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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/6336/the-rand-interview/

The Rand Interview

March 5, 2007 by

Maybe I’m the only person in the world who hasn’t seen this, but who can’t be completely riveted by this interview with Ayn Rand? What a remarkable woman — so much truth and yet much truth gone mad, one might say — and what a phenomenon. Thanks to youtube you can get a sense of what the whole thing was about.

{ 58 comments }

Juan Fernando Carpio March 5, 2007 at 9:01 pm

She was great. Too bad her ego and her lack of scholarship were such a big problem.

Peter Canning March 5, 2007 at 9:01 pm

I recall seeing this in college and thinking to myself, “What a repulsive human being.”

Adam Knott March 5, 2007 at 9:16 pm

Yes, an imperfect human being.

But…..

The one who pointed many of us towards Mises.

The one who helped found the libertarian movement.

The one who is among the greatest American fiction writers.

Yes, too bad…..

O.H. March 5, 2007 at 9:45 pm

Second Adam: Rand pointed the direction to Mises, et. al.

Whatever her shortcomings, there is strength there; it is so difficult to find.

jeffrey March 5, 2007 at 9:49 pm

There is so much to be said for her, and against her. A dazzling personality, no question about that. A classic in every way, an American original. It’s almost as if her obvious faults obscure her hidden virtues.

She comes off in person the way she is in her books: utterly unflappable and confident, even in error. Maybe that’s why she drew so many to her side.

There is also something really compelling about tv in the old days. It’s all so serious.

Stephan Kinsella March 5, 2007 at 10:10 pm

Check out her appearance on Donahue (in five parts).

Egfrow March 5, 2007 at 10:10 pm

The Diggbat Bury Brigade already killed this post.

Egfrow March 5, 2007 at 10:26 pm

Short commings? , lack of scholarship? Repulsive human being? Started the Libertarian movement?

These comments pretty much prove that colleges have been spreading and indoctrinating young minds into leftist agendas by spreading falsehoods about someone like this. Very few here have shown any acutaly hint of understanding this women’s genius. What a loss.

Roy W. Wright March 5, 2007 at 11:17 pm

Egfrow, I never heard a word about Ayn Rand while I was in college, except from the resident Randist and his nonstop editorials in the school paper (most of which I agreed with, incidentally). But after familiarizing myself with her writings and comparing them to those of Mises and the like, it became clear to me that her system of thought was deeply flawed.

Sione Vatu March 5, 2007 at 11:23 pm

Gentlemen

I understand Ayn Rand to have studied philosophy in Russia. As part of the course she was expected to defend a dissertation verbally. The subject chosen for her was Plato! She passed but at the end of the examination a professor (the one who selected the topic to be examined) said he sensed she did not like Plato. She replied that she did not agree with much of what Plato thought, hence she disliked him- an interesting insight to have revealed.

Note that she could not fairly be accused of lacking in scholarship. From what I understand of it the Russian education of that time was demanding and top class- probably better than anything avvailable in the philosophy faculties of universities these days…

Sure, Rand did some silly things. Sometimes that’s the nature of a genius. I’ve known many. Some of them were far more “challenging” to deal with than she would have been. Many “ordinary” people have done far worse with their activities (esp. private lives) and behaviour than Rand managed to do. Think of the many politicians, civil servants and professionals (and that’s without considering the movie stars etc.) who have made a much bigger mess of things.

It helps not to play the “man” when the ideas are much more relevant to us today and in the future. In the end she contributed a great deal of good and that’s what she’ll be remembered for, not weaknesses of personality such that they might have been.

BTW Rand had some important objections to the libertarian movement. In particular she concluded that the political approach being taken by the party was immoral. She later said that the trouble with libertarianism was that it was not based on a moral premise but rather most libertarians had no logical premise at all. I’d hardly say that makes her a founder of the modern libertarian movement, let alone a promoter of it. She had serious disagreements with key libertarians…

In summary, an important thinker who came along at a terrible time for freedom. She had issues and problems but are they really relevant to us today? I doubt it. The ideas and issues she discussed are a different mayter entirely. They are important. Well worth serious consideration.

