Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Letter to James Taranto

I sent the following as an email to James Taranto in response to this.

Mr Taranto,

In your Best of the Web column of April 13, you made the following statement:

Underlying this criticism is a curious normative premise: that the nonaffluent
ought to prioritize their material interests over moral and cultural concerns.
"Workers of the world, unite!" meets "The Virtue of Selfishness."

Either you have never read Ayn Rand's "The Virtue of Selfishness," or you are a liar*. Her philosophy is grounded in the principle that a man's survival qua man is the moral purpose of his life. In her view, the virtues of rationality, productiveness, honesty, integrity, etc, are the means by which we achieve happiness and success over the course of our lives. She never advocated sacrificing those virtues for any chimerical short term gain. It is very true that she disagreed with conservatives on issues such as abortion, but she did so on moral grounds.

As for her view of free markets, unlike conservatives who base their support for capitalism on pragmatic grounds and on the view that man is too evil to live in a socialist utopia, Ayn Rand advocated capitalism because it is the only moral system. It is the only system that requires men to deal with each other by reason instead of force. It is the only system that acknowledges a man's right to pursue his well being and achieve his own happiness. If you honestly don't know that, then you need to read what she wrote. If you do know it, then you have acted immorally, betraying your own self-interest by misrepresenting her in an attempt to subject her ideas to ridicule.

*Note: At the last minute I decided to replace "lying sack of shit" with "liar." It wasn't as viscerally satisfying, but it was probably the better choice.

No comments: