the food you get is grown by farmers somewhere else. The clothes you wear made by someone else. The economic system we live in, for good or ill, is enormously dependent on the economies of other places. Men like Galt mean exactly zilch if there are not people to do the work. But this isn't something that only Rand deals with, I know of religious communes that are just as misguided - if everyone lived like them everyone in the cities would starve to death.
The biggest problem with that line of thinking is that it is in no one's best interest to have an enormously 'have' and 'have not' society (which is one of the results to her line of thinking). Even if you ignore the human suffering that entails somehow, on a pragmatic level it is also a problem as that creates a very unstable political and economic situation, too. And that's not good for anyone's business.
It's like the bailouts... It sucks, it sucks a lot. But what happens if GM goes under, or the big banks, etc? The economic disaster that would happen would be monstrous. Unemployment through the roof, God only knows what would happen with inflation, etc. And those things don't just effect those unfortunates who become unemployed. It's not just about THEM, the people who made bad decisions, etc.. it's about what happens to our entire culture should it happen. It effects everything... unemployment rates, how much money the banks lend out (which is how almost every big business runs.. my family is in construction, and it is very hard to get jobs now because people who would hire us to build their projects cannot get financing even with great credit). My family didn't do anything wrong, but we might be in some serious trouble should this trend continue - and that's how all of this is, these effects are enormous and they reach out and touch us all.
Economic systems are complicated affairs, and so are political ones... her philosophy is, essentially, overly simplistic and does not really account for the 'real' situation we are in. It sounds nice on paper, it seems very romantic and super individualistic and all that but it's still drek. We are all very, very, very interconnected and involved with each other. Unless you're off on a commune generating your own power and water and growing your own food, you're in it. And so to be objective, to be reasonable, means we look at that situation dead in the face and we deal with it and we do everything we can to create a stable economy and a stable political situation because in the end that is what results in the highest freedom AND quality of life. Because one without the other is worthless.
Just about the closest you can get to Rand's dream would be the 19th and early 20th century.. great time, enormous poverty, workers being exploited to death (literally), child labor, crappy quality of life for almost everyone. Oil barons, steel barons, monopolies.... The only thing a 'free market' really means is that certain economic forces will end up winning (in some way or another) it doesn't say much at all regarding the collateral damage in the meantime. How many people will be unemployed, or go hungry, or sick or whatever... doesn't say how many small businesses or individuals will be rolled over by enormous corporations.. how much ecological damage will be done in the process...
So from an (as objective as I can be) intellectual standpoint I find her ideas terrible.
Personally, in the subjective, I think her ideas are monstrous and point to so much that is wrong in the world. I think it is, at best, dressed up selfishness. I don't think it's good for the person practicing it and I sure don't think it's good for anyone else. It tries to turn selfishness into a virtue and I don't think it is. A certain amount of 'enlightened self-interest' is fine and useful and good, but like everything else it has to be checked and moderated. Ideally, I don't want to live in either extreme.