My challenge to Objectivism focuses mainly on the role of the mind. Using the psychological experiment of “Rat Park” is, so far, the best way I’ve found to explain it.
Previous to the study using “Rat Park,” studies done on laboratory rats were conducted in which rats were given the choice of water or water that was laced with some kind of drug such as cocaine. These studies, using caged rats, showed that the rats would pick the cocaine-laced water over plain water to the point of dehydration and death.
But when one psychologist, Dr. Bruce Alexander, attempted this same experiment in the 1970s but put the rats in “Rat Park,” the results were different. Instead of being caged, the rats were allowed to roam, play, socialize, and have sex. These rats, on average and over time, tended to choose the plain water (Sederer). They didn’t need the cocaine.
This could not explain my challenge to Objectivism better. If properly cared for, humans can be trusted: they pick water. If denied love, comfort, and relationships, indeed their inner “whims” become unreliable: they pick cocaine.
That the inner world is unreliable and needs a disciplining ethics is what Objectivism is based on. “Rat Park” but for humans, an abundant, happy world, in which inner and outer world are in conscious, present, joyful harmony, is what I am fighting for.
Psychologists and even philosophers, for decades, have cited the original rat experiments as a reason for the rational mind to dominate the “lower” parts of the brain: the mammalian (responsible for emotions) and lizard (responsible for fight/flight) brains. Rand similarly starts her Objectivist ethics by declaring the inner world is chaotic and in need of discipline. Rand bases her system on the assumption that humans are born “tabula rasa.” The best way I have been able to describe tabula rasa, as it relates to emotions, is that a person’s emotional mechanism is like a wild horse in need of taming. Rand describes that you’ll have some emotions, but what you feel is based on your values. She has elaborate thoughts on how to discipline emotions, including happiness, to do what we tell them to, describing them as otherwise potentially out of control and destructive.
My argument is this is unnecessary and even counterproductive. My argument is that these parts of the mind, the inner world, do not needdominated. If traumatized, people sometimes need a strong thought paradigm to program and restrain their inner world, such as the caged rats would. But if properly cared for, which is a gentle and loving pursuit, those “inner whims” can be trusted. This inner world is in fact a guiding light, especially when parenting and educating children: it’s the exact place where we can thrive as humans. We need to move away from highly “rational” rugged individualism and towards proper caregiving of each other, on a personal level. And don’t confuse my argument as one for socialism or altruism.
When Dr. Alexander did this study in the late 1970s, it was rejected by major scientific magazines. This just kills me. This shows just how entrenched views of “strict discipline of the inner world leads to success” were in the past and still are. I am writing strongly against this otherwise seemingly intoxicating view that we need to take the reins over our personal inner world to achieve success (i.e., the need for control). I write this book, targeting people’s ethics, entirely to shake up these stale moral paradigms that block such scientific progress.
The mind’s role over the inner world is what the challenge is. I advocate a mind that is conscious: one that patiently governs the inner world. I pit this against a mind that is “rational”: one that dominates the inner world, as the entire moral framework of Objectivism is based on. My argument is that Rand’s all-encompassing “rational morality”—the very thing she spent much of her life developing— is unnecessary and even counterproductive. There is a motor inside us that we don’t understand, and it isn’t the reasoning brain. It is much more visceral than that. And in not understanding it, we routinely abuse it and each other.
What we need is an ethos of caregiving: to properly care for each other, especially in youth. Proper caregiving erases entirely the need for an all-encompassing rational morality.
And this has enormous implications in health, education, parenting, and more.
5-Part Video Series on The Objectivist View on Emotions
As most–including Objectivists–do not clearly understand Rand’s views on emotions, I made these short videos. Each video is less than a minute.
There is a lot of misunderstanding of how emotions are treated in Objectivism. Rand has you programming–her word–your emotions. Through your “standard of value,” you set your emotions to respond the way you want: if you are happy or sad to life events. I was told this video is “spot on.” This is Pt 1 in this video series.
PT II in clarifying emotions in Objectivism. Programming your emotions is core to Objectivism. Your emotions could be ALL WRONG. You might naturally find pleasure in, say, doing drugs (i.e., “hedonism”). So you need to have the right values, such as valuing productivity, so that your emotions become a “lightning quick barometer” in your objective survival.
