Reason responds to Ayn Rand going on the dole


135 Responses to “Reason responds to Ayn Rand going on the dole”

  1. Rayonic says:

    I read through Atlas Shrugged — I thought she made some good points, but also some bad presumptions. I thought her fictional society held up about as well as some sci-fi settings I’ve read. (i.e. interesting but not complete).

    Do I have to join the extreme pro- or anti-Rand faction?

  2. TheCrawNotTheCraw says:

    The way I look at it is that if you are ever going to call other people “parasites,” you had better either never require assistance, or enjoy a large helping of crow in the public square.

  3. alllie says:

    You also can’t avoid paying into the Social Security pyramid unless you are a government worker (a piece of hypocrisy that is far more widespread and of much greater moment than the hijinx of an old lady three decades dead).


    The Civil Service Retirement Act, which became effective on August 1, 1920, established a retirement system for certain Federal employees. It was replaced by the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) for Federal employees who first entered covered service on and after January 1, 1987.

    Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) Overview

    The Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) originated in 1920 and has provided retirement, disability and survivor benefits for most civilian employees in the Federal government. Prior to that time, many of the civilian employees in the Federal government simply worked until they died because there was no means of support for them if they were to quit their jobs. In fact, one Congressman noted in 1920 that “any observing person who during the last third of a century has walked through the corridors of the departments of the Government, or watched the clerks entering the various Government buildings in the mornings or leaving them at the close of day, must have noticed the large proportion of elderly and infirm among them.”

    Upon enactment in 1920, over 4,000 employees, some in their 80′s and 90′s, took advantage of the new retirement law. The first to retire was Mr. Edwin B. Simonds who was 89 years old and had worked in the Pension Office for 37 years. By the end of the year, over 6,000 people had retired. Employees with over 30 years of service received 60 percent of their average salary – average over the previous 10 years! The maximum benefit was $720 a year.

    People hired after 1987 pay SS and FERS. People under the older CSRS paid the CSRS deduction, which if I remember correctly was higher than SS tax, as well as paying a medicare deduction, so ended up paying more, overall.

    Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) worked so well that SS was largely based on it.

  4. Kathy says:

    “1. When Ayn Rand sought and accepted government assistance for her health care needs, she did what any reasonable person in her situation would have done.”

    I agree – it’s reasonable for people to try and insure these benefits exist so they can take advantage of them when they are in such situations. As I’m pretty sure we’re all aging and will all get sick – it’s only reasonable for society to set up such an infrastructure.

  5. RedShirt77 says:

    I think folks are missing the story a bit here.

    Its not her hipocracy. Its the fact that as a successful author and driven to be an independent person She failed and required help from society.

    Who cares if she was a hypocrit. That is all just ad hominim.

    What is clearly true is that her life is evidence that she was a moron.

    • Ugly Canuck says:

      Ms Rand was neither a hypocrite nor a moron, IMHO: but your analysis of the underlying facts is correct.

      At some time or other, we all need something from society: and from time to time the reverse is true, too.

      That’s the way it works, over the course of a (long) lifetime.

      • RedShirt77 says:

        Ok, I will concede that she is likely not a moron, but that she was wrong about a very simple need for government to get out of the way.

        Those that follow her assertion like a religion despite the evidence in her life and the life of countless others, are actually the idiots

        • Ugly Canuck says:

          I have no opinion as to the merits or lack thereof of Ms Rand’s “followers”.

          IMHO all politics is local, and Ms Rand is long dead.

          Furthermore, the dead cannot rule the living. The latter escape the jurisdiction of the former, every time that it is attempted.

  6. jaytkay says:

    There are adults who respect Ayn Rand? Really?


  7. pb says:

    Didn’t she advocate shameless pursuit of self interest? Seems like in this instance she practiced what she preached.

    • Ugly Canuck says:

      Not quite “shameless”, as she tried to keep her taking of these benefits quiet, as quiet as legally possible.

      Perhaps such secret and hidden self-interested actions are also a-ok with Ms Rand; you know, like taking something that isn’t yours is all right if no one else knows that you have taken it.

      Or perhaps like lieing to serve your own interests.

      What does Rand have to say about why one ought never to bear false witness, even in economic or political matters?

      Or is this something she passes over in silence?

  8. AnthonyC says:

    What interests me more is that devotees of her philosophy organized themselves into a cult of personality around her. They even called themselves “the collective.” Very weird.

  9. zyodei says:

    Well, that is one of several reasons why Ayn Rand sucks.

    Yes, there was “Public Property”: the property of the Pharaoh and the King, which everyone could identify with from afar, although they had no agency over.

    I suppose, before that, there was only public property in neolithic societies (and still in some societies in the world) – and this is a very beautiful way to live. I can find no fault with it. Except that any sort of modern industrial society without private property is entirely unthinkable.

    Although, frankly, the idea of “property” is probably hard wired into all animals. A dog with it’s chew toy, etc. Maybe some tribes don’t emphasize individual property: but if an outside tribe member came and took some food, it would not be met well; if one member spent 10 hours weaving a run, and another walked off with it and used it without asking, it would not be met well.

    So property is not just necessary for industrial society, it is a byproduct of all human endeavors to craft the natural state into usable forms.

    Is there any society in human history where, if one person caught a fish, another person could come and eat it without asking, without causing friction?


    The basic problem is that WE cannot make a decision. There is no collective entity WE, that can think, process, and act. It is merely an abstraction.

    The only agents who can make decisions and act in the world are individuals.

    Democracy could be seen as trying to collectivize the decisions of a wide group of people. But, in any system other than consensus democracy (which I support), it tramples the rights and interests of many. Look at the “noble democracy” of America, which has killed millions, imprisoned millions – and wants to spread its system around the world, like it’s the be all and end all of human organization!

    Of course, it IS true that we are all interconnected. This is why I reject Rand (although I have never read any of her works) – she put the supremacy of the individual over all. This is silly. We have to help each other. All humans are reliant on those around them.

    The question is, where the CHOICE to help fellow men comes from. And I argue it MUST come from the sovereign individuals themselves.

