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16 June 2012

How Can Ayn Rand Still Be So Misunderstood?

Driving home from the Lakeview Y the other evening (after a great NIA session with Jamie Klausing), I heard the following at the tailend of a favorite NPR show, "Marketplace:" High-frequency trading: Bad for markets... and the soul?. The commentator, Dave Lauer, had been a "high-frequency" trader, which I hear is a day trading on steroids, obviously making good money, but not adding much value to the world.  He said he had read Ayn Rand and "subscribed to her idea that your worth to society is perfectly measured by the amount of money you earn."  He had misinterpreted her philosophy as many others have.  Ayn Rand was not against regulation nor against government.  She was against using the government as a crutch.  She was suspicious of government laws and initiatives created for some "greater good."  She did not like leeches.

Lauer basically concluded, High frequency trading adds no value to the world and now that I'm going to be a father, I believe I need to be unashamed when my children ask me what I do for a living. That's great. That is SO Ayn Rand. She is for creativity and originality and adding value to the world, NOT LEECHING off the genius of others, but actually celebrating invention and progress.

In Fountainhead, she sneered at architects designing buildings not with a fresh new angle, but which ended up as conglomerations of Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Gothic styles, and at businesspeople who were going forward with a low-cost housing project, not because it made business sense and they could figure out the right cost and pricing to make money, but because it would be government-subsidized, so that they did not have to worry about something making sense in a cost/benefit analysis.  In Atlas Shrugged, Rand plays on the old saying, "That's no way to run a railroad," decrying apathy and not-my-responsibility attitude.  She mocks the wife who scorns her inventor husband's gift of a bracelet made from new kind of metal, preferring diamonds.  The public at large is outraged that a stock market genius feels no obligation to help others make money, choosing to make bad and reckless stock transactions to shrug off LEECHES and copycat traders, deserving to lose their shirts, because they can't think for themselves.  Let's get this philosophy straight, please, and look anew at Ayn Rand's message.

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