If we abide by “rational self interest,” what is “irrational” according to Ayn Rand? Family picnics. Driving hot rod cars. And muddy colors. Pt III: The Objectivist view on emotions
A view that some emotions are irrational (as opposed to “rational”) is toxic. It leads to cult like behavior: you’re under constant judgment on if what you think and feel is “rational” or not. People who knew Rand describe her collective as a cult, as Murray Rothbard did in his article The Sociology of the Ayn Rand Cult. And this fear of being judged for what you felt drove it. PT IV: Objectivist Views on Emotions.
PT V and final on Objectivist emotions: Objectivism creates toxic people. It’s an entire philosophy that tells you how to think, feel, and act. Like with communism, it’s not just “bad people.” The philosophy itself has systemic problems. It assumes you and your “whims” can’t be trusted and thus puts a civilizing ethics on a person. Rand seeks to mold people. This civilizing ethics is toxic. Hence my book, Towards Liberalism a Challenge to Objectivist Ethics.
The Inner World Matters. And Rand was no Psychologist
Why did I write this challenge to Objectivism? Because the inner world matters. We are not born tabula rasa. We do not need this civilizing ethics put on us. Our emotional mechanism is already designed well—as long as we respect it. Short video here.
I noticed something on Quora the other night. Quora is a place for anyone to ask a question and anyone to answer. There are many threads about narcissism. Victims of narcissism, experts on narcissism, and narcissists themselves participate in the conversations.
Someone asked how going no contact with a narcissist makes them feel. There was a mixture of responses. About 75% of the responses said it probably enrages the narcissist. You are his property in his mind, and so he may stalk you, etc. About 25% said that if the narcissist is on to someone new, they are glad you went no contact. They don’t want you mucking up the new “supply” (the new woman: “supply” is a term about how they get their need for admiration and adoration). And even in this 75/25% mix, many said something to the effect, “Well, it depends.” They gave very nuanced, detailed answers based on their experience that made total sense.
And then a narcissist got on. No kidding, a narcissist. This person’s profile says as much: they are a narcissist. Literally self-diagnosed. She laughed at the responses. “I laugh at all these responses like you know what you are talking about.” Then what did she say? Exactly what the people had been saying. She said something like, “I don’t care! I laugh at your silly games. I’m on to something new. Well I mean unless it was a cold rejection. Then I might get mad or something.”
Ok. Except HAD SHE ACTUALLY READ the responses, people said exactly this. They SAID if they are on to something new, the narc has moved on. And indeed that there may be seething rage otherwise for an old supply going no contact. She said exactly what they said. But she HAD to tell them they were all stupid, and HER way of saying it was superior.
So. I have noticed this about narcissists. You can ask them anything at all. If it’s not said THE EXACT WAY they would say it, you’re wrong. Even though you say essentially the same thing, you’re wrong.
For instance, I asked a female narc coworker once, “Hey what was the shape of that thing? Was it a cylinder or a bubble?” I said this in passing, while hurriedly trying to get a looming deadline complete. I got told, “Neither. It was a cylinder with a tapered edge.” Ooooookay. “Neither.” And yet she used the same word of one of the options I gave. If you have to use the same exact word as I used, I’m not totally wrong. The answer is not “neither.” She was a very snooty, arrogant woman who held on to her solutions like a dog with a bone, dismissing everyone and anything in favor of what she right-in-the-moment thought was right. It was very miserable working with her. Ok. Yeah. A cylinder–with a tapered edge. Got it.
I got this treatment from Objectivists constantly. Objectivism is the philosophy of Ayn Rand. I gave a brief synopsis of my book on a forum once, that it challenges “the idea that man is blank.” There were dozens of responses telling me I “can’t use words properly.” This is because I used the term “blank” instead of the correct Objectivist term, “tabula rasa.” Leonard Peikoff himself uses “blank” as in “a child born bank.”
The idea of education is to take a tabula rasa (someone born blank) and transform him, through a systematic process across years, into a being with the skills and aptitudes necessary to fit him for adult life. (2)
Moldable. Malleable. It’s what they intend. It’s what I challenge. But the fierce “nuh uhs!” I get from them! Over word use. Word Arguing is Always the Sign of an Ideologue. As Murray Rothbard writes, about the Ayn Rand cult, “In the name of “precision of language,” in short, nuance and even synonyms were in effect prohibited.”
You see, a narcissist is stupid. Yes. They are stupid. They think they are incredibly smart. But they are stupid. They are INTELLECTUAL, not intelligent. They live in a philosophical la la land where they think up ideas and argue them. They don’t actually sit down and study something in any disciplined manner. They don’t study or compare patterns of behavior like an actual scientist would. They don’t deal with patients and come up with effective solutions like a doctor would. They are much more like lawyers: they just argue with decent sounding arguments. They are the worst, to be honest. They think they are very smart. But they are actually quite stupid.