    SOCIETY is merely an abstraction. It does not breath, it does not feel, it does not bleed beyond the individual humans who compose it.

    It is this matter of choice that is of crucial importance to me.

    While Rand got many things wrong, I applaud her for attempting to construct a moral framework that is equally applicable to all human beings. Saying that some people speak and act for the collective, and thus their actions must be held to another standard, causes great problems in society.

    (sorry for any discombobulation, it’s late and i’m tired ;)

  10. DaveP says:

    harder to turn down social security than you think? what a load. just don’t cash the checks.

  11. Clayton says:

    I am a fed. employee and I have no choice but to pay into SS.

  12. W. James Au says:

    Cavanaugh misses the ideological forest for the trees: The reason it’s so important to point out that Rand willingly received Medicare is because Rand is such a huge and influential figure among the Tea Party and folks like Glenn Beck, who cite her when they oppose health reform and other Obama administration measures. But the politics they are espousing could not even be practiced by Rand herself. (And she was rich: *Atlas Shrugged* was and still is a bestseller, so she was surely swimming in generous royalty payments to the end of her life.)

    The other point: As the Rand case demonstrates, it’s actually in every individual’s rational self interest to SUPPORT socialized health care. It’s the best way to manage costs for you personally, your family, your friends, your coworkers and employees, etc. etc. Rand and libertarians like Cavanaugh espouse a political ideology which claims to be based on self interest, but in practice, subordinates actual self interest for some numinous ideal where you end up paying giant ass monthly health care fees. THAT’S supposed to be in my self-interest? Meantime, the Netherlands is ranked as having the most capitalist economy in the world… AND IT ALSO HAS NATIONAL HEALTH CARE.

  13. Ito Kagehisa says:

    I think the article by Michael Shermer (the one linked from the “they really are like that” in the original post) is rather good.

    Both for its dissection of Randite cultishness, and for its closing rumination on the difference between science (which inherently calls for and embraces conditional belief) and the various forms of dogmatic, pseudo-scientific absolutism which purport to be “scientific”. A nicely written essay and a well reasoned stance, free of pro-Rand or anti-Rand frothing and ranting.

  14. Neon Tooth says:

    “rothbard” lol.

  15. Niklas says:

    Reading Atlas Shrugged I now have two political moral codes I did not have before:

    1. Never treat anyone else to something they do not wish done to them.
    2. Do not accept #1 to happen to me.

    This makes me a cultist. Just as enjoying Apple software and hardware makes me an Apple fanboi.

    • travtastic says:

      What that actually makes you is someone who read a book. If that’s all you got out of it, you either disagreed with it or didn’t pay attention. Neither of those things make you a cultist.

    • Anonymous says:

      So it took until you read Rand before you understood the golden rule? You have bigger problems than being a Rand cultist.

  16. Anonymous says:

    What name she received benefits under isn’t applicable to the the hypocrisy of the situation. Saying or in this case- writing one thing and doing another is close enough to the definition of the word.

  17. Rob Myers says:

    “I’m not seeing the hypocrisy here”

    Rand received payments under an assumed identity. Which makes the “it’s hard to avoid social security” argument inapplicable. She knew she wasn’t practising what she preached to others, and she deliberately covered up her actions.

    I’m not seeing how that isn’t hypocrisy. Rand certainly seems to have thought it was.

    • sapere_aude says:

      Ayn Rand was her pen name. Her real, legal name – the name she would have used when paying taxes or receiving government benefits – was Ann O’Connor. (This was mentioned quite explicitly in the post above, and in several of the previous comments.)

      I believe that it is quite legitimate to criticize Ayn Rand for the disconnect between her personal ethics and her political philosophy; but let’s do so for the right reasons; and let’s keep our facts straight.

  18. jonw says:

    I just want to comment on the fact that this post exists at all. Thanks Mark Frauenfelder for posting a reasonable counterpoint to the first A.R. thread from the other day…

  19. Lobster says:

    I don’t have a particularly strong stake in this argument but that sounds like a cop-out to me. I thought the controversy was that she took social welfare assistance while preaching that people who do so are parasites who keep down all of our great brilliant awesome folks. It doesn’t matter to me if she was legally obligated to pay into it. We all are. That’s how it works.

  20. Anonymous says:

    The posts defending Rand’s acceptance of public funds are truly hilarious. I can almost see the temporal veins pulsing from where i sit, giggling, in front of my computer (a computer i paid for myself, i suppose i should note)

    Lol, Randies…. Your hypocrisy knows no bounds.

    T’was ever thus.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Ayn Rand used public roads that were paid for by tax dollars! She has no right to do so! I mean she paid for them through taxes but she wouldn’t support the government “stealing” money to pay for those roads! What a hypocrite!

    Woman who pays into the Social Security system receives benefits! Shocking!

    • slivers says:

      Yeah, roads and schools are the same as medicare. Teabaggers are always complaining about how all government entitlement programs are nothing more than welfare. As soon as they discover their idol was a welfare queen herself all of a sudden Medicare is no different than driving on a road that was paid for with tax payer money. Give me a break.

      Yeah, maybe she did pay into the system, but with her diagnosis (lung cancer) you can bet she took more than she contributed. And since its ok, to use entitlement programs if you paid into them then I guess teabaggers can shut up about people using unemployment benefits who have been paying into the program their whole life. Oh let me guess, thats different.

  22. Anonymous says:

    The hypocrisy isn’t in Rand taking welfare payments. The hypocrisy is in how people who worship her regard other people who take welfare payments. These are separate matters.

  23. TNGMug says:

    Saying “do x”. While not doing it yourself is hypocrisy. Lets call a spade a spade.

    Saying that being a self serving hypocrite is all cool because yout ultimate goal is to be self serving isnt proof if a lack of hypocrasy – its proof that your philosephy says that hypocra
    isy is fine….. Which doesnt proove consistancy as much as it shows a complete lack of cohereance. if nothing matters – rand and her whole philosphy are just as much fair game to the nihilistic black hole as anything else. Her “parasites” are in themselves being as selfish as her cannonized technocrats. Thus her assertations are meaningless from the ground up. Being a communist makes you as much a randian superman as anything else because youre taking what you want.

    more proof she was a complete and total idiot

  24. Tim Cavanaugh says:

    Thanks, Mark, for a very gracious shoutout. Power to the people right on!

