Thursday, October 17, 2013
A note about the Ayn Rand Webcomic
A 66-page, typo-riddled webcomic by Darryl Cunningham purports to tell the life story of Ayn Rand, controversial author of The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, and the philosophy of Objectivism. The book most unnerving and most misunderstood by most readers is The Virtue of Selfishness, which has put a huge barrier between her thinking and the popular ethos. Although Rand died in 1982, her books have continued to have increasing sales; and the social dynamics she described and warned of in her novels are prophetically coming to pass. She has attracted millions of admirers among thinkers, and even more millions of detractors and haters whose oxen she gored.
Darryl's little cartoon serial ranks among the latter. Reading it inspired me to write up this response, posted to his page on October 17, 2013 (though purged soon after):
Ayn Rand's favorite poem was Rudyard Kipling's "If", read at her funeral. One couplet in particular applies to Darryl Cunningham's comic opus and most of the derogatory critiques of her work:
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools...
So, Darryl, your soap opera treatment of the messenger's personality and relationships is yet another way to overshadow and discredit the validity of the message, whether that was your intention or not. At least you are provoking interest and conversation on this controversial lady and her insights.
Ayn Rand's fundamental principle was, in fact, the paramount value of the individual. And that is simply a restatement of the founding principles enshrined in the U.S. Constitution: "that all men are ... endowed with ... certain unalienable rights ... life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
Why is Rand's advocacy of these values so repugnant to you and to other Rand bashers? It always comes down to who has what and how groups gang up to raid the resources of the earth and what other individuals have produced. I hope one day humanity can rise above the predator/prey paradigm.
Rand was ferociously opposed to the notion and practice of exploiting some individuals for the sake of others; i.e., "redistribution of wealth" is just another name for armed robbery. It is tantamount to three lions and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner.
Undiluted and unpolluted capitalism is the form of social contract where individuals get to choose what to do with their time and property. Rational self-interest will then lead to individuals interacting with each other for mutual benefit, through division of labor, voluntary exchange, and intelligent investment. That freedom encourages innovation and progress--individuals "taking first steps down new roads" that ultimately are of benefit to all.
Those ideas are also the underpinnings of the Libertarian movement, which is a backlash to galloping socialist ideas that have bankrupted the U.S. and every country in which socialism gets the upper hand. For the record, though, Rand had disavowed the Libertarians when Peter Schwartz wrote an article she published condemning their alleged lack of philosophical principles. Ironically, Libertarians today are the most faithful to both the Constitution and to individualist ethics.
The so-called capitalism we see practiced in the U.S. today is as remote from the "ideal" Rand defined as you can get. It has a corrupt government making favorable laws, regulations and bail-outs for their cronies in industry and the military-industrial complex; it has government promoting wars to enrich their arms manufacturers and gain access to other countries' resources; it has government building up a horrendous security apparatus that peels away the citizens' rights to privacy, property, free speech, association, assembly, and life and liberty; it justifies attacking other countries and murdering their populations on spurious pretexts.
That is not capitalism. That is the most pernicious form of gang warfare, and we the people are made to support it and the endless atrocities done in our name. Our substance is wasted, and we are bled through taxes and debt, reduced work opportunities, and increased deaths and mutilations of our soldiers in senseless wars. We are forced into grand socialist schemes like mandatory insurance and welfare entitlements that deprive generations of our people of their independence and their dignity.
Ayn Rand foresaw these developments 60 years ago. The truth she spoke is immutable, no matter whom she slept with. Think about the message, not the messenger. Your life, liberty and happiness depend on it.