In the past, the good folks over at Blank on Blank have turned rarely-seen interviews with the likes of Ray Bradbury and John Coltrane into brilliant little animated shorts. This week, their latest installment is on Ayn Rand.
Rand, of course, is the mind behind Objectivism, the patron saint of laissez faire capitalism, and the author of such unwieldy tomes as The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Among Wall Street bankers, Washington conservatives and insufferable college sophomores, Rand is a revered figure. Former vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan and presidential candidate Rand Paul are both acknowledged followers. Former Federal Reserve head Alan Greenspan was Rand’s protégé. To a lot of other people, of course, her theories are little more than a shrill justification of sociopathy, an empathy-challenged vision of social interaction that flies in the face of basic ideas of human decency.
The interview dates back to a 1959 interview by Mike Wallace (see the original here) who grills Rand on her concept of love and happiness, which leads to this exchange:
Ayn Rand: I say that man is entitled to his own happiness. And that he must achieve it himself. But that he cannot demand that others give up their lives to make him happy. And nor should he wish to sacrifice himself for the happiness of others. I hold that man should have self-esteem.
Mike Wallace: And cannot man have self-esteem if he loves his fellow man? Christ, every important moral leader in man’s history, has taught us that we should love one another. Why then is this kind of love in your mind immoral?
Ayn Rand: It is immoral if it is a love placed above oneself. It is more than immoral, it’s impossible. Because when you are asked to love everybody indiscriminately. That is to love people without any standard. To love them regardless of whether they have any value or virtue, you are asked to love nobody.
Watching the piece, I kept hearing the title of Raymond Carver’s brilliant short story run through my mind, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” (Hear Carver read that story here.) My sense is that her version of love is very different from mine. Watch the full animated video above.
Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring pictures of vice presidents with octopuses on their heads. The Veeptopus store is here.
Flannery O’Connor: Friends Don’t Let Friends Read Ayn Rand (1960)
Ayn Rand Adamantly Defends Her Atheism on The Phil Donahue Show (Circa 1979)
The Outspoken Ayn Rand Interviewed by Mike Wallace (1959)
Ayn Rand Trashes C.S. Lewis in Her Marginalia: He’s an “Abysmal Bastard”
Ayn Rand – what a sad, confused individual. She was also a hypocrite since she collected Medicare and Social Security.
Considering Medicare and Social Security are Entitlements (something you pay into through your own hard-work, meant for your retirement) vs. a Subsidy, such as Food Stamps or Welfare (Something for nothing)…Rand is not a hypocrite, since she EARNED the benefits she accumulated for her miserable old-age.
Food Stamps and Welfare are payed for by your own tax dollars, so you are paying for the service of living in a country where few people starve, where you yourself are unlikely to starve regardless of what uncontrollable calamities befall you, i.e. in a country with a social safety net.
And the issue isn’t that she was a hypocrite. It’s that her ideology failed even herself. She was a wealthy woman later in life, yet when she got sick she feared it would bankrupt her and knew that she *needed public help*. She might have been able to afford her medical bills, but decided to file for benefits (under a false name) because she wanted the benefit of living with a safety net.