  25. rebdav says:

    As a so called reasonable libertarian I am bugged by the rare Ayn Rand cult of personality. Culty people are annoying because they just feed on themselves without outside input. Even more common on campus is the Lyndon LaRouche cult though.

    As a good libertarian I feel we must first cut all welfare for too big to fail corporations before we can seriously discuss cutting human assistance programs.

    • travtastic says:

      And replace the “human assistance programs” with what?

      • mlp says:

        You miss the point completely; there’s no point even discussing the comparatively much smaller budgets of social services because it ignores the elephant in the room of welfare and bailouts that the US government gleefully hands to the corporations that lobby the hardest.

      • rebdav says:

        OK you got me I am a bad Libertarian, there are times when socialism for individuals ends up being cheaper, but damnit there has got to be someone better than the gubmint to hand out the free cheese!
        As for corporations their failure leads to massively discounted assets ready to be picked up by someone who can jump start a working economy, no socialism for big business, let em fail and the healing start!

        • travtastic says:

          So what you want (instead of government), to bring costs to the lowest level possible, is thus: some kind of big, regulating organization, who can take money from general funds and distribute fairly to the citizenry.


      • bobthecitizen says:

        If we didn’t spend obscene amounts of money waging war on any country with rescources we want, oppressing our own people, and stuffing prisons with petty criminals we could easily afford to have all of our medical services free.

        As a country we have atrocious schools, high infant mortality, and are universally feared and loathed for our military aggression. If we stopped being the bourgeois materialistic aggressors of the world we could take care of our own without having to have “assistance programs”.

        • travtastic says:

          Nothing is free. Who would pay for them?

        • travtastic says:

          Wait, hold on, I think I misunderstood. You’re saying that universal social programs are well within our grasp (if not for our excessive spending on destruction), and this is better than after-the-fact assistance programs for the poor? Because I can get behind that.

          I actually thought you were the other person.

  26. travtastic says:

    Did her bills exceed what she paid in?

  27. Anonymous says:

    except if her payments withdrawn exceed her payments in (and given it was cancer its a safe bet they did) she is still the parasite she decried

  28. Cefeida says:

    Typo alert: You write O’Conner, the quote and gravestone both say O’Connor.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Mark – my hat is off to you for embracing ambiguity and seeking clarification. It’s just another manifestation of the inquisitiveness behind BB.

  30. Anonymous says:

    One person supported by efforts of many. All of them neos get support from many, call it social security, call it interest, call it profits.

  31. realgeek says:

    I’m not sure this defense of Rand really has any substance. She still secretly took the money and publicly denounced others doing it, yes?

  32. semiotix says:

    The reprehensible thing about Rand isn’t that she “hypocritically” benefited from the welfare state. I have no doubt whatsoever she did so with a completely clear conscience, aided by all of the rationalizations given above and probably a few more complex ones of her own devising.

    In other words, imagining that you can be in civil society but not of it just makes you wrong–not a hypocrite.

    The reprehensible thing about Rand is what actions she didn’t take that would have been hypocritical if she had: donating to charity, reporting a crime she wasn’t the victim of, ending a sentence with the phrase “but that’s just my opinion,” turning the other cheek, etc. Those are the things that would have violated Rand’s stated principles.

  33. Axis says:

    This is a text-book leftist approach: discredit the messenger, to nullify the message.

    • mdh says:

      She was not a messenger, she was a standard bearer, a founder and leader. These are differences with huge distinctions.

      She was also a lying, self-aggrandizing, anti-social, huckster, hypocrite.

      I’m not hurling that as invective. Ayn Rand did not like cooperation, encouraging maximum selfishness for the development of individual brilliance without ethical considerations beyond being absolutely true to the ideals of Objectivism. Apparently, She did not practice what she preached. She took the life-extending medical help that those she despised thrust upon her, and thanklessly.

      During that period her absolutism about living to these ideals diminished not at all.

      The dramatic irony is enormous, as is the hit to her reputation.

    • travtastic says:

      Sort of like using terms such as “text-book leftist approach”.

    • neilwalker says:

      That is a typically a rightist comment. All rightists think and act in the same way as do leftists. There are only two sorts of people (three if you count centreists), but then only a Sith deals in absolutes…

      • nitpicker says:

        Shouldn’t there be a Godwin’s Law corollary about comparing your opponent to the Sith?

        • neilwalker says:

          Possibly so, but I still think it’s a fair point. If the right can decry the left as ‘wooly’, then the left can decry the right as ‘absolutist’. On the other hand, perhaps we can live in a world where there are more than two (left/right) or three (left/centreist/right) points of view can be possible…

    • Mark Frauenfelder says:

      You seem like a smart person. What is a text-book rightest approach?

    • adamnvillani says:

      True to a certain extent, but if even the prophet of Objectivism can’t live up to its rigorous standards, it is relevant to how practical the ideas really are. What would be irrelevant would be bringing up her screwy affairs with Nathaniel Branden. Those would be relevant to the Ayn Rand Cult but not to Objectivism per se.

      Anyway, how is it hypocrisy that I, as a government worker, don’t pay into Social Security? I don’t get anything paid out from Social Security, but that’s because I have a local government-backed pension anyway. I pay into that fund instead, and the lack of SS is just so that I’m not bothering with collecting from two sources.

    • nitpicker says:

      Have you ever watched Glenn Beck? Read about Joe McCarthy? A fellow by the name of Richard Milhouse Nixon? You can call “discrediting the messenger” all kinds of bad things, but uniquely “leftist”? I think not.

  34. zyodei says:

    It is not necesarilly fair to criticize libertarians who use government services (although, of course, sometimes it is).

    One of the most important arguments that libertarians make is that the combination of licensing and regulation on one hand, and subsidies on the other, have several negative effects on the goods in the market. One of these is the escalation of of prices. Subsidies increase demand; regulation/licensure decreases supply; the combination can cause prices to rise substantially – the utterly broken and injuriously expensive US health care and higher education systems being important examples.

    Of course, the government will then offer to “fix” the problem it has created by funneling ever more taxpayer money to the privileged industry, which in turn lobbies to keep the arrangement and becomes a corrupt cartel. Big Pharma, Big Agra, Big HMO, etc. etc.

    Another negative effect is to push providers out of the market. The government provides a service for “free,” no one will pay for that service anymore, and thus they go out of business. Even if the quality of the government provided service decreases or stops entirely, it takes a long time for the providers to go back on line.

    An important example of this is food aid to third world countries – well meaning but misguided western country dumps 10,000 tons of wheat at the airport; everyone goes and loads up on free wheat; price plummets, farmers stop planting; a few years later, when the food aid is cut, mass starvation ensues.

    The result of both of these is that, in some cases, even the most strident libertarian is forced to use government services, or can’t afford the inflated prices that have resulted without some “dole.” I think the first comment on the last post criticized Rand for using public roads, but seeing how the government many decades ago pushed out of business all the private road companies in the country, this criticism is ridiculous. Is she supposed to just stay at home?

    I don’t know about the specifics of Rand’s situation. But it’s impossible to understand, or properly criticize, libertarianism or market anarchism without understanding the economic or moral arguments they make.

    • Ugly Canuck says:

      “markeyt anarchism”?
      Mes Rand was a strong supported of Copyrights patents and other forms of Government =-granted and enforceds monopolies (also know as “private property”).

      BTW, “public property” came fist, you know.
      The idea of “private property” is of recent vintage.

      Read John Locke for a better understanding of “property”: not Ayn Rand, who simply confuses the issues.

      The group, or society, is always (and has ever and always been) of greater importance than the individual: for the group is what survives.

      Of course, that is not to say that any given individual would ever fell that way: but yet, that is the way that it is.

      May Ms Rand rest in peace, right beside her vanished opponents.

      • Ugly Canuck says:

        Wow that whole first sentence is mucked up.

        Ms Rand, as a strong supporter of copyrights, patents and in fact of ALL government action to preserve the rights (and privileges too, eh?) of ONLY private property holders shows that she was NOT a “market anarchist”, of any kind.

  35. YarbroughFair says:

    She had to use her real name; her SS# was probably the same as her husbands followed by a modifier. At that time, if she made less than 50% of the household income she would have been considered a wife and used her husbands SS#. Social Security went through many amendments at that time period and this may have applied then.

  36. Anonymous says:

    “I’m not seeing the hypocrisy here. You don’t have the legal right to opt out of income tax. You also can’t avoid paying into the Social Security pyramid …”

    Ford here fails to grasp the utter extremity of the ideology that Rand accepted. Rand, if true to her beliefs, should only give a psychotic laugh at any “law” that demands such a thing. Such a law is wrong and deserves to be broken, on Rand’s view. Consider the alternative: Rand would have been right to violate the rights of others (Randian purist who opt out of social security) and ENSLAVE THEM by using up their stolen tax dollars and causing the state to take even more to pay for Rand’s care when her body was frail and she was in need of medical help. If someone violates your rights then you still have no right to violate the rights of someone else as payback. Given the deranged view of what is and what is not a right in the Rand cult then the conclusion is inevitable.

    Rand only had three morally acceptable alternatives when she needed money according to her own ideology:
    1. beg in the streets (of course, her own ideology had only contempt for needy “parasites” of that kind, but still, someone might irrationally decide to throw her a dollar).
    2. use terror or force to take resources from the state. Break in to the federal reserve!
    3. commit suicide and stop being a burden on others.

    That is what here psychopathic ideology demanded. That Rand herself couldn’t live up to that crap speaks volumes.

  37. jonw says:

    Hmm. If you steal my money and buy me an insurance policy with it, I have every right to claim the benefits of the policy. Isn’t welfare touted as an insurance policy in case we become unemployed, sick, or whatever? I personally would like to see a lot less of it; however if I was taxed and become eligible for benefits, I would absolutely accept them. The fact that I didn’t consent to being taxed doesn’t change that, nor does it make me a hypocrite or imply that I somehow condoned the taxation after the fact.

    In other news, I’d like to see world peace, and (only slightly more realistically) a big slashing of America’s military budget, yet I still cash my Navy paycheck every month and hope to retire at 20 years and enjoy benefits till the money runs out. And I eat plenty of food that’s cheap because of corn and soy subsidies, even while I maintain that everyone except the lobbyists and big agribusinesses would be better off if those particular handouts were abolished. The system we live in has different rules than the system we wish we lived in.

    • nitpicker says:

      Yes, but if you make your career on telling folks they’re “parasites” if they can’t make it without assistance, you should expect to get pinged when you can’t make it without the very same assistance you’ve decried.

  38. Anonymous says:

    zyodei: you are describing a utilitarian moral view: the consequences will be better for society if we adopt libertarian practical policies for trade and so on. If you read up on the dominant views in utilitarian literature you will find few libertarians, all things considered. The empirical evidence on the bad effects of inequality that the Spirit Level assembles is highly relevant to utilitarian policty assessment for example.

    That is anyway not Rands view. She has a moral egoist conviction. If the consequences for the world would be much, much worse by following it (something much empirically informed economic science indicates) then it should STILL be followed because it is the right thing to do, says Rands ideology.

  39. yrarbil cilbup says:

    Here are the facts:

    She was a rabid critic of social security and Medicaid, and would deny it to all others BUT…

    When she needed it, she took it. That is hypocrisy no matter how you dice it.

  40. Miss Brenda says:

    Regarding Ayn Rand’s names and life-origins:

    Ayn Rand’s biography has been hugely researched and the primary sources (birth certificates, death decrees/records, and marriage decrees) are mostly available at the Library of Congress, which holds the largest repository of her papers. I have seen many of these records firsthand with my own eyes.

    Ayn Rand was given the name Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum by her family at birth. She was born in St. Petersburg Russia to a wealthy, prominent Jewish family where her father was an established pharmacist and a property owner. Contrary to wikipedia, records indicative that her family were religiously observant Jews, there being papers that speak to their work at local Temples and papers that connect her father to Jewish affairs in Warsaw where he studied for his advanced degree in Chemistry.

