In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, President Obama had the following to say about novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand:
Ayn Rand is one of those things that a lot of us, when we were 17 or 18 and feeling misunderstood, we’d pick up. Then, as we get older, we realize that a world in which we’re only thinking about ourselves and not thinking about anybody else… is a pretty narrow vision.
I can almost one hundred percent guarantee something right here and now. President Obama’s only connection to Rand is probably that of a secondhand introduction through some liberal professor who chose to simply judge Rand’s vision according to words like “selfishness” and “capitalism.” If Obama had actually read and/or understood Rand, then his comments would not be so far off the mark. Let’s set the record straight, Randians, because this propaganda is beyond ridiculous. And to see it espoused by the sitting President of the United States is one step away from being down right shameful.
Rand’s objectivist theory, introduced most famously in the novel “Atlas Shrugged,” is in fact one of selfishness. Rand argues that altruism will be the downfall to society. To live for the sole benefit of others and for a group of men to sit in power and decide what are the “collective” responsibilities of other men is un-humanitarian and violates the basic civil rights every man is afforded from his first breath.
However, Rand’s philosophy wasn’t just about being selfish, it was about the very idea of selfishness. What is selfishness? Is it a pure disregard for your fellow human being? No. Selfishness is pursuing whatever brings you joy and is worthy of your love. If becoming a billionaire and buying sports cars is your idea of happiness, then it is your moral obligation to yourself to pursue such desires. If your idea of happiness is building homes in Africa and saving refugees, then it is also your moral obligation to pursue those desires. You can also pursue both. As long as what you do benefits you and does not detract from the basic freedoms of others, then you are living according to Rand’s principles.
The point of Rand’s selfishness was this: we, as a people, can in fact have a peaceful and just world if we simply follow the basic nature of ourselves. If we follow our ambition, then we drive people and the world around us to new heights. Rand believed, as many do, that it is in our moral fiber to want to help our fellow man. And if we all work to pursue our passions and end up loving ourselves, then we are all worthy of love and do not take from others, but rather, we have the capacity to give instead.
It gives us joy to love and to receive love. But a world where others regulate, tax, and curse in the name of love — well, that is a world destined to fail.
So, Mr. President, how again is this a “narrow vision?” I think it is an empowering vision, as do many others. Why else would “Atlas Shrugged” be one of the best-selling and most influential novels of all time?
The President says something else that is quite revealing in the comment. He says Rand’s philosophy is appealing to teenagers but should be considered simple and adolescent to adults. Hear that, John Aglialoro? Hear that, Paul Ryan? Hear that, all you entrepreneurs, businessmen, philanthropists, and artists inspired by Rand’s philosophy of freedom? Your guiding principles are that of a child. Patronize all you want, Mr. President, but many people giving to the world and helping it function today would argue that Rand’s idea of self love and ambition is anything but adolescent.