Was Ayn Rand Really a Genius?

Provocative title, no?  Got your attention anyway.

Before we get any further, I want to let you know that my aim is not to offend.  I’ve read several of her books and enjoyed them well enough (although I will admit to being much more of a Tolkeiniac).  However, if you are a “true believer” in her “philosophy” I really recommend that you read a little more philosophy and biology and, maybe, get over yourself a little.  But, really, I’m more in awe of the results of her writing than anything else.  That’s why while I don’t consider her a philosopher and think that following the prescriptions in her books leads to destruction and misery (for all even, maybe especially, “Gault” – a funny – though not “ha, ha” funny aside, interesting how many “Gauliacs” are feeding at the public trough), that she was one of the important people of the 20th century.  Her, Schmitt, Hyack all put a gloss on selfishness and lying that truly was/is indicative of the age.  Unbelievably destructive (and really against our natures as social animals) but popular in times of change and fear.

Let’s start with a definition of terms.  I’ve found that’s usually the main cause of disagreements.  People associate different values (either quantitative or qualitative) to a term and assume that others associate the same value to the term.  So, let’s be careful here.  As you may have been able to tell, I don’t think much of Ayn Rand’s “philosophy”, but merely saying that she sold a bunch of juvenile drivel as a “philosophy” is to assume that’s what her goal was: to be a “serious philosopher”.  I contend that wasn’t her goal.

Think about her.  Her writing reflects, accurately, I think, a bitter dispossessed spoiled rich girl with a daddy complex.  So, why was she a genius?  She had the ability to recognize this and to make it work for her.  Made it work for her in a couple of interesting ways.  She got money, fame, sycophants, power, and revenge.  Was she a genius as a philosopher? No, of course not.  But, she wrote some simplistic books designed to feed on bookish (her format), hard working (length), members of the in-crowd (white males), who feel alienated (her “characters” are “great men who are taken advantage of by “lessers”). By using these books, she became the grand dame of a circle that came to worship and fuck her (not metaphorically, but actually and physically – check out her biography, pretty wild) and take over and destroy the world financial system.

I am not contending that the destruction of the financial system was her goal, I don’t think that she cared about the result of the adoption of her stories.  No, I think that was the result of people actually taking her seriously and following her advice.  Her goal, or result anyway, was to feed the ego of the white boys and get love, money, and fuck over the commies.  I don’t think that she was able to view the result of the adoption of her stories by the financial “elite”.  I could well be wrong.  I may not be giving her enough credit.  Maybe she knew that following the advice that her books gave would lead to destruction, maybe it was another final way that she could fuck over the men she used.  I don’t really know enough about her to make that decisions, and I’m not interested enough to learn enough about her to get there.  But, it is interesting to watch her greatest disciple and sycophant and fuck-buddy (literally) twisting in the wind in the ruins of the destruction that he wrought.  What is hysterical (and what shows the amazing power of the mind not to accept what it doesn’t want to learn) is that the people who are designed to be made to feel better by her books are still unable to learn anything and are still “going Gault”.

By these books, she was able to attain her goals (revenge on the proletariat who took away her “right” to her daddy’s rich Russian existence, money, fame, accollates (see Alan Greenspan), and weird sex.  Pretty fucking genius to recognize what would turn on disgruntled white boys who, while not super-geniuses (or at least not very self-aware), were smart enough to get ahead, and hard working enough as well and feed them some drivel and keep it going for generations.

She is sometimes compared to Tolkein because they both appealed to a similar group: somewhat alienated white male teens.  But, Rand was much more of a genius.  Tolkein merely updated, and told fairly well, the types of stories that have been popular with people for thousands of years.  You can see homages to Beowulf and other stories throughout his stories as well as the basic battles with good and evil.  Rand, though, appeals not to the near universal good/evil, hero ethos, but rather to a sense of entitlement and superiority that has rarely been tapped in such “popular” fora.  Christ, they made Hollywood movies of her stuff within years of publication.  It took half a century for Tolkein to really make it to the silver screen and Beowulf hasn’t (successfully) yet.

No, Ayn Rand was the result of the 20th century as well as one of it’s most important and destructive figures.  Not bad for a nasty spoiled rich girl.

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This looks about right

wounded romantic nationalism of Goldberg’s sort is a pathetic remnant of the twentieth century, which polished off tens of millions of human beings over wet dreams about “blood and soil.” There isn’t any “blood” or “pure” “races,” and human groups have no special relationship to territory. My complaint about the treatment of the Palestinians is that they have been left stateless and without citizenship or rights. I’m not a Palestinian nationalist who insists that they return to what is now Israel (though they should receive compensation for lost property if they don’t). The Germans weren’t always in Germany (in fact they are relative newcomers), and they aren’t of ‘pure’ ‘blood,’ and the 200,000 Jews in contemporary Germany–some of them Israelis– have as much right to be there as anyone else. Most Germans and most Ashkenazi Jews have a relatively recent female common ancestor. As a species and subspecies, we are from southern Africa, and that only about 100,000 years ago. If someone is nostalgic for the Old Country, they should try Gabarone, Botswana. And say hello to Mma Ramotswe for me.

http://www.juancole.com/2010/03/cpl-jeffrey-goldberg-guarding-prison-of.html

Can you Canoe Camus?