    After immigrating to America, Rand took the name Ann O’Connor (Ann, not Ayn) upon her marriage to a man named Frank O’Connor in 1929, two years before she became an American citizen. “Ayn Rand” was her byline for her legendary publications and there are many competing rationales for this nomenclature (none of which need be rehearsed here).

    Her gravestone (which is situated beside her hushand’s, Frank O’Connor) actually reads: AYN RAND O’CONNOR. A simple google search may bring up firsthand photographs of the gravestones.

    There are no records that definitively explain the choice of nomenclature on her gravestone in Kensico Cemetery in New York State.

    Respectfully submitted:

    Miss Brenda

  41. Ugly Canuck says:

    People have and enjoy property ONLY because other people generally agree, or allow, them to have and enjoy property…

    Think: if you “have your property” because you made profits selling drugs, or due to extortion or armed robbery (note how these latter differ from , say, taxation : ), we shall TAKE it from you – for we consider that you do NOT “have property” if such is the cause of its arising.

    Just so: your “property” is only “yours” on sufferance of others, and due to the respect which people accord to the laws establishing or creating property rights (and thus necessarily and simultaneously creating obligations, in or on the part of others, to respect those rights).

    Property is an attributed idea , attributed to either simple matter, or to rights (but to be sure not ALL rights – nor are all rights REDUCIBLE to “property”: does a General “have property in” or “own” his authority to command?): property is not an extensible measurable quality of things.

    And idea only: and thus open to discussion, and mutability.

    • SKR says:

      People have and enjoy property ONLY because other people generally agree, or allow, them to have and enjoy property…

      People tend to suffer those holding weapons. Especially when they show intent to use those weapons in defense of their property.

      Are you so positivist in your understanding of all rights, specifically life?

      • Ugly Canuck says:

        Some rights are more universal than the right to hold property: though the right to use violence in self-defense is also universal, I suppose the crucial question to be: to what degree does this right to “self-defense” extend to include “threats” to that which you consider to be your property, or property rights; or, to put it another way, does the universal right to violent self-defense extend so as to include more than the defense strictly of one’s person?

  42. grimc says:

    You also can’t avoid paying into the Social Security pyramid unless you are a government worker (a piece of hypocrisy that is far more widespread and of much greater moment than the hijinx of an old lady three decades dead)

    All government workers hired after 1984 participate in Social Security. Is he lying or ignorant?

    • lottakatz says:

      Federal employees now pay into Social Security and Medicare. They also have a thrift plan (think 401K) type option. Prior to being rolled into the Social Security System they had a separate retirement system that generally ran 1%-2% more expensive for employees than Social Security payments.

    • adamnvillani says:

      It may be different for federal workers, but I work for a municipal government and don’t pay into (or get anything out of) Social Security.

    • Anonymous says:

      I worked for the California State University system part time as a student in the mid 90s. I did not pay into SS. I do not get credit for those six years of work with SS, nor do they apply to my curent tenure with the State of California. I believe they “fixed” the SS problem and folks pay into it now.

    • nitpicker says:

      Actually, some local and state workers don’t have to pay social security, but people on the right should see that as a good thing, not hypocrisy. When the Social Security Act was signed into law, there was some concern about the Constitutionality of the federal government forcing workers at the state and local level. Rather than test it in the courts, the federal government left it up to the states to take care of their employees’ pension needs. After some time went by though, it was clear some states were doing better than others at this, so Congress created “218 Agreements” to help cover as many people as possible. It’s a complicated and weird area of tax law, but it’s not hypocritical.

    • Anonymous says:

      In the comments, two people ask for clarification:

      I’m a government worker and I have to pay Social Security.

      Yeah, and of those who get out of it, I believe participation in a public retirement system is mandatory. I think it’s something like 10-20 states that have a system like that, with the rest paying FICA.

      In California it’s 70% of govt workers — all public safety, teachers and a lot of miscellaneous. Which, like so much in California, is out of balance with the rest of the USA, where most public employees are unable to get out of SS. Each state has a czar who decides who’s in and who’s out. It’s quite absurd.

  43. Ugly Canuck says:

    Well, I suppose that we ARE born free, after all: but we are born into a specific society, at a specific time, and our freedom, though perhaps not entirely an illusion, quickly reduces its circle.
    Here’s a song about it:

    PS RIP John Barry:

  44. Anonymous says:

    its not really “harder to turn down social security than you’d think” if you had any perspective. thats kinda why social security was created, because it was better than watching old people die starving to death. and i think thats the similar and more important point to saying “even ayn rand wound up using these programs” not that she’s a hypocrite but as a testament to the importance of them.

  45. Anonymous says:

    For your info, the Social Security Index has the following entry:

    Name Birth Death Age Last Residence Last Benefit Issued By SSN

    AYN RAND 2 Feb 1905 Mar 1982 77 New York, New York, NY 10019 (not specified) California 571-32-9405

  46. nitpicker says:

    To me, the key point is not that Rand got social security and Medicare, but that Evva Pryor, the social worker who helped Ayn Rand get it, said that Rand needed to get on social security because “Doctors cost a lot more money than books earn and she could be totally wiped out.” So this isn’t a case of Rand simply “getting back” what she put into the system, but of her NEEDING the system she despised in order to exist. In other words, she failed to be the completely self-made person she demanded others be and ended up as “dependent as the beggar, the social worker and the bandit.” She ended up being the type of person she would have called a parasite.

  47. buddy66 says:

    Over the years I paid into SS under two different names. It’s the SS number that matters, not the names.

    Rand’s books weren’t always as popular as they are now. Her royalties had highs and lows. There were a few decades one rarely heard her name, even on college campuses where one would think an appeal to self-interest would be readily accepted. Her fans are not legion.

    Is it asking too much of left and right critics to simply attack a message on its merits?

  48. Kathy says:

    The distinction doesn’t matter. She didn’t have to accept either social welfare benefit.

    But the social security death benefits index lists Ayn Rand as the recipient of gumint cheese.





    Last Address of Record

    Last Benefit

    Issued By

    Tools Order
    RAND, AYN 02 Feb 1905 Mar 1982 77 10019 (New York, New York, NY) (none specified) California 571-32-9405

    - Kathy in Philly

  49. TNGMug says:

    My apologies for the spelling in my former post.. iphone with the auto correct turned off proves I’ve been using that as quite a crutch.

    I find Rand philosophically insulting on merit. Not only is she a proponent of basically everything classically associated with “evil” (which should mean that it’s no surprise that rape is good quickly follows as a colalory of the rest of it), but her philosophy basically falls apart under it’s own weight. You can’t go around preaching nihilism in that all “right and wrong” is subjective and agent defined, while simultaneously moralizing about who is more “productive” and worth more.

    The fact that she was an utter failure in actually applying it speaks volumes too. As a much more intelligent philosophical mind (Henry Rollins) once said “Knowledge without mileage equals bullshit”. That’s not attacking her – that’s attacking it’s merits, or lack thereof. So called “objectivism” lacks the merit of any sort of a history of success, which is a pretty important one if you think about it.

    What really really bugs me though, is her fans, and really the reason she’s been so popularized in the first place. It’s not that she amounted to anything more then an academic flash in the pan; it’s that there’s such a market for affluent people who need to justify themselves.

    • Niklas says:

      Rand’s philosophy holds errors, but this interpretation is as incorrect as can be:

      …which should mean that it’s no surprise that rape is good quickly follows as a colalory of the rest of it

      According to Rand anything that the target does not accept is an unacceptable action by the agent. Therefore rape is unacceptable.

      • Brainspore says:

        According to Rand anything that the target does not accept is an unacceptable action by the agent. Therefore rape is unacceptable.

        Did you read “The Fountainhead”? There’s a rather infamous rape scene involving the hero of the novel, but I guess it was supposed to be OK because the woman was a c***tease who secretly wanted it.

  50. Anonymous says:

    Just as Thomas Jefferson was a hypocrite for owning slaves while knowing slavery was wrong, so is Ayn Rand a hypocrite for railing against government assistance while receiving it herself. It doesn’t matter whether she paid into the system through taxes or not. She felt big government programs were wrong, yet she benefited from them. In my book, that’s the definition of hypocrisy.

  51. TNGMug says:

    These justifications of “well she already paid for it so that makes it ok” are pretty ridiculous.

    “Hey I’m still against prostitution, but the hooker was already paid for so it’s ok”

  52. Antinous / Moderator says:

    Cavanaugh says he finds Rand to be “quite charming, in an eccentric-maiden-aunt kind of way”

    I probably would have gone with shifty-eyed, oily and insectoid based on her Mike Wallace interview.

  53. Anonymous says:

    @Axis I would contend that discrediting the messenger rather than the message is in fact a textbook liberal rather than “leftist” tactic (notwithstanding that morons purporting to be of every political persuasion including my own will use such tactics). However, as a Marxist, I see liberals as being of the centre-right rather than of the left. I suspect you would see liberals as being of the left.

    When I read the initial post about this I rolled my eyes as it is such an apolitical stance to bring up as an example of hypocrisy what somebody did thirty years ago when they were ill & desperate, rather than to point out that we live in a society & everyone should have access to good quality healthcare. That Ayn Rand would access healthcare she herself would argue she should not be entitled to is an argument against her demented views, not her person.

  54. Anonymous says:

    Cavanaugh claims Ms. Rand is no hypocrite for taking government assistance because she was only stealing from the government by collecting social security after they stole from her by collecting taxes. Alas, that loophole is one that Ms. Rand and her followers wouldn’t extend to anyone else.

    During the Colonial Era, Europeans stole land and resources from indigenous populations across the globe, then built powerful corporations using protectionism, subsidies, and other forms of state intervention Ms. Rand would deem illegitimate. Once freed, the colonies naturally tried to redress their state-imposed underdevelopment through state support for development. The Randians deem these efforts communistic and give moral support and advice to those who (like Pinochet in Chile) respond to such efforts with anti-democratic coups, violence, and murder.

  55. Kathy says:

    “All government workers hired after 1984 participate in Social Security. Is he lying or ignorant?”

    Mark – this is not correct.As a former state of MA employee – I was hired after 1984 – I did not.

    Here’s a link:

    “Massachusetts is one of only seven states in which the majority of state workers do not participate in Social Security.”

    We were not eligible for SS unless we had other qualifying employment as members of the state pension system.

    Also – from the SSA:

    “Do you work for an agency of a state or local government? Unlike workers in the private sector, not all state and local employees are covered by Social Security. Some are covered only by their public retirement pension program; some are covered by both public pensions and Social Security; and some are covered by Social Security only.”

  56. Neon Tooth says:

    Rand’s books weren’t always as popular as they are now. Her royalties had highs and lows. There were a few decades one rarely heard her name, even on college campuses where one would think an appeal to self-interest would be readily accepted. Her fans are not legion.

    Amazing what the money and propaganda of right wing think tanks and ideologues was able to achieve soon after.

  57. Brainspore says:

    You also can’t avoid paying into the Social Security pyramid…

    If you think Social Security is a big pyramid scheme then the fact that you’re forced to pay in still isn’t moral justification to collect since doing so screws a completely different group of people than the ones you paid money to.

    Social Security isn’t an investment fund, it’s a pact from one generation to the next. I pay to support the generation that came before me and keep my fingers crossed that the next generation will do the same for me. Bitter about being forced to participate? Fine, that’s a legitimate point of view. But using the excuse that your elders screwed you over isn’t a very good excuse for doing the same to your children.

  58. Axis says:

    Mark F – I don’t have a clue what a rightest approach might be.

    Nitpicker, I view Glenn Beck as a blow-hard and a drama queen. Joe McCarthy ? Puh-leaze. His name is repugnant to me. I don’t see how either is pertinent to this issue.

    I regard many of Ayn Rand’s ideas to be extremely interesting and worthy of debate. However, whether or not they could ever work in the real world is negligible.

