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KLAVAN: Ayn Rand’s ‘Objectivism’ Is Not Conservatism

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On Wednesday’s episode of “The Andrew Klavan Show,” Klavan answers a listener’s letter requesting that Klavan share his opinions of Ayn Rand and her philosophy, Objectivism. Video and partial transcript below:

LETTER: Lord Klavan, destroyer of ease and master of the multiverse.

“Master of the Multiverse” is the correct way to approach me.

LETTER: Recently, Ben had Yaron Brook on his Sunday Special to discuss Ayn Rand and Objectivism.

I can tell already this question is going to get me in big trouble.

LETTER: As a Catholic, I fundamentally disagree with Rand on certain claims. Yaron made the claim that Judeo-Christian values are not Western values. How would you respond? Additionally, I would love to hear your thoughts on Ayn Rand and Objectivism in general. Thanks!

… Before I answer this question and step in it, which I’m about to do, let me first say that I did not watch this interview. I did not see Yaron Brook on Ben’s show, so I’m not responding to what he said. I’m responding to what you say he said. Ok, that’s important, because I don’t want to take the guy on if I’m not even talking to him.

I think Ayn Rand sucks, ok. I think her writing sucks. I think her books are unreadable. I think “Atlas Shrugged” — I mean, look there’s one speech in “Atlas Shrugged” that is worth reading. It’s made maybe 15 times. The book is thousands of pages long. You know, I skimmed it. “The Fountainhead” is more readable, more exciting — but none of her characters are real. They all have those Nazi names like “Roark” and “Galt” … and all the bad guys are a mooch. She’s not trying to write reality, she’s trying to write her philosophy into fiction, and largely I hate that. There are a few successful books that do that — “1984” is one of them. But even “1984” is a great work of art, so that it can. Even though it’s about the Left, even though “1984” is a condemnation of the Left — it becomes a condemnation of tyranny because it’s art, so it’s above politics and higher than politics and it actually goes beyond politics.

[Rand’s] books, like once you get her philosophy, her books — I just find them so boring and so stiff and so hard to read. Some of her nonfiction is a little bit more interesting, but no more true … She really understands money. She would have that clip of [a] dollar bill. She really gets money.

Everything she says about money is in a book by Frederic Bastiat, who was Reagan’s favorite economist. [Bastiat] wrote a book, I think it’s called “The Laws,” and it’s 70 pages long. It’s very readable. It’s very simple and everything. Ayn Rand knows, I don’t know if you just took it right out of that, or if it came true through some other path, but everything she knows, she gets from Frederic Bastiat. And all you need is those 70 pages instead of her four-thousand page unreadable diatribes. That is what I think.

Secondly, obviously, while she does know about about money and the economy and capitalism, her moral and artistic judgments are insane. They are insane. I hear … she fell in love with some like serial killer at one point, from a distance … That’s not surprising to me. I wouldn’t just pick on her for it personally, but her moral stances are insane. The idea that you put your happiness above all and that capitalism solves all problems is ridiculous. She claims that the only proper system for an Objectivist is capitalism, as if capitalism were an outgrowth of Objectivism, but I believe that Objectivism is actually an outgrowth of capitalism.

She thinks that this system is the bee’s knees. This is her religion, and it’s going to solve every problem. And of course it doesn’t. The morals — decisions that people make in “The Fountainhead” — are absurd. Blowing up an orphanage because you can’t get it the way you like it is an absurd moral choice. Putting your happiness first, putting profits above everything, she says you should seek your own self-interest — putting profits above everything.

I mean, look at it — look all you have to do, is you look you know …They just got a judgment against Johnson & Johnson for selling opiates. And this is a complicated case, and lawyers are vultures and sharks and they go after these companies because that’s where the money is. But somewhere along the line, someone peddled these opiates to people knowing that they were addictive. This did happen at some point. Now maybe it’s the government’s fault. I don’t know why the government passed on these things … but somewhere along the line, there was a conversation where [Johnson & Johnson] said, “Well, you know, tough. We’ve got to sell these things to make our money back, so let’s do it, and let’s never mind the addiction and the trouble it’s going to cause.”

That’s good Objectivism. That’s profit, that’s making yourself happy. So what? So that our cars explode when people drive them? It’ll cost us less to get sued by the people whose parents have died than it will to recall the cars, so we won’t recall the cars. I mean, that’s the kind of thing that would happen in Ayn Rand world. Her artistic judgments, like against Shakespeare, make no sense because her view of humanity is stilted and wrong, and her idea of morality is stilted and wrong.

Now, if Yaron Brook said that Judeo Christian values are not Western values, that’s just historically ridiculous. That is historically ridiculous. Western values, even classical values — that pre-date Judeo-Christian values — come to us through the filter of Judeo-Christian values. And you cannot think that a civilization that was called Christendom when it started is not a Christian civilization. It is. It’s formed by — everything we think is formed by all the philosophers from Kant to Nietzsche, who rejected it — were dealing with the Christian inheritance. They all were.

So it’s ridiculous to say that those are not our values and that Objectivism, somehow, are. You know, capitalism is a system. It’s a great system. It’s the best economic system, but it needs to be hemmed in by morals. It needs to be hemmed in by altruism, and by love of neighbor. And without that, Ayn Rand, believe me, would get nowhere in life.

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