I received the following voice mail from a person with whom I’ve been having a fairly long philosophical conversation.  The comment comes after a long discussion about why we see the law, and law school, and more as, well, as . . . silly is the best word I can think of, but silly isn’t it.  Unimportant, or unimportantly important?  Anyway he said (as transcribed by Google voice with a little clean up by me):

“What we both got not from Camus, but because of Camus was the sense that we live in a society in which motivation is increasingly economic rationality and we feel we feel that that’s wrong”

The following is my response:

The short answer is “yes”, the longer answer is that we’ve examined and rejected all other philosophies, but deep down we feel the need for a philosophically consistent life-view.  Camus examined and rejected the philosophical strains that preceded him from “god-faith” to “science-faith” to “science-rationalism” to econominism and on and on.  After finding all lacking, he turned to existentialism.

We’ve followed Camus’ path in rejecting the foregoing but have also rejecting the existentialism.  We are seekers.  We are looking for an overriding philosophy and have not yet found or developed one.  We’re really good at finding what is lacking in the other philosophies, but haven’t found one that’s not lacking.

I think that the point of your message gets to why we are so odd at the law school and in this society.  Most of the society has adopted the economistic philosophy.  Even those who “reject” it are working within it’s framework.  (Most other people in the world are adherents of either religious or science faith).  As people who have rejected the premises of the dominant visions of the world and truth and reality we are cut off from most of the others.  As people who have rejected the premises of the others and have not (yet) found a philosophy, we are doubly adrift.  (I am leaving out a mass of people who never even think along these lines.  People who “just live”.)

Last time we spoke we discussed process.  I think that’s our life-ring.  Without a guiding philosophy that we don’t immediately see as bullsh*t, we hope that process can guide us.  It’s interesting that when the law wants to hide the ball about the philosophy (or crude politics) underlying its actions it almost always resorts to “process”.  As bad a rap as I’m giving process, my mind always turns to it.  “If I can just work through the problems, I can find the philosophy.”

My fear (and increasingly my belief) is that there is not acceptable overriding philosophy.  But, existentialism isn’t the answer, maybe (as many have said before) it’s “studentism”.  Maybe all that we can aspire to is to be open to experience and thinking and learning.  Maybe it’s that simple.  Or, maybe not.

Veracity, reliability, and legal publishing

I’ve been thinking a bit about all of the efforts by librarians and others to get official verified authenticated (“official”) versions of governmental materials out on the Internet.  There have been a few voices questioning the effort (John Joergensen for one) but I think that my criticism is more radical and comes from a slightly different direction.

Come on, follow me down my rabbit hole.  The first question is why.  Why do we need “official, verified, authenticated” copies?  The easy answer is that we need the “right” stuff.  The easy answer is, as far as it goes, true.  People do rely on these materials to make important decisions.  But, it seems to me that we are ignoring half the equation.  We see the benefit of having legal information “official”: people can get the “right” law, but we don’t seem to look at the other side of the coin.

First, what we have today for most of our law are not “official” versions.  Now, as Joergensen points out, we are using Wexis’ name and reputation as a replacement for “official”.  Librarians propose that in addition to this model, we ask the producers of the information to release an “official” version of their material.  That’s a great dream, but along the way we’ve seen some bumps ranging from the failure of some governments to release much of anything to many governments releasing material but not putting their imprimatur on the material.  It’s been well over a decade and the amount of “official” government material has grown (especially at the Federal level) but not nearly most of the material is deemed “official” today.

By insisting that the legal material on the web be “official” we are adding a large barrier to entry into the market.  What we are saying is that Wexis gets a pass but to get into the market, everyone else needs to wring “official” material out of the government.

In addition, I’m not convinced that we get a better product by insisting on an “official” version.  As I understand it, LII gets and electronic feed from Congress.  By saying that we can’t rely on LII we’re saying that there is a problem with Congress or LII.  (jokes about Congress here, but the law does emanate from them).  Now-a-days with data fed electronically from one place to another the risk of inadvertent mistakes is smaller than when the material was keyed in.

But, some say, what about other less reputable organizations other than LII.  Here I find myself to be in the interesting position of arguing for the free market.  If the reliability (and deep pockets) of Wexis is important, there is a place in the market for you.  If I can get a feed from the court and I let Google crawl my machines, why shouldn’t I?

But raising the barrier to entry, we librarians are hurting (I was going to say cripple but I don’t want to overstate it that much) the development of cheap, free, innovative legal research products.

I think that we are letting the perfect kill the good.  Ideally, we would have “official” versions of all law put online for free in a good XML format so that all sorts of information providers can get a whack at the data.  But, until then, I say let all of the flowers bloom.  Get the data out there.  The fly-by-nights will be gone soon enough.  If the reassurance (and searching) of Wexis is worth what they charge (and if you have the cash) fine, but if you are poor or you think that a data stream from the creator of the information is good enough, you should be able to use that.

In terms of veracity and reliability what we have today is no more than reliance on two big private companies.  I think that until we get them out of the business of telling us what law is true, we won’t get the government into it.

In fact, I’m not convinced that we need anyone in that role, I think that the combination of a working market and the adversarial nature of the law would ensure that all “incorrect” versions are found and eliminated quickly.

Top Ten Worst Things about the Bush Decade; Or, the Rise of the New Oligarchs

Wow, this is the best take down of the aughts that I’ve seen.

Top Ten Worst Things about the Bush Decade; Or, the Rise of the New Oligarchs. via Informed Comment

(title unknown)

Hullabaloo

. . . “The reason I think it’s good news isn’t just on the substance (which it certainly is) but on the politics. Franken’s amendment is driving the Republicans crazy because they basically voted to protect rapists and are now paying a political price for that. And now they are whining that Franken was somehow “uncollegial” because the amendment put them in an embarrassing position (which makes me wonder how many other things issues are swept under the rug because it would make members of the opposition uncomfortable.)” . . .

via (title unknown).

freeze nailin

Test but looks like it works!

Married To The Sea

via freeze nailin.