    Next up: was Lincoln gay? Was Jesus married ?

    • Anonymous says:


      Of course, Jesus was married to Lincoln.

    • nitpicker says:

      Axis, if you can’t see how the fact there are many people on the right who work to “discredit the messenger to nullify the message” might be pertinent to your suggesting that technique is inherently “leftist,” then I can’t help you.

    • JimEJim says:

      @Axis – at some point you might realize that referring to things as “leftist” is no different from trying to discredit the messenger. I would refer to that as a “rightist” tactic, but that should already be obvious from the word choice.

      We’d have a lot more intelligent debates about social policy if BOTH sides stopped assuming it was wrong simply because of who said it and the labels.

  59. Bloodboiler says:

    Objectivists please note:

    Objectively, nobody disputed that she had every right to get help when she needed it. It is just deliciously ironic when hubris meets reality.

    p.s. If paying taxes was an “investment” for her, why is it not an investment for everyone else?

  60. Mister44 says:

    You know – there are very few people who can stick to their morals and ideals 100% of the time. Circumstance requires compromise at times.

    • nitpicker says:

      “There can be no compromise on basic principles. There can be no compromise on moral issues. There can be no compromise on matters of knowledge, of truth, of rational conviction.” – Ayn Rand, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, pg. 182

  61. Daddyology says:

    What I find most interesting about this whole topic is this if Rand lived in a society in which her preferred policy outcomes were dominant, she would have died penniless, homeless, and in horrific health.

    Of course, this probably never occurred to her, just as it tends not to with most hardcore Randians. They’re convinced that they’re great and terrific individuals who can do it all themselves — just like their hero, Galt. And those who can’t? Well, though for them.

    Funny how that view changes when they’re the ones who need help, isn’t it?

  62. Anonymous says:

    It bears repeating what I think is the best comment reg. this issue by nitpicker:

    “To me, the key point is not that Rand got social security and Medicare, but that Evva Pryor, the social worker who helped Ayn Rand get it, said that Rand needed to get on social security because “Doctors cost a lot more money than books earn and she could be totally wiped out.” So this isn’t a case of Rand simply “getting back” what she put into the system, but of her NEEDING the system she despised in order to exist. In other words, she failed to be the completely self-made person she demanded others be and ended up as “dependent as the beggar, the social worker and the bandit.” She ended up being the type of person she would have called a parasite.”

    For all her self-made philosophy, she ended up needing us…the proles who pay SS and need it. Also, I understand she HAD to pay SS because that’s the law of the land. BUT. She could easily have gotten that check and mailed it back or giving it away. It’s not that hard to do so.

  63. GregS says:

    What a fascinating thread! I’m not sure which impressed me more: the compassionate supporters of the welfare state who are outraged that an elderly woman with lung cancer got help from Medicare and social security, or the mental giants who think it’s fraudulent to use your legal name when dealing with the government.

    • travtastic says:

      The elderly woman with lung cancer would have very much enjoyed making sure no other elderly women with lung cancer got help without paying cash. Are you familiar with Rand and Objectivism at all?

  64. sapere_aude says:

    I’m reluctant to wade into these troubled waters; because the previous thread on this topic turned into a lengthy debate that seemed to go around in circles without actually getting anywhere. However, I do want to make the following ten points:

    1. When Ayn Rand sought and accepted government assistance for her health care needs, she did what any reasonable person in her situation would have done.

    2. Since Rand espoused a philosophy that advocated radical individual self-interest, you can’t really call her a “hypocrite” for acting in her own self-interest by doing whatever she had to do in order to get the medical treatment she needed, including seeking and accepting government assistance (however distasteful that might have been to her).

    3. HOWEVER, Rand also espoused a political philosophy that, if actually put into practice by the state, would have made it impossible for anyone to receive the sort of government assistance that she sought and received.

    4. So it is perfectly legitimate to criticize Ayn Rand regarding this incident; but not for the “hypocrisy” of her actions.

    5. Rather, she should be criticized for the untenability of her political ideals, which didn’t take into account the legitimate needs of human beings living together in a civilized society, and the most prudent and pragmatic means of satisfying those needs. Had the state embraced her political philosophy, she would not have been able to get the assistance she ultimately needed. Thus, her political views would appear to have been shortsighted, unreasonable, and impractical in the real world.

    6. Also, Rand should be criticized for the antisocial egoism that is built into her philosophy: a philosophy that says, “It’s okay for me, as a free individual, to do anything that is in my own self-interest, including X (even though I personally disapprove of other people doing X),” while simultaneously saying, “It’s wrong to have a system that allows people to do X (because I will be worse off in the long run if lots of people – other than me – do X).”

    7. Ayn Rand was not being a hypocrite. She was being true to her own philosophy of selfishness. You can accuse her of egoism. You can accuse her of sociopathy. You can accuse her of amorality. But you can’t really accuse her of hypocrisy; since she was clearly acting in her own self-interest, just as she taught her followers to do.

    8. Keep in mind that Rand was not simply espousing a political philosophy of Libertarianism – arguing for a minimalist government and an unfettered free market. She was espousing a philosophy of individual selfishness. To focus on the Libertarianism and ignore the egoism at the heart of her philosophy is really missing the point.

    9. Rand’s followers will certainly come to her defense; because they would do the same thing that she did under the circumstances, without a second thought, without a moment of regret, and without even the slightest sense of irony or shame. Randroids will happily cash their government disability checks, and then go straight to the Tea Party rally to complain about “welfare queens” and the evils of “socialism”. They’re not being hypocrites. They’re simply being faithful disciples of Ayn Rand: selfish, antisocial, and politically clueless.

    10. Nonetheless, I would still love to see someone show up at a Tea Party rally with a sign that read, “AYN RAND WAS A WELFARE QUEEN.”

  65. Cynical says:

    Ayn Rand aside, I’m slightly taken aback by the idea of “social security as insurance” which numerous commenters above me have referenced. This is the first time I’ve heard this argument, which I guess is a predominantly American one, and I’m frankly appalled by the concept. I pay taxes because it’s a social need; as long as you have wealth in society, shouldn’t society do its best to help those who aren’t affluent?

    I don’t give money to charities that help the developing world because I think that some day I might be a starving child in Africa but because I recognise that capitalism breeds inequality and that it’s just the right thing to do. I guess that makes me a tree-hugging pinko liberal, but when did empathy become such a dirty word?

    • poj says:

      @Cynical: It had to be disguised and promoted as insurance because in the US there is a strong meme that the typical person in need of public assistance is in need because of some moral failing. It is like the parable of the ant and the grasshopper where the ant works hard putting away food for the winter while the grasshopper parties all summer and then expects the ant to help when winter comes.

      The sources of belief in this meme are open to speculation. I believe a large part of it is the usefulness of this meme as a psychological defense against fear of being dependent yourself: instead of saying “There but for the grace of G-d go I” you can say “There but for an immoral lifestyle that I would never choose go I”. In other words if you can blame the victim you can tell yourself you don’t have to fear being a victim yourself.

    • Brainspore says:

      …when did empathy become such a dirty word?

      If you’re one of the people who base their personal philosophy on the hero of The Fountainhead, 1943.

      “This is pity,” he thought, and then he lifted his head in wonder. He thought that there must be something terribly wrong with a world in which this monstrous feeling is called a virtue.”

      — Ayn Rand (The Fountainhead)

      • travtastic says:

        This is what really bothers me. I read something like that, and it seems like someone who is mentally ill and off their medication. Then I remember that there are a ton of people who profess to believe in her work wholeheartedly.

        Now, they certainly can’t all be clinically insane; my only other option is to believe that they haven’t actually read or understood much of it.

  66. urbanhick says:

    Rose Wilder Lane a Libertarian? Laura n’ Wilder’s little girl? Who knew!?

  67. Axis says:

    Nitpicker – Yes I believe it is inherently leftist. The uses this technique to a much larger degree. Discrediting the person, in order to squelch the idea, does happen on the right (Savage, Beck and Coulter come immediately to mind). However, I don’t see it as being as a standard M.O. I normally see it roundly condemned, at least by the pundits I listen too, and read. Dennis Prager, George Will and Charles Krauthammer come to mind.

    • sapere_aude says:

      You’re right. If we completely ignore right-wing TV (Fox News), right-wing talk radio (Limbaugh, Beck, Savage, etc.), right-wing blogs (Breitbart, Drudge, etc.), and the right-wing politicians who get the most media coverage (Palin, Bachman, etc.), and only read center-right magazine and newspaper columnists like George Will, we don’t see much ad hominem on the right. And if we ignore the voices of reason on the left and center-left (Rachel Maddow, Jon Stewart, most of the liberal and progressive newspaper columnists, Barack Obama and most of the leading Democratic politicians, etc.) and focus only on the left-wing blowhards (Bill Maher, Michael Moore, Daily Kos, Alan Grayson, etc.) we see lots of ad hominem. So, yes, if you select on the dependent variable, you do tend to see pretty much what you expect to see.

    • Bat Guano says:

      Isn’t it kinda like the “limousine liberals” tag on rich lefties who call for betterment for the poor, or Al Gore flying in jets to do speeches on global warming? That kind of textbook discrediting of the messenger to attack the message?

      I agree, Axis, who cares if Rand was a hypocrite or not. Her ideas were bunk. Our complex society would not last with everyone being anti-empathy sociopaths.

    • nitpicker says:

      You don’t remember all the talk of the “Pelosi/Reid” plans by Republican Congresscritters? Not that they actually spoke about what was in the plan, instead they vilified Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and then dismissed anything that came out of their mouths. Grow up. The right have been masters at smearing people in order to ignore their arguments since Nixon’s first Congressional campaign.

    • nitpicker says:

      By the way, where is the substantive argument in, for example, Charles Krauthammer’s claim that Obama wouldn’t change his mind on Bush tax cuts because of his “pure narcissism.” Or that Obama is so “arrogant” he’s nearly “Napoleonic.” The right thrives on ad hominem attacks. Period.

  68. Anonymous says:

    There’s no evidence whatsoever that Rand took the name “Ann” for the rest of her life. Or that there’s any sinister intent to any of her name uses. I’m looking at her and her husband’s 1930 U.S. Census and her name appears as “Alice O’Connor” – a perfectly good transcription of her birth name “Alissa.” The Social Security issue was not fraud or hypocrisy – Rand never said anyone should let the government steal their money and not try to recoup it.

  69. Anonymous says:

    That defense rings hollow. Is there any government service/welfare that one could not denounce yet still be a recipient, if someone simply justifies it by saying that they paid into the system? Food stamps? Public schools? You name it.

    If someone can justify receiving public assistance under this circumstance, why the fuck rail against the collectivist system in the first place when it seem to be working so well for your own needs? The argument and principle suffers a deep, possibly fatal wound when you accept that money.

  70. el_rothbard says:

    “During the Colonial Era, Europeans stole land and resources from indigenous populations across the globe, then built powerful corporations using protectionism, subsidies, and other forms of state intervention Ms. Rand would deem illegitimate. Once freed, the colonies naturally tried to redress their state-imposed underdevelopment through state support for development.

    The Randians deem these efforts communistic and give moral support and advice to those who (like Pinochet in Chile) respond to such efforts with anti-democratic coups, violence, and murder.”


    Have you even read chilean history?
    Im sorry to break it to you but Allende was in fact a marxist-leninist, he was in the KGB payroll, he supported political violence and class struggle and he also broke the laws and the constitution of the chilean republic making him a criminal long before Pinochet came po power.

  71. el_rothbard says:

    “The reprehensible thing about Rand is what actions she didn’t take that would have been hypocritical if she had: donating to charity, reporting a crime she wasn’t the victim of, ending a sentence with the phrase “but that’s just my opinion,” turning the other cheek, etc. Those are the things that would have violated Rand’s stated principles.”

    Sorry but this is complete nonsense.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      Sorry but this is complete nonsense.

      Sorry, but this is empty bluster. Did you have an actual point to make?

  72. el_rothbard says:

    “Ayn Rand did not like cooperation”

    Do you have a quote on that?…

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