You see, narcissists filter out 80-90% of reality. They forcefully push things out of their mind. Reality was a harsh mess for them growing up. Their survival tactic was to block out most of it. There are many potentially unpleasant truths out there–for them anyway. They have a constant sense of shame and they don’t want anyone touching it. When they snarl at you, “Life’s not fair! Get used to it!,” this is how THEY think and how THEY are. And they fully believe you are the same way. Same deal when they accuse everyone of being snowflakes who can’t handle life. That’s them.
But, anyway, they block out most stimuli from the outer environment. Some say it’s so bad they can watch a ball go into the hole, but not realize they swung the golf club. So they definitely are NOT listening to anything you have to say or offer. So you might be talking and communicating, but they are hearing none of it. And, by definition, you are stupid. So whatever you say is wrong. And they’ll say as much. And then repeat back to you the “right” answer, which is exactly what you just said. I call this the “Nuh Uh.”
“Nuh uh!”–The Narcissist
This is why narcissism is so damn difficult to destroy. All of the arguments in the world don’t matter. They aren’t hearing you. Worse, they think they are amazing creatures of reason. So they THINK they are creatures of reason when they are anything about. No amount of persuasion works with them. And by definition they are smart, in their mind. And they can be very charismatic. They have some great word salad. Ayn Rand is a fantastic example. She writes intoxicating books to people, sucking them into her vortex. She promises health, happiness, and success with her philosophy. Was she an actual psychologist? Did she heal anyone? Did she have a successful clinical practice? Yeah, no. I write about it in Towards Liberalism: A Challenge to Objectivist Ethics. It’s just a tap dance–her favorite form of dance, by the way.
It was hard for me in arguing with Objectivists to decide how to approach them. Argue with them? Catch them off-guard, before the “Nuh uh” sets in? Unfortunately, that’s how I approached it.
I’m here to tell you: it’s futile. If you want to argue with them, the best I have found is to give them their own quotes, from Ayn Rand herself. Then dissect it.
Otherwise, don’t expect to talk TO them. Talk to their VICTIMS. Talk to people who still have a shred of intelligence. Break down the argument for THEM. Act as a “vaccination” against the sometimes charismatic narcissist for people. In short, assume people are intelligent. Because, if not, there is little point in writing or talking anyway.
I will go through and update some of my arguments and keep tweaking it until I figure out what works.
I have been standing up to ideologies for likely two decades now. After 9/11, I stood up to Islam. After I found most Objectivists I knew to be toxic narcissists, I started standing up to Ayn Rand’s Objectivism. As I realize that religions (all of them) are meant to pacify people to accept the authority of the state, I’ve stood up to religion, including Christianity, the widespread religion in the west.
In doing this, I’ve found the same rinse, wash, repeat patterns of ideologues. They always think they are the ones genuinely for peace, joy, enlightenment, and freedom–meanwhile having all sorts of “in context” things that justify abuse and oppression (ones that make sense to them, based on their way of living). They are always utterly blind to the damage they cause. They are all convinced they are the victim in a world that will never understand them. They feel the world won’t be good/peaceful until their ideology dominates. Their followers all tell you you don’t understand their philosophy. They tell you to keep reading their literature over and over and keep directing you to their experts, for you to listen and learn, of course.
And they all argue over words. They argue over what words themselves mean. They constantly put you on the defensive: you don’t know what words mean and can’t use words properly. And it’s always they who don’t use words properly.
Now, any time someone argues with me over words, I know I am dealing with an ideologue. Here is a recent example. A story came out that a woman died due to kidney problems, and some blamed the keto diet. I was part of a fasting forum where keto is very popular. Someone wrote that, indeed, keto was known to be hard on your kidneys and one had to drink a lot of lemon juice to prevent this. Wow. He thus blamed the woman. She just didn’t do the diet right. This is always ideologues too: you’re just not doing their enlightened philosophy correctly. I said to him, “your regular diet shouldn’t cause kidney stones.” He responded, “there is no such thing as a regular diet.” Ok. That’s clearly not what I meant. I meant, “the stuff you eat every day should not weight one towards kidney disease.” He turned it all around as a faux-enlightened position to mean “there is no ‘normal’ across any human diet.” It’s just…not what I meant. He was so incredibly dense. And when I saw this, I knew I was dealing with an ideologue. Tick off “keto diet” as another ideology. And pssst: it’s been around since the 1920s. It’s nothing new, dogs.