Sione

jk in la March 6, 2007 at 3:24 am

thanks for sharing the ayn rand clips – her philosophy is so basic and simple – realize your full potential…what is unfortunate is that the places in this world where one is allowed to do that are shrinking fast…

averros March 6, 2007 at 5:03 am

Rand is a typical example of a thinker who went astray by getting ahead of the available knowledge. (Aristotle is, probably, the most famous victim of this fallacy).

The objective morality, derivable from biology (to be more precise, neurophysiology and ethology) may exist (in fact, there’s a spate of recent books on biological basis of morality), but back then nobody knew anything about it.

Mises and Rothbard were a lot more careful about theorising ahead of facts; the entire edifice of Austrian economics is, essentially, a careful examination of the black-box model of human mind. This way it derives valid conclusions which must hold no matter how our brains work.

David White March 6, 2007 at 7:59 am

I read Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead in my early twenties and was blown away. When I went to reread Atlas Shrugged recently, I couldn’t get through thirty pages of it, finding the writing atrocious.

A genius for sure, though, and a tremendous voice for freedom at a critical time in history.

I wonder what she would say today about the global fiat fraud. Or would her avowed statism prevent her from seeing it for what it is?

Bernie March 6, 2007 at 9:37 am

I read Atlas Shrugged before I’d heard of Mises and it had a big impact as far as seeing what the state was about. However I found her ideas about the nature of man to be wide of the mark from my own experience. Yes I wish to work for my own ends but I also wish to work for the ends of my family. I also care about humanity which is why I study Mises and Rothbard etc. and play some part in spreading the word. Her either/or look at altruism/selfishness is a false premise.

Dave March 6, 2007 at 11:19 am

I still can’t understand why people who call themselves Austrians would ever defend Rand.
Just because she happened to come to some free-market conclusions, doesn’t mean she had sound thoughts on economics.
The fact that her prose, research, analysis and views on humanity are horrible should turn away people over the age of 19.
There’s a reason absolutely no one in any non-libertarian academic circles takes her seriously. Come on. No one even spends the time to refute her anymore, because it’s not worth their time.
Rothbard figured this out a long time ago:
http://www.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/rothbard23.html

Sione Vatu March 6, 2007 at 11:26 am

Bernie

Are you working “for the ends of my family” because that’s what YOU WANT to do, because it attains YOUR goals and because that’s in YOUR interest
OR
are you doing it in spite of your interests, in spite of yourself and to sacrifice yourself for a “greater good”?

Rand would consider the first options selfish and the second altruistic. According to her you should choose to be selfish and work “for the ends of my family” for selfish reasons (because you want to, because that’s in your interests, because it improves YOUR life and makes YOU happy, etc.).

Where is the false premise? What do you understand by the term “false premise”? Or did you mean “false dichotomy”?

Talofa!

Sione

Sione Vatu March 6, 2007 at 11:32 am

Dave

Prof George Reisman has already refuted all your objections. You need to go purchase a copy of “Capitalism” and read it carefully.

Sione

Sécessionniste March 6, 2007 at 11:59 am

Part 4 of the Donahue Interview is pretty revealing with regard to Ayn Rand.

Simon March 6, 2007 at 12:41 pm

Sione, Dave

You can get the book on Reisman’s website capitalism.net (pdf and html)

M. Seiler March 6, 2007 at 1:05 pm

I’ll never get why Ayn Rand thought there was a moral obligation to smoke. That is ridiculous. It seems to be the logical conclusion of Objectivism’s aversion to “whim-worship” – all of Rand’s preferences must be shown to be “rational,” and since there is only one Reason, all other preferences are “irrational.” This is not libertarianism. It is just an atheist version of conservatism, praising capitalism in one instant and demanding conformity the next.

Bernie March 6, 2007 at 2:37 pm

Sione,

I just took the time to watch the Donahue interview and I must say she came across a lot better on that. Your points are almost what I was saying, and are backed up by what she says in that interview. It may just be that her English and ability to communicate weren’t as good as someone like Rothbard but I suspect it may also be that she enjoyed the shock value of talking about the virtue of selfishness. In any case it is not a good strategy to set up the false dichotemy (as you say) of altruism and selfishness and to say we can only be one or the other. That isn’t true.

Alastair March 6, 2007 at 5:04 pm

I just adore the way libertarians project an air of condescending indulgence about Rand. As though to even broach the subject of alturism and faith is an indelicate relevation of one’s intellectual immaturity. After all, everyone just knows that egoism is rapacious and that selflessness is benevolent.

It is particularly rich coming from those who champion an ineluctably selfish institution: private property. What could be more selfish than the right to ignore the cries of the poor, needy, and unloved? The socialists understand this, why don’t libertarians?

Alastair March 6, 2007 at 5:16 pm

Revelation I mean.

Michael A. Clem March 6, 2007 at 7:06 pm

What could be more selfish than the right to ignore the cries of the poor, needy, and unloved?
It’s not that we’re ignoring the cries–it’s just that we don’t think the best solution to the problems of the poor, needy, and unloved is wide-scale theft and dependence.

Siggyboss March 6, 2007 at 7:26 pm

I’m completely selfish.

I value my family more than others. I value my children more than myself because I enjoy helping them more than anything, and I value my enjoyment more than others’ enjoyment. I want to help the poor because I enjoy helping others, and again I value my enjoyment more than others’ enjoyment. It’s all about my values.

What’s so wrong about being selfish?

David White March 6, 2007 at 7:31 pm

Wait, let’s back up here and ask Alastair if, given the “ineluctably selfish institution: private property,” he happens to lay claim to any private property and, if so, why?

gene berman March 6, 2007 at 8:04 pm

Alastair:

You’re at an extreme disadvantage here–not in arguing but in understanding.

On the one hand, virtually everyone here knows just about everything that can be known about the myriad policies of redistributionism and has learned about such matters in the same way as everyone else (including the redistributionsists)–by experience and a lifetime of indoctrination at the hands of education, the press, etc., etc.

But this site is peopled by students of Mises and other “free-market” advocates–students who have learned (by studying and thinking) that policies of redistribution, no matter how arranged or administered, must end in the failure of the very objectives that were the announced goal of the redistributionists. “Austrian” economics proceeds, systematically and with constant logical rigor, to demonstrate that redistribution not only cannot ameliorate conditions of the unfortunate to any pronounced degree but that ultimately, it reduces production of the material fund from which redistribution is to be made. It makes everybody poorer than they otherwise would have been and those who are less able and agile will, of necessity, always be diminished disproportionately (that’s why we call them less able and agile).

Such matters cannot be explained in a few sentences or paragraphs. Nor are arguments won or lost by rhetorical skill of much use in a search for understanding.

If you want to understand where Misesians are ‘coming from,” there’s just no other way than to read Mises.

Hamid March 6, 2007 at 9:15 pm

This is the first time I have ever seen Ayn Rand and heard her voice. I really enjoyed reading Ayn Rand’s novels, and they got me thinking outside the realm of what is taught in our school system these days. I think that there was a lot of truth in what she was saying, regardless of her errors.

As for the private property/ingoring the poor thing, are you serious? How would you help the poor WITHOUT private property? Without private property there is no welfare, medicare, medicaid, housing subsidies, social security, or charity.

Angelo March 6, 2007 at 9:20 pm

Is this to say that Alastair believes that using your own property how you like is selfish, but being able to steal that of others isn’t?

Vince Daliessio March 6, 2007 at 11:16 pm

(DISCLOSURE: I have never read anything by Ayn Rand, my impression of her work is strictly second-hand).

I thought it rather interesting that in the Mike Wallace interview she clearly criticises the tendency of Big Business to run to the government to protect it from competition, yet later more stridently defended Big Business as “America’s Most Persecuted Minority” – in my opinion, she had it right the first time.

As for her opinions on altruism, aside from some objectionable phraseology, again, her views are right on – appeals to altruism on behalf of government social policies are evil and wrong, what libertarian could object to that position?

Most of what she says in the Wallace interview cannot be objected to on libertarian grounds at all, period. As far as I’m concerned, most of the objections voiced here are either based in part on Murray’s personal animus toward Rand, the later build-out of Objectivism into the Leonard-Peikoff-led Cult of Rand, or both, but certainly not most of what Rand had to say in that electrifying first interview.

By comparison, the later Donahue piece captures Rand in declining intellectual and philosophical rigor, though she could still make good points.

And I have to defend “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead” for one reason – they are two the very few fiction books I ever encountered in high school or college that were not frank apoligies for the warfare-welfare state. This is enough to forgive their literary errors, at least until something better comes along.

On balance, Rand was more help than harm to the ideals of liberty, though I cannot say the same thing about the Cult of Rand.

thefattomato March 7, 2007 at 12:37 am

THe difference between Randians and Misians is rather simple;
Randians support Intellectual Property and
Misians do not support Intellectual Property, espicially patents.
Apart from that the economic philosophy of the two are essentially the same.
Rand does not defend selfishness she dismisses altruism as a moral and legal obligation. The real point of Rand is that morality can not be a legal obligation, ie welfare state, income tax, estate tax.

Neil Parille March 7, 2007 at 6:07 am

Rand had many good insights and ideas. The problem is, as I see it, that she wasn’t all that well read or philosophically rigerous, and she tended to treat her formulations of things as the last word. Her contemporary followers (the Peikoff wing in particular) share this same weakness.

gene berman March 7, 2007 at 6:10 am

Fat Tomato (or is it Fatto Mato?):

Do I presume correctly that when you refer to “Misians,” you mean “Misesians?”

I am rather unaware of how Misesians might line up as to being opposed or in favor of patents and other intellectual property matters. But, as to Mises, the man himself, as illustrated by his writings on the subject, I have no such lack of knowledge.

In the main, Mises treated the monopoly potential of intellectual property rights (patents, copyrights, trade names, etc.) as economic topics:
i.e., from a neutral view in examining their effects. But in those passages in which opinion enters the discussion, is is abundantly clear that
Mises regarded patents as extraordinarily beneficial to societal well-being founded on the routine absorption of innovations in product technology and quality and in productivity.
\
With due regard to the positions of those opposed to the institutions of intellectual property (which opposition, after all, cannot be simply dismissed but remains of unprovable merit–just as does its support), they are intellectual adventurers in this respect and by no means in accord with Misesian thought on such matters.

Dave March 7, 2007 at 9:32 pm

Sione-
You can’t just post a link to a Rand site and say the discussion is over.
Silly robot, read the Rothbard article.

thefattomato,
the difference between Austrians and Randroids is much deeper. Subjectivism is at the base of the first, and Objectivism is at the base of the second.
This is why Randroids do silly things like deny post-Newtonian physics and treat human relationships as they were commodities.

Vanmind March 7, 2007 at 10:37 pm

When I was in my late teens and demonstrated a sympathy toward free markets, a friend recommended that I read Rand. Unfortunately her talent for fiction was so second-rate that I almost started to doubt my earlier convictions (“What’s with all this Utopian garbage she’s writing?”). It wasn’t until over a decade later that I stumbled across mises.org and discovered works of actual genius.

Artisan March 8, 2007 at 3:43 am

Verrry Russian.

I almost bought those heavy books, then read the “critics” and lazyly decided… I wait a bit till my son is old enough in a few years…

I’d really like to know what fiction book of literary value corresponds the most to Mises or Rothbard thinking though. Anyone an opinion? Brave New World perhaps? But I’d rather not read science fiction, because it can be interpreted in so many ways… I like realism much better. So I’ll pass on Orwell too.

The movie section at Mises is interesting in that respect since many movies have a literary basis… but the choice is too vast.

Flaubert seem to be the greatest admirer of Bastiat at the time, but you can’t say Madame Bovary is libertarian philosophy, can you?

Sione Vatu March 8, 2007 at 11:47 am

Dave

What are you going on about, fool? I posted no links to another website. Nor did I say that any discussion was over.

What I did do was recommend you read the book “Capitalism” by Prof Reisman. Prof Reisman rebutted your position already. I think you’d do well to consider what he demonstrates. The reason is, it would help you to understand why Rand is taken seriously by libertarian thinkers. Go read the book and find out.

Note: Prof Reisman was a student of von Mises. He actually met the man and worked with him. He discussed and studied economics directly with von Mises. Prof Reisman maintains that Rand’s thinking is important to Austraian economics, hence to libertarian thought. As a person who met both von Mises and Rand to discuss their ideas directly, I reckon he’s worth listening to. Given his pedigree in economics, research and teaching, I think you’ll find he has an understanding (as well as personal experience) you presently lack. Much can you learn.

Here is a second suggestion for you. Try to read what was actually written for you and do not be making things up as you go.

Sione

PS yes I’ve read the Rothbard piece. Now you go and take a read of Prof Reisman.

Dave March 9, 2007 at 4:55 am

Sione,

All right, it wasn’t a “link,” per se. It was a web site address. You win. Also, why didn’t you say before that Prof Reisman had met Mises? That changes EVERYTHING.

Oh, Randroids. You’ll understand when you grow up.
Hopefully you’ll find something that doesn’t compute with your empty hateful life soon and move on.

Dave March 9, 2007 at 5:00 am

Oh yes, Randians are not libertarians.
See: Their love of war, particularly toward Palestine, not to mention their violent hatred toward non-Randians. Note Rand’s rejoicing when those people on the train died in Atlas Shrugged.

Sione Vatu March 9, 2007 at 10:00 am

Dave

Please, read what was actually written to you.

I didn’t post a link. I didn’t provide a web site address either. I suggested you read one particular book. That book was “Capitalism” by Prof Reisman. Can you get it?

The fact that Prof Reisman not only met von Mises but was his student is one of the facts you’d discover in that particular book. This is not news. It’s well known.

You originally wrote: “I still can’t understand why people who call themselves Austrians would ever defend Rand.” You’d find out if you checked out what the good Professor had to say.

Sione

PS Rand and Rothbard did not get on. There’s a quite a story behind their mutual animosity. There was a falling out. In the end Rothbard considered Rand a cultist and Rand accused Rothbard of plagiarising a student’s work. What understanding and friendship there had been soon disappeared. Is this really important? Or is it the ideas each of them discussed and the ideas they promoted that are important?

Dave March 9, 2007 at 11:35 am

Okay, he wrote a book. Much better.
Where is the chapter on cult worship and Palestian genocide?

josh m March 9, 2007 at 11:59 am

Interesting to note how not much has changed vis a vis mainstream statist thinking: Wallace brings out the same tired arguments (monopolies, unemployment) to try to corner Rand.

josh m March 9, 2007 at 12:10 pm

I was puzzled by Rand’s response to the woman on the Donahue show (I believe installment #4-5) who said that, while she had been a devotee of Rand at a younger age, had now moved away philosophically, her reason being (I’m paraphrasing) “an increased sense of responsibility” toward others such as family and community.Ms. Rand became extremely defensive and basically told the woman to shut up, and overall came across pretty intolerant.

But I don’t see how what the woman said conflicts with Rand’s philosophy. Rand has said numerous times that individuals may serve others if its voluntary and if its for rationally selfish reasons. What the woman said seemed to be perfectly consistent with this principle. Not that what happened on a Donahue show matters much over 20 years later–:)–I think Rand totally dropped the ball addressing that one particular question.

Daniel M. Ryan March 9, 2007 at 3:23 pm

I mayself am puzzled by something. Why are there so many people who think that the train-wreck scene in Atlas Shrugged contained an element of gloating? All I saw in it was a disguised warning; I didn’t infer one single cackle from it.

Daniel M. Ryan March 10, 2007 at 4:40 am

An interesting snippet, which may explain, by implication, Rand’s own self-imposed isolation at the end of her life:

His persona became the subject of literary parodies and personal innuendos – such as the poisonous memoirs of his first wife Reshetovskaya, or a hilarious anti-utopian spoof by Vladimir Voinovich, in which he ridiculed Solzhenitsyn’s social projects and propensity for folksy earthly wisdoms. But his public gestures didn’t require any fictional elaboration. Edward E. Ericson, Jr, and Daniel J. Mahoney, the editors of this volume, mention the tragic fate of Solzhenitsyn’s Moscow typist, who cracked after a week of severe interrogations and handed over to the KGB a copy of the manuscript of The Gulag Archipelago. So acute was her sense of betrayal of Solzhenitsyn’s cause that she committed suicide. This was the most tragic but not the only instance when fear of incurring Solzhenitsyn’s disapproval made people act against their better judgement and those who had fallen foul of him were ostracized. He banished from his life everyone whom he suspected of disloyalty, including the most insightful and trustworthy of his biographers, Michael Scammell. For Solzhenitsyn and his defenders it was the only way to preserve the memory of the horrors of Stalinism for future generations; for his detractors, his civic zeal was just a cover for megalomaniacal vanity.

Rand and Solzhenitsyn have little in common except for: a) their hatred of Communism, and… b) their country of origin.

[ Quoted snippet from http://tls.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,25341-2617318,00.html ]

Sione Vatu March 10, 2007 at 11:52 am

Dave

Read the book and find out.

Sione

Sione Vatu March 10, 2007 at 12:24 pm

josh

Rand took offense at that woman and the group she was sitting with. She thought the questioner was intending to show disrespect and ostracism. She’d experienced enough of that for it to rile her up (as you can see on the film clip). She responded in turn by ostracising the woman. The trouble was that it left an interesting question unanswered (as you have pointed out). Note that on several occasions Rand offers to answer the question if someone else would raise it. No-one does.

Rand could have handled this situation far more effectively. Unfortunately by the time that audience participation interview was recorded Rand’s intellect was fading. She’d experienced several personal crises and tragedies (some of her own making) and she’d been on the recieving end of public abuse, criticism, ostracism and opposition from the liberal establishment for years. She was well past her best by then. Probably tired and fed up.

On a later interview she mentioned how certain losses and set backs removed (bit by bit) the (her?) passion for life. The death of someone close to her is an example she raised to illustrate that point. Likely with this example she was reffering to the death of her husband and the effect it was having over her. It’s an interesting insight. She’d had plenty of losses and set-backs over a considerable time.

Rand is an interesting historical figure. Colourful, exotic, bizzare and in some ways incomprehensible. She should be remembered for the ideas and the content of what she argued. that’s where the value lies.

Sione

Ozzie March 12, 2007 at 4:18 am

Mises to me is the greatest thinker since Newton or Aquinas.

But Rand was freakish. Hard to explain by the normal laws of nature. Like Michael Jordans leap. Or Joan of Arc.

Rands smarts were so inexplicable that it almost compromises my atheism.

And I like being an atheist.

Rand is just spooky.

Now it is the case that these super-brainy women go a little nutty when they get to their 50′s.

And I hear that this nuttiness hurt a bunch of people.

Stop giving her such a hard time. SHE WAS A WOMAN after all.

SHE WAS A WOMAN.

And she only had to sort things out because we blokes were doing such a bad job of it.

I am grateful for what the philosopher acheived every day of my life.

And though everyone might protest, part of that acheivement, assisted us in getting mises.org. The best website on the net no question.

Not taking any credit away from Lew and Murray.

The greatest website on the net.

They’ll deny it of course.

They will deny it until their faces fall off.

But it is hard to imagine a mises.org without the existence of the philosopher.

And the philosopher helped bring us George Reisman.

Our greatest living economist.

josh m March 12, 2007 at 12:43 pm

Sione,

Yes, the perspective you bring definitely helps to account for Rand’s reaction.

“Rand could have handled this situation far more effectively…”

I realize it’s all too easy for me to form my opinion from the comfort of my easy chair, but perhaps her greatest shortcoming then, was a lack of sense of humor. With a greater ability in this regard, maybe she could have then focused on the addressing the philosophical issue, instead of having to fend off affronts from those who may actually be receptive and have come to see the light if explained to properly.

This is indeed unfortunate. Apparently, many still get it wrong, including Mark Skousen.

http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0306/p09s01-coop.html?page=1

Sione Vatu March 12, 2007 at 1:05 pm

Daniel

That’s very interesting indeed. I had wondered what every became of Solzhenitsyn. Do you know more about the situation?

Sione

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