Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ayn Rand, Anti-Communism and Dogma

By Joseph Kellard

I wrote this comment this morning and emailed it to the author of a synopsis-type commentary on the two new biographies about Ayn Rand.

Caroline Baum,

I want to address two passages that appeared in your piece on the two new books on Any Rand that I read at

You wrote:

"Born Alisa Rosenbaum in 1905 in St. [Petersburg], Russia, to Jewish parents, Rand had a privileged upbringing. Her father, Zinovy, was a successful pharmacist; her mother, Anna, a social climber. Rand watched as the Bolsheviks seized her father’s pharmacy in 1918. Zinovy refused to work for the Communists, which was the clear inspiration for 'Atlas.'"

This scenario is often repeated by people, especially those insufficiently familiar with Ayn Rand's life, as the reason for her strong anti-Communism. But Miss Rand began to develop her essentially anti-collectivist, anti-statist ideas while she was a girl growing up in czarist Russia, before the Communist took power.

While the Communist confiscation of her family's property certainly played a part in the development of her mature views that influenced her writings, it is not the event that so many misinformed observers and commentators make into a primary, seminal matter. For Miss Rand, it took more, much more, than just one concrete event to form her most fundamental ideas and inspire such writings as Atlas Shrugged.

Also, you wrote:

"Any question or challenge from acolytes would incite her, leading to expulsion and the severing of the relationship for life."

"Any" question or challenge? This is a complete distortion that lends credence to the unjust portrait that Ayn Rand was dogmatic about Objectivism. I’m sure that many of her admirers who knew her well, including her closest associate Dr. Leonard Peikoff, would give you and the authors of these two new books ample evidence to the contrary.

Joseph Kellard

Friday, October 16, 2009

Rand as Advocate of Whim-Worship?

By Joseph Kellard

This morning, I dashed off a reply to a commentator who concluded in a column that reason, as advocated by Ayn Rand, leads to competing “absolutes” that allows men to rob one another.

Mr. Duncan:

In your column “How we got to where we are,” you wrote about Ayn Rand's summation of her philosophy:

"The problem with this thesis is that it is self-contradictory. Reason cannot be an absolute if you reject the outside source of morality as it is found in biblical morality. If your own happiness is the moral purpose of life, then your own reason becomes the arbiter of that absolute, but one person's reason may (or perhaps necessarily will) conflict with another's, making neither 'absolute.' What if one man's reason tells him that his happiness will only be had by robbing another man of his wallet? Obviously, an impasse is created."

Ayn Rand was not an advocate of the reason-as-subjectivism scenario that you've painted here. Using reason does not lead to competing subjectivist “absolutes,” which is the actual contradiction that you have created.

Miss Rand demonstrated that by using reason – that is, exercising the laws of logic -- an individual can discover objective reality, including his nature as a man and his requirements to live. His nature requires that he use his rational mind to live his life according to his own values and choices, and that he has a right to do so, so long as he does not violate the rights of other men to pursue their own “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” – which was the Founding Fathers' implicit nod to the virtue of selfishness.

Reason demonstrates that no man has any right to initiate force against other men, no right to murder, rape or rob him. When a man steals another man’s wallet, thus violating his right to his life and property, he is an irrationalist – that is, he is not exercising his faculty of reason. And a proper, individual rights-respecting nation punishes him for his crime. In short, reason demonstrates that a man has an absolute right to his life and property (his wallet), and not a right to act on a subjectivist *whim* to take it from him.

Here, and elsewhere in your column (such as on the issue of collectivism) you misrepresent Miss Rand's philosophy because you either don't understand it, or you do but are deliberately trying to distort it.

~ Joseph Kellard

Monday, October 12, 2009

The White House Declares War on Fox News

By Joseph Kellard

The White House is zeroing in on Fox News. According to the New York Times and Associated Press, the Obama administration is going on the offensive against the cable news network, which it regards as an arm of the Republican Party and as intent on tearing down the president.

“Fox’s Volley With Obama Intensifying” (Times)

“Attacking the news media is a time-honored White House tactic but to an unusual degree, the Obama administration has narrowed its sights to one specific organization, the Fox News Channel, calling it, in essence, part of the political opposition.”

“White House targets Fox as it goes after press critics” (AP)

“The White House has gone on the offensive against its critics in the press, singling out Fox News and going so far as to accuse the News Corp.-owned network of waging a ‘war against Barack Obama.’”

Here’s a key passage from this particular article:

“Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said the White House may be lashing out at Fox ‘because the Democratic base is starting to be more critical of Obama.

"‘The world was expected to be transformed in approximately a month and it just didn't quite happen that way,’ Sabato said. ‘So if you're in that position and you need to rally your base, you need to find a common enemy.’”

I remember hearing once that Bill Clinton said that while he was president, he had never heard of Rush Limbaugh. Of course, that’s a typical Clinton lie. But so long as Clinton could pretend Limbaugh didn’t exist, he could not openly attack the conservative talk radio host and threaten his freedom of speech. I’m not aware of anything Clinton may have done behind the scenes to try to silence Limbaugh, but in recent years he has made clear his contempt for certain media types, including Fox News.

On the other hand, Obama from the start of his presidency, and even during his campaign, has often publicly mentioned his critics, particularly Fox News’ Sean Hannity and Limbaugh, so much so that he is obviously disturbed (not just bothered) by them. And now he and his administration are openly targeting them. The question is, what are the next steps Obama will take, openly or behind the scenes, on his road to silence his critics.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Let's Take Back Columbus Day

By Joseph Kellard

This Columbus Day weekend, read Objectivist Tom Bowden's book "Enemies of Christopher Columbus."

Read his latest op-ed “Let’s Take Back Columbus Day."

Mr. Bowden’s also has some upcoming lectures based on this op-ed.

Or watch his lecture “Columbus Day Without Guilt”:

Mr. Bowden has also done some radio interviews about Christopher Columbus and the attack on the day in his name, here:

Happy Columbus Day weekend!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Michael Moore, Catholics and Capitalists

By Joseph Kellard

So Michael Moore turns to the Catholic Church to give his anti-capitalist screed, “Capitalism: A Love Story,” some moral weight. Yeah, I know, that church is a real moral authority, isn't it?

“Many of the talking heads in the film are Catholic clergy, including the bishop of Detroit, who proclaim capitalism to be a ‘sin’ and ‘radically evil.’ ‘Eventually,’ one prophesies, ‘God will come down and eradicate it.’”

Read the New York magazine article in full.

Also, who do you think Moore turned to in order to fund his film? Capitalists, who else! Jonathan Hoenig, a.k.a. Capitalist Pig, highlights this other curious fact in a recent column:

“Ironically, as has been repeatedly pointed out around the blogosphere in recent days, the film itself was funded by (publicly owned and traded) Viacom (VIA.B) and the Weinstein Company, a entertainment company which raised $490 million from investors to pay for, among other projects, Moore’s film. I guess capitalism is immoral and corrupt, except when it’s going to fund your own self-important movie exposing the depravity of capitalism.”