I call this “word arguing.” I made up the phrase. I have no other term for it. “Word smithing” is close. But I don’t think people would understand what I meant. And they would be prone to … word arguing. They would tell me “word smithing” is valid in many cases. Ok. Sure. If you write a legal document and you know you have a particular audience that needs to digest it, you might need to “word smith” it to make it more palpable for your audience. There is, however, a hint of “manipulation” in the term. But I like “word arguing” better, anyway. And that’s what they are doing. They argue with you over words.
This is the opposite of what actual deep, authentic, intellectual conversation looks like. Let me give a made-up example. Let’s say I said, “board games are shown to increase lifespan.” But the person I was referring to played card games not board games. It’s really the same thing. You are still using your mind in the same way. If there way any amount of confusion, a person who was interested and honest would say something like, “Yeah, I know you said_____ but I knew you meant _____.” Women do this all the time when they talk to each other. They preface a lot with, “I’m not trying to be ___ here but you know___ ” and the other woman says, “Yeah, yeah____ I totally get _____.” This is what fairly healthy conversation looks like.
Not so with the ideologue. They tell you how you speak and what you say is WRONG. So WRONG. You failed to use a word right–you lose. Before they read your argument to completion–before they read two sentences, usually. They are right there trying to define the “terms” of the debate …thereby guaranteeing they will win. If they will debate or read at all. Though they are always sure to tell you that YOU are the one who can’t read another’s argument, YOU can’t handle a challenge, YOU “can’t show respect” for disagreement. All after dismissing you within seconds. This is the maddening part of ideologues. They are so convinced they are right. They are so aggressive in setting up their way of living. And they are totally shut down to reason–made all the WORSE when they think they are people of reason.
My consistent experience with Objectivists is this. I am never able to get any point across, because they jump all over the words being used. I once said Rand said a person is born “blank,” instead of using “tabula rasa.” This was a cardinal sin. Not to one person, either. To about a dozen. With flames coming out of their ears, I was maliciously accused of all sorts of things. The word “empathy” seems to be like garlic to Dracula to them. They will argue about what this means–or that one shouldn’t even care about such a stupid thing. So why would they read your article that had the word “empathy” in the description for the article? All true stories. Then, after keeping it on this “definition of words” territory for so long, with endless circular reasoning, endless attacks, putting you on the constant defensive, they announce, “why don’t you polish your argument and come back later!” Objectivists are the most dense ideologues around, made all the worse because they think they are men of reason.
Murry Rothboard discusses this explicitly in The Sociology of the Ayn Rand Cult: “One method [to have power over minds], as we have seen, was to keep the members in ignorance. Another was to insure that every spoken and written word of the Randian member was not only correct in content but also in form, for any slight nuance or difference in wording could and would be attacked for deviating from the Randian position. Thus, just as the Marxist movements developed jargon and slogans which were clung to for fear of uttering incorrect deviations, the same was true in the Randian movement. In the name of “precision of language,” in short, nuance and even synonyms were in effect prohibited.”
This was my constant experience with them even in 2020: they attack you relentlessly over how you use words.
And Ayn Rand uses words improperly. She writes that “value” is “that which one acts to gain and/or keep.” Take note of the word “act” in this definition. Her definition presupposes her philosophy of scarcity and thus the need to create all values: you have to act to gain and/or keep values. It is not the dictionary definition. The dictionary definition of value is “the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.” Much of life is readily abundant; one does not need to act to gain and/or keep the value. Here is just one example: the sun. The definition she uses, however, weights the word “value” itself towards her philosophy, which is based explicitly on a scarcity mindset. Rand says we are given nothing and must produce everything. It’s NOT true. Much value around us is abundant and free, and we are given resources in our youth, in fact we need them: our parents. But my point: her definition is wrong.
And to drive home how entrenched Objectivists are, when I gave this example of the sun being an abundant, free resource, I got told, “that’s not true. some parts of the world don’t get enough sun and need technology to enhance it.” They will do anything and everything to bend the facts of life to their ideology.
Rand, our erudite scholar, similarly says “selfishness” per the “exact dictionary definition” is “pertaining to one’s interest.” It’s not true. There is no dictionary that says this. That’s cool to define “self-interest” this way, but her statement that it’s the dictionary definition is an outright falsehood. So much for our always-uses-words-properly, scholarly leader.
It’s the same with every ideology. Try to pin a Muslim down on what “jihad” means. Talk to a Christian on what “The Dark Ages” mean. They seek to take over these words and ideas, manipulating them to their advantage. They want control over language–and education and history. They’ll make sure YOU aren’t allowed to insult them–but they’ll punch all day long. Oh. That was mean. How dare you insult a sensitive flower like them like that–you rotten, angry bitch.
It is all manipulative. To them, it’s ideology first; conclusions second. They cannot break from their ideology. They see no reason they should ever have to break it. They see their ideology as the very tool to enlightenment. If you aren’t using their tool, by definition you can’t see. So why engage in debate with another human if you aren’t using their words, their resources, their style of debate? They are truly blind. I write about this in my book Towards Liberalism: A Challenge to Objectivist Ethics.
Send this article to anyone who is engaged in word arguing. And then watch as they unload with the “nuh uhs,” and the “this is poorly researched” and the arguing over the word arguing. 🙂
Amber was an Objectivist for 10 years until she realized it was failing her. She now speaks out against this narcissistic ideology selling itself as freedom and endures their constant insults that she is a bitch to warn others about its toxic nature. See Towards Liberalism: A Challenge to Objectivist Ethics.
I was reading about the history of evolution with my eight year old, and I noticed something about Cro Magnon man. Cro Magnon man is our closest ancient hominid ancestor, as far as I can tell. In fact, I can tell little difference in Cro Magnon man and modern humans, except that after the Ice Age (about 10,000 years ago–not that long ago), technological living exploded. Did this create a new species? Or was one species simply more liberated? I don’t doubt such changes affect how species physically appeared, just like we look quite different than our Depression Era-afflicted grandparents.
So, anyway. Cro Magnon man won out against a larger, vegetarian hominid because they routinely scared them near eating areas. The larger hominid ran away, hid, and eventually starved.
So, this is what we (effectively) humans did to live. We scared other species away from being at our watering holes. Literally. We learned to use fear. And if you study Jungian psychology, you can greatly anticipate that this is etched in our collective consciousness somewhere.
You know, I SAW this exact thing in my neighborhood not terribly long ago. We have a pond out back. There are some fish in it, and you can fish if you live here. My neighbor is extremely possessive of it. When I first moved in, he tried telling me there was snakes, etc., in it, and I definitely would not want to be near it with my children. Ok. Except any snake in a residential area is extremely mild. They don’t bother me. I got the impression he was just trying to scare me from his fishing spot. Everyone assured me, “No, no he just cares about your kids.”
Except I then watched him bark at teenagers simply lingering near the pond “GO ON GET OUT OF HERE. YOU AREN’T ALLOWED TO BE HERE. TELL YOUR PARENTS MR. [WITHHELD] TOLD YOU TO GET OUT OF HERE.” He was totally out of line. He had no right to tell these teenagers to get out. Children often are near the pond. They just play, some fish, some train their dogs near it. He is just extremely possessive. He used fear to chase people away.
And it works.
Have you studied history, start to finish? From the Big Bang to now? I study it constantly, as I homeschool my children. We’ve read several complete history series, each several times now. We read from a wide variety of sources. One is written by a Protestant Christian. Another from a slightly cynical secularist. They each have their spin. But, when you read so much history over and over, themes start to pop out. And fear is a big one.
When we hear of people sacrificing to rain Gods, we think it’s absurd. I propose it is indeed absurd–and people back then knew it, too. But someone figured out to make up this bogus science to pressure people into sacrificing to the Gods. And this is exactly how history reads. Kings declared that they and they only could communicate with the Gods. So they were, de facto, God. Give your offerings to them to please the Gods. Convenient. And if not–the crops won’t grow. And who are YOU to say it ISN’T otherwise? You can easily get the villagers to hate a dissenter. It’s so easy among humans to do this.
Have you studied anything about Middle Ages Europe–when religion was in absolute power? It’s utterly horrifying. Study Mary I. She was the first child of Henry VIII, who had wives beheaded because they couldn’t provide him a son. And he did this because he had a monkey on his back. If he didn’t produce a son, the heir is up in question, and this would likely send the country into war again. I’m not excusing him–but fear is a hot potato that people like to quickly pass around. Mary I had a terrible life, being promised the throne, then having it revoked, being held up high, then all but put into slavery. As Queen, she wanted to revert England to a Catholic state. She demanded her subjects swear allegiance to The Catholic Church. Many Protestant didn’t, and nearly 300 were burned alive. Some were forced to watch the others be burned alive. Can you imagine this utter fear? And, ultimately, she wasn’t liked, but few did anything about it. It was the law.
This is how it works. This is how tyranny wins. It is through fear. Always. Every single time. There is a fear of some monstrous evil happening if people don’t X. And it has to be everyone complying, you know. One dissenter and the whole thing comes crashing down. This is why people can’t leave each other alone. They make up crap and put it on you: dance, citizen, dance. Literally. Otherwise it won’t rain.
As such, Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand, offers no substantial fight against tyranny. Rand says freedom is “contextual.” If there is a threat, freedom goes away. If there is a terroristic attack, we all have to take our shoes off at the airport. If there is a war, citizens have to fight. Rand is silent on the draft–but she says “I can’t tell you to break the law,” when a person asked about it. Meaning: break the law. But, still. She is so bound by a “law” mindset that she can’t come out against it formally. And so, in effect, Objectivism is NOT for freedom and CANNOT put up a formidable defense for freedom. There is NO WORSE tyranny than compulsory military service. And now America signs up its daughters, too! You have no idea how much this spins me into utter depression when I think of the state of the world now–and my daughter.
I maintain freedom is ALWAYS right and free people can ALWAYS handle threats against them. Whether it’s a virus, a safety threat, or lack of rain. Both King-Gods and government are woeful at handling any of these. They SAY they are working towards these ends, and this makes it all the worse. Citizens put their blind trust in them. And then they lose all effective methods to actually deal with real problems.
I propose the vaccination we need is against fear.
I’d love to tell you that you can just go about your life, not worried about threats, and that humans are kind. Deep down, I DO think this is the natural human state and the one we do best in. Unfortunately, predators lurk.
And this is exactly how you should see these people. Whether it’s Mary I beheading religious dissenters or a neighbor trying to chase you away from a pond, I propose you see them as predators. It naturally changes how you deal with them. You won’t “assume positive intent” anymore, anyway.
Predators do what predators do. They don’t want you to see them. They want you to be disarmed. When I suspected my neighbor was trying to scare me from the pond by telling me there were snakes there, people tried telling me he actually cared for me and my kids. Not so. This is gaslighting. You deny the senses and perceptions of the victim. Predators do this in the wild. They blind, trap, and desensitize their prey. Be on guard for it. You do not have to “assume positive intent.” In fact, you can usually assume malicious intent. History doesn’t speak kindly about humans.
We need to stand up to it. If we are at a watering hole with Cro Magnon man, we need to not run as they try to scare us. Which is what we do. They harass us, put fear in people, make people literally dance, and the natural reaction is to adapt. Figure out how to handle the “new normal.” Too bad so sad for that person just beheaded. At least it wasn’t you. This is etched in most human’s consciousness. As you read history, humankind is, by and large, despicable.
But I see a new day. Some who study it already say violence may be a thing of the past. Running water goes to most people’s houses. Sensitive people are still born and still contribute the kind of amazing things only humans can do. And yet those people–Copernicus, Galileo, etc.–are treated so terribly.
We need to have herd immunity against TYRANNY. What this in practice means is herd immunity against fear.
So, do it. Stand up to that neighbor trying to chase teenagers away. Strip down that “friend” mom who just insulted you. BOUNDARIES. No, I mean like actual boundaries. Yes, like that.
If we create strong individual people with boundaries, eventually we create one strong family. If we create one strong family, eventually we create one strong friend circle. And then a strong neighborhood–and then a strong culture.
I think people take it as a given that Ayn Rand supported a person’s right to self-defense. If my social media feeds are any indication, most people who really like Ayn Rand tend to favor gun rights for self-defense, although there are exceptions. Or, others wish she had been more “clear” about her stance. But her stance was clear: Ayn Rand did not favor gun rights for use of self-defense.
Here is her direct quote. I will then elaborate.
There is only one basic principle to which an individual must consent if he wishes to live in a free, civilized society: the principle of renouncing the use of physical force and delegating to the government his right of physical self-defense, for the purpose of an orderly, objective, legally defined enforcement. Or, to put it another way, he must accept the separation of force and whim (any whim, including his own) (129). –Ayn Rand
It’s true that when Rand makes this statement, she defends it in the name of otherwise someone would go on a psychopathic rampage after their wallet was stolen, killing anyone who gave him a dirty look. I propose this is Ayn Rand’s word salad. She is good at tossing words around to get you to agree, while making obfuscations and distracting your mind. Yes. I get that. She says you can’t do that. That that’s her point. You cannot let people go on a murderous rampage after they think their wallet is stolen. I get that this is what she SAID is her reasoning for the above statement.
But look at the quote closely. She directly says you do not have the right to enact your own self defense. You have the right to self-defense. But you have to let the government carry it out.
I post this quote and people tend to skim right over the relevant parts. So let’s break Rand’s arguments down.
Rand famously writes that a government has a “legal monopoly on the use of physical force.”
This phrase “legal monopoly” plain never sat well with me. What does that mean? Certainly it seems to mean that only those in government are allowed the use of force.
In explaining her view on the use of force, in typical Randian style, she first validates the reader’s concerns. In “Man’s Rights” she writes, “Potentially government is the most dangerous threat to man’s rights: it holds a legal monopoly on the use of physical force against legally disarmed citizens” (115).
Yup, I couldn’t agree more. But what is her stance on self-defense? And why did she just describe me as someone who should be “legally disarmed”?
In “The Nature of Government” she again validates the reader’s concern about an obtrusive government. But then she writes,
“…the use of physical force—even its retaliatory use—cannot be left at the discretion of individual citizens” (127).
The use of force. Even its retaliatory use. Cannot be left at the discretion of individual citizens.
Before I go on, let me ask you this: what would you do if you were missing your wallet? Go on a psychopathic rampage? This is Rand’s explanation for why an individual citizen cannot be trusted with “the retaliatory use” of physical force, i.e., self-defense. She asks us to visualize:
“…what would happen if a man missed his wallet, concluded that he had been robbed, broke into every house in the neighborhood to search it, and shot the first man who gave him a dirty look, taking the look to be a proof of guilt.”
This is what you would do if you were missing your wallet right?
Rand does what she does here: she directs your mind where she wants. In Towards Liberalism, my book challenging Objectivism, the challenge I give to the reader constantly is to see the unseen. Rand is an expert at taking your mind and leading it where she wants.
Don’t let her do this. She confuses the entire issue by immediately jumping to a person who will go on a rampage, becoming judge and jury, i.e., enacts their version of justice, over a missing wallet. But what if a person’s life is immediately under threat? This is the issue and she skims right over it.
Some point out that in Galt’s speech she says if you met a highway robber, you would kill them. But her point in this is much more abstract. She’s explaining why Galt is on strike against society and not following the rules. And disobeying the law is deeply opposite of how an Objectivist thinks and is commanded to think (only 4 conditions warrant civil disobedience according to Rand). I take Rand’s explicit non-fiction as the authoritative source on her political views. And she makes her stance explicitly clear here in “The Nature of Government”:
“There is only one basic principle to which an individual must consent if he wishes to live in a free, civilized society: the principle of renouncing the use of physical force and delegating to the government his right of physical self-defense, for the purpose of an orderly, objective, legally defined enforcement. Or, to put it another way, he must accept the separation of force and whim (any whim, including his own) (129). “
She doesn’t say you have to delegate justice to the government. She says you have to delegate out physical self-defense.
To be clear, her position isn’t that you don’t have a right to self-defense. It’s that you have to delegate this right to the government to carry it out.
Yes, she intends the populace to be legally disarmed.
I take Rand literally when she writes. She says, “There is only one basic principle to which an individual must consent if he wishes to live in a free, civilized society… delegating to the government his right to physical self-defense.”
So, to be free, you have to give up your methods of becoming free or defending yourself.
I get it this doesn’t make sense to YOU, and not what YOU believe. But we’ve long been berated that Objectivism is the philosophy of Ayn Rand. You need to put aside what YOU think and look at what SHE wrote. I get it that she makes a fancy, long argument about you don’t have the right to kill anyone you feel like because your wallet went missing. This is Rand’s word salad. She is manipulating you. She takes your mind where she wants it to go. How does Rand just totally skim over the topic of what would happen if your life is immediate danger? Has Ayn Rand ever shied away from any topic or left her stance vague? No, she hasn’t.
It’s more than even this quote, however. Her entire philosophy also turns off your “whims,” which is your instincts. If you read those who work with abusers, they tell you that abusers are constantly trying to get you to turn off your instincts. Like in Therapist, the book about an Objectivist psychanalyst who used his position to sexually exploit his patients, abusers encourage you to just “lie down and do what the nice doctor tells you.” Abuse counselors are constantly trying to get victims to trust their own intuition again. And all of Objectivism is about putting those “whims” away. As Rand writes in her defense for why you have to delegate your right to self-defense to the government, “for the purpose of an orderly, objective, legally defined enforcement.” As she further writes, “a separation of force and whim.” And Rand legally disarms you–her words.
