Ayn Rand on Hazlitt's "Economics in One Lesson" etc. (Oct. 09, 1946)

Posted by EgoPriest 2 years, 6 months ago to Economics
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To Rose Wilder Lane

October 9, 1946
Dear Rose Wilder Lane:

Thank you with all my heart -- and in more ways than just literary -- for the two mentions you gave me in your September issue. The thing that meant a great deal to me was the fact that you told me privately that you liked my pieces in The Vigil -- and then you also said it in print. I consider that an action of great professional integrity. You see, I am slightly embittered on this point. I have known several persons who paid me high compliments in private correspondence and conversations, but carefully avoided doing so in print. It is an attitude I was never able to understand, so your action made me feel better about people in general.

You asked my opinion of your review of Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson. Your review is excellent, and I agree with all of it (except one small point). I think you have been eminently fair in giving him credit for the virtues of his book -- and there are many. But you picked quite properly on its basic weakness. I think this is another case such as that of Ludwig von Mises. Hazlitt tried to divorce economics from ethics. He presented a strictly economic argument, telling how things work out, and carefully omitting to state why the way they work out is proper -- that is, what principles should properly guide men's actions in the economic field. He did not say that we should sacrifice minority groups for the sake of the whole, but that was certainly the implication of his book, which is certainly a collectivist implication.

This is an example of why I maintain that no book on economics can have real value or importance if economics are divorced from morality. When one attempts to do it, one merely spreads the implications and premises of the collectivist morality and defeats one's case for the more thoughtful readers.

I wish you had blasted one particular passage in the book, which made me more angry than all the other flaws, and really spoiled the book for me. That was the passage where Hazlitt states that virtuous, responsible man of wealth should donate to charity and should refrain from buying luxuries, because these take productive resources away from the manufacture of necessities for the poor (p. 192). That was really a crucial betrayal of our case. It is not true as economics, and it is wrong as morality. It is pure, explicit collectivism.

I take exception only to one paragraph in your review, on the second page, with refers to "love they neighbor as thyself." First, I have never agreed with that slogan. It is just as impossible and improper as the idea of loving your neighbor above yourself. (What we owe our neighbors is respect, not love.) Second, your sentence, "human beings survive on this planet only by working together in that mutual effort," is an unfortunate one. I know what you intended to say, but this particular sentence could be taken as a statement of collectivism. It is true that if men want to live together, they cannot do it by robbing one another; but it is not true, as a general statement, that human beings can survive only by working together. The best among humanity can survive alone, and actually do so; in fact, they make it possible for the less competent ones to survive.

Also, I would object to the statement that one's own welfare "depends upon the welfare of all other persons." (The italics are mind.) It depends upon one's own efforts and upon dealing with others justly (that is, according to the proper moral principles). But that is all. My welfare does not depend on whether the Cambodians have or haven't got any milk. I think you probably agree with me on this -- but you see where your sentence, taken as a general statement, could be interpreted in the Henry Wallace kind of way.

I was delighted to see you take the position that you are an "extremist" and proud of it. So am I. At least, there are two of us.

And this leads me to something which is actually tragic. I have had a crushing disappointment, and I think you are the only one who will understand how I feel about it. By this time you have probably read Roofs or Ceilings? -- the second booklet issued by Leonard Read's organization. I think you will agree with me that that booklet is the most dreadful thing ever put out by a conservative organization. Nothing by poor Mr. Peck or any of our other befuddled conservatives, can equal this thing. I never expected that from Leonard Read. He was really my one last hope of a conservative who would act of the proper principles, and take some positive practical action for our cause; and it is awfully hard to see a last hope go.

Here again is a case of our "almost" friends, and in this case no excuses or forgiveness are possible. The mistake is too terrible and the principles betrayed are too important. I wish you would tell me, if you can, what is the matter with Leonard. What happened to him in New York?

