Thursday, July 26, 2007

Rand-om Thoughts 1

It is strange, in a way, to start reading a "new" author such as Ayn Rand particularly when the writing is preceded by the kind of reputation that Rand has.

As a matter of accident as much as anything else, the first reading was Capitalism – The Unknown Ideal; a collection of essays rather than a consolidated study. Included in the book are "guest" essays from Nathaniel Brandon, Alan Greenspan, and Robert Hessen. To further compound the confusion, I did not read the essays front to back, but began with the first essay What is Capitalism then – because of Rand’s own references – to the Appendices comprising The Nature of Government and Man’s Rights.

At least I can give Rand top marks for honesty – the very first two sentences in her Introduction read –
This book is not a treatise on economics. It is a collection of essays on the moral aspects of capitalism.

To debate the morality of a topic is – as I have already found out – extremely difficult. It does however explain the first of the misgivings that I have about these of Rand’s writings. There is nothing that one can say is "wrong" in the same way as one can not vote "No" in a Statutory Referendum that asks the question "I support the principles of Law and Order". It also leads to the first of my criticisms, as far as they go –

It is a pity perhaps that Rand died before the internet and particularly the blogiverse were developed. The prospect of serious debate between Rand, (to choose contemporaries of hers) Friedman, Samuelson and Galbraith in a public forum would be just too juicy to let pass. Sadly, it is not to be. For me to critique Rand’s economics is a cheek indeed but one which is not put aside too easily.

But the connect between Rand and internet has another aspect; one which bothers me somewhat.

Her essays read very much like the kind of items that I have penned as the probligo on both my own site and as comment on others. Not so much in content or message as in form. You know, the kind of thing that TAOTB, Dave Justus and the rest get their knickers knotted about like "Where is the supporting data?"... But then, if you are talking morality there is no supporting data, huh!!

So, the initial reaction based upon what I have read thus far is of a blancmange – a junket – of dubious consistency and made from low fat milk. Put another way, the content of the three essays read so far has been very difficult to disagree with. The principles expounded by Rand are so general and of fundamental basis that any disagreement is nonsensical. However, that is like the Statutory Referendum I referred to earlier. The statement is formed in such a way that any other answer is wrong. If you accept the fundamental premise then Rand’s argument is indisputable. In order to disagree with Rand you have to disagree with the base premise. It is not that black and white I believe...

I shall ponder and shall write further, as time permits...

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