Hear this: your guru is a predator. This is what predators do. They turn off the instinctual spidey senses in their victims, the stuff that makes your hair stand on its back when needed. She slanders your ability to act appropriately or responsibly with force itself. Narcissists are known to absolutely hate gun rights–they know such guns would be used against them in their darkest moments. See more about how this narcissistic pyschopath praised a child murderer. Read through her fiction. Read how Howard Roark smiled the slow smile of “executioner.” Read how Kira’s eyes in We the Living are “dark with ecstasy” as she watches a master whip his slaves. Ayn Rand is not who you think she is.
Here is Rand on gun rights themselves:
Q: What’s your attitude toward gun control?
A: It is a complex, technical issue in the philosophy of law. Handguns are instruments for killing people — they are not carried for hunting animals — and you have no right to kill people. You do have the right to self-defense, however. I don’t know how the issue is going to be resolved to protect you without giving you the privilege to kill people at whim. (Ayn Rand, Ford Hall Forum, 1973)
One way or the other, I contend: Ayn Rand did not support gun rights for the purpose of self defense. Did she support martial arts or picking up a bat to fight back at a robber? One way or the other she says, “you have no right to kill people.” So you have no right to kill the other person if your life is in danger. This is exactly the argument against gun rights, “Theft should not be a death sentence.” Ok: should being the victim of theft then be? If you don’t have the right to fully retaliate, which yes might result in the attacker being killed, you are effectively neutered. And one way or the other, I don’t see how you actually, in practicality, have a right to immediate self-defense without the right to gun ownership. Let alone the means to fight government tyranny.
For decades, I’ve seen on blogs, forums, and now social media that Rand was not clear in her position on gun rights or self-defense. Yes she was. She was very clear. I wonder sometimes if people just don’t want to hear it. Or maybe she is so validating of their concerns about big government that they cannot possibly contemplate what her view actually was. People so strongly believe that Rand is a heroic voice standing up to dictatorship and oppression. In truth, if your life was immediately threatened, you would be left exposed, helpless, and vulnerable. And there are way too many “contextual” reasons that Rand says a person is not entitled to freedom.
Isn’t it funny how some of the worst dictators waved the banner of freedom?
Hello? McFly? Is anyone in there?
Sorry but people who fall for Rand’s vortex are a bit dumb. I mean. If you were innocently bamboozled at first, I get that. But if you read through the rebuttal and you are still giving the “NUH UH”s, you’re a bit dumb. The worst part of Rand is she takes people who could have been some of the best defenders of freedom and terms them into foot soldiers for her narcissistic ideology.
And, yes, the ideology matters. I propose that Rand’s view on self-defense stems, like all bad ideologies stem, from an errant view of human nature. As quoted above, she comes to this conclusion about self-defense after asking us to visualize a psychopath going around murdering people over a missing wallet. This is exactly the issue: one’s views on human nature. And this was Rand’s view. Her view was that our inner world, by nature, at birth, is a bunch of chaotic whims prone to murder unless there is some civilizing ethics put on a person. This is what Objectivism does. It takes a man born “tabula rasa” and turns them into a rational producer, the Objectivist ideal. This ethics is necessary, as directly quoted from Rand, because otherwise your natural whims may want you to rape, steal, and murder.
I propose that all bad ideas are based on the errant view of tabula rasa. All dictatorships had a very thwarted view on the nature of human nature itself. They all saw a person as essentially moldable. With enough conditioning and pressure, a person could live in the blissful harmony of a communist Utopia.
I propose Objectivism is based on the same errant principle of tabula rasa, which also says that a person is programmable–Rand’s word. The best way I can explain tabula rasa is the idea that a person’s emotional mechanism is like a wild horse that, unless tamed, does terrible things.
This idea of a wild inner world that needs tamed–controlled–is what I take to task so hard in Towards Liberalism: A Challenge to Objectivist Ethics. Our inner world is not a bunch of uncivilized chaotic whims. It is a fully alive, trustworthy world that simply needs tended to properly from birth on. If handled this way, it is our greatest ally towards our health and prosperity.
And, with this view, a person could be trusted with gun rights for the use of self-defense.
Please bookmark this post and use it when the issue inevitably comes up! And take to task anyone who thinks Rand supports gun rights for self-defense. She did not. As I ask the reader in Towards Liberalism: Please look at Objectivism for what it is.
Amber lived as an Objectivist for 10 years, until she realized it was failing her. She now writes about this ideology selling narcissism in the name of freedom and the damage it does, as a warning to others. See Towards Liberalism: A Challenge to Objectivist Ethics. We are not born with an emotional blank slate.