Who Is Ayn Rand?

And What Does John Galt Have To Do With It Anyway?

Dr. Helen Smith (aka, Mrs. Instapundit) has us wondering about the prescience of Ayn Rand.

Perhaps the partisan politics we are dealing with now is really just a struggle between those of us who believe in productivity, personal responsibility, and keeping government interference to a minimum, and those who believe in the socialistic policies of taking from others, using the government as a watchdog, and rewarding those who overspend, underwork, or are just plain unproductive.

Obama talks about taking from those who are productive and redistributing to those who are not – or who are not as successful. If success and productivity is to be punished, why bother? Perhaps it is time for those of us who make the money and pay the taxes to take it easy, live on less, and let the looters of the world find their own way.

My question to readers is, what are some ways to “go John Galt” (legally, of course) – that is, should productive people cut back on what they need, make less money, and take it easy so that the government is starved for funds, or is there some other way of making a statement?

If you haven’t read Atlas Shrugged, then you should understand that John Galt starts out as a myth, a superman, whose name is reflexively given as the reason that everything seems to be falling apart in Rand’s dystopia. The irony is that John Galt is quite real, and is, along with his community of followers, actively engaged in not being engaged with the economy. He and they are on strike, and choose not to be productive for the sake of the unproductive.

Well, I don’t think that people are so clearly defined as “supermen” or scum, as they are in Ayn Rand’s universe, and I don’t really believe that supermen exist like that (I tend to see a little goodness in most everyone, or a lot of it for short periods). Rand’s was also a miserable person, with morals that can charitably be described as dubious. But darn if she didn’t hit on something that resonates with people (and with almost every 18 year old college student I ever knew). People are projecting into the near future right now, and wondering what their best course is. Ayn Rand’s idea of a retreat into self-sufficiency is once again seductive, if misguided.

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3 Comments on “Who Is Ayn Rand?”

  1. ultraguy Says:

    Man, this is a tough one. I wrestled — hard, for years — trying to reconcile Ayn Rand with Christianity. I was, initially a huge Rand fan for all the reasons anyone gets excited about her writings. Others have done similar wrestling, e.g., here — and probably done a better job of it. But what I finally concluded was that it cannot be done, not in any elegant or permanent fashion.

    It’s not as simple, I’m afraid, as, if Ayn had been a believer, or a little more charitable, I would have liked her better. (I’m not saying you did, but some people stop there.) If she had done those things, much of the rest of her argument (or, at least, its power) would have evaporated. She would have ceased to be Ayn Rand.

    To make Rand and Jesus mesh up, one has to re-make some fundamental premise under-girding one or the other. (And I’m not betting on Ayn; she’s still dead AFAIK!). What they have in common, of course, is a strong argument against top-down, earthly (and ultimately forced, tyrannical) collectivism.

    Each helped, in some fashion, to highlight the ills, evils and flaws of 20th-century Communism and bring it down. Strong believers in each have co-existed nicely under the same political tent against loons like Obama who want to re-make the world their image.

    But… in contrast to Rand, you have Jesus urging us to forgive not 7, but 77 times, and weeping for and then allowing himself to die in Jerusalem at the hands of those who couldn’t stand him (all of us, really — both Rome and Judaism were at the table there). He could easily have avoided that and been a John Galt.

    Had Jesus subscribed to Rand’s philosophy, he would have looked more like Judas — doing what was financially in his best interest and maybe setting up an armed rebel camp out in the desert. (He certainly had enough followers to set up a Galt-like, if small, mirror society if that’s what he’d been about.) Galt, in fact, ‘works’ as a character in part because he IS designed to be like Jesus in many ways. I’d even go so far as to say he’s a cynical stand-in, meant to distract us from the real one.

    The only thing I can see in Christianity that calls us to retreat are the things about not casting pearls before swine and the apostles being told to shake the dust off their sandals when they left a town that didn’t receive them (basically, don’t waste time preaching to the hard-hearted who clearly reject you). That’s very different from retreating from society in toto and leaving the poor and sick behind.

    It’s still a great political partnership in many ways, but it melding it into a coherent philosophy is sort of like making garlic ice cream. Both useful*. Separately. One a flavoring. One a food.

  2. John Says:

    The question becomes are you helping society if you allow a large portion of what could be productive to be unused. Is it really Christian that by allowing their inaction peoples gifts go unused and undeveloped. Seems has distructive as a parent spoiling a child, only in the case of the government you have a adults seeking the approval of a majority of the children.

  3. joe Says:

    Good point, John, about withholding your gifts. But I’m not sure I agree with the analogy. The government is hardly a child to be corrected, but more like a stubborn beast who’s value is questioned.

    I’ve been thinking along the lines of how, as Christians and with God’s help, we’re supposed to resist and fight evil when we see it. The John Galt stuff is pure allegory that is powerful because it does provide an incentive to think in terms of resistance. Despite Rand’s failings as a human being, resisting evil is an important thing to Christians (and especially Catholics who’ve heard the term “Soldier of Christ”).

    The problem for Christians is that it seems clearly to be antithetical to the rest of Christ’s teaching – turn the other cheek – just like you pointed out. Ultraguy and I have both wrestled with that, it take it.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!


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