I am enclosing a copy of a letter I wrote to Mr. Mullendore about this Roofs of Ceilings? He agreed with me. Please keep this letter confidential between us -- I do not want to embarrass Mr. Mullendore in any way, since this letter was intended for him and since he said that he would take action upon it. But I wanted you to see my reasons for the burning indignation I feel against that booklet and against a conservative organization that would issue it.

[Letters of Ayn Rand
by Ayn Rand et al.
Link: http://a.co/d/6Undf5W ]
SOURCE URL: http://a.co/d/fzNuLe9

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  • Posted by CircuitGuy 2 years, 6 months ago
    I don't know the whole context of the relationship between this journalist, Rand, and the people she mentions.

    For societies to succeed, individuals must respect one another, not love one another. To prosper people must work together in mutual trades, not as a collective.

    It reminds me of how racists sometimes call their critics [race]-lovers. The unstated premise is you can love people or hate people based on their race, but you cannot just respect people and sentient beings.
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  • Posted by 2 years, 6 months ago
    I can only assume that whoever voted down this post hates or disagrees with Ayn Rand. Surely no member of the Gulch would be so dishonest as to vote down good content out of blind resentment against the Egopriest.

    Of course, there seem to be no upvotes either, so the original supposition stands. The only thinker not welcome in the Gulch is the one who originated the very concept in Atlas Shrugged (and who consequently gets nary a mention anywhere but by me).

    How do you people sleep at night? How do you look yourselves in the mirror in the morning? I offer a commitment to the revolution Ayn Rand forged for defenders of life, liberty and reason and am met with resistance or dead silence.

    The only people honest enough to take Ayn Rand's ideas seriously are those who've never pretended to them in the first place, those who have their own idea of what it means to think in principle (usually from religion). As for the others, there are no others.

    Paraphrasing Galt, "No, you do not have to be an Objectivist, but those who are, are not here any longer."
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    • Posted by CircuitGuy 2 years, 6 months ago
      "disagrees with Ayn Rand"
      I don't get it either, but I think there's some complicated disagreement between camps of Objectivists. Something about this Rand paragraph must bother one camp. We'll never know if they don't speak up.
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      • Posted by ewv 2 years, 6 months ago
        It is not "some complicated disagreement between camps of Objectivists". If someone 'downvoted' this thread it would most likely be a conservative denouncing Ayn Rand's rejection of the religious "love they neighbor as thyself" and/or her criticism of the conservative Leonard Read's organization's publication. But all of "Ego Priest's" threads appear to have lost the normal default starting point of "1", so there was nothing above 0 to 'downvote' by anyone and nothing wrong with Ayn Rand's 1946 letter about the conservatives.

        His profile has subsequently been deleted from the forum and all his posts are now automatically "hidden" by the moderator. He appears to be a very troubled individual who was warned for his pattern of posts with flamboyant personal attacks, over which he said he got into a fight with the forum moderator, not grasping the civilized standard and continuing his behavior.

        His posts do not represent a "camp of Objectivists" at all, in either his lack of understanding or his behavior of progressively bizarre posts since he started here a few weeks ago. He has been posting dramatic recitations quoting Ayn Rand without regard to context or meaning, Ayn Rand articles in new threads without regard to copyright, flamboyant rhetoric evidently intended to ape what he thinks is Ayn Rand but which often makes no sense at all, multiple rambling replies to his own posts, baseless personal denunciations with overtly false quotes misrepresenting his intended target, and denunciations of the entire forum for not being "Objectivist" -- inconsistently alternating with emotional alliances in the 'heat of battle' with religious conservatives holding a grudge against Objectivists.

        The dramatics became particularly agitated after he wished, for "the revolution", a strike (including a fear that readers of a book on rational mathematical philosophy might "use it's ideas to feed their own destroyers") and I reminded him that Ayn Rand did not support a strike. He became progressively more dramatic, accusing me of "dishonesty" and "hijacking" a philosophy. Well after I gave up trying to discuss anything with him, he campaigned with snide remarks against me in his continuing histrionics, which corresponded with the systematic downvoting of all of my posts without regard to content in several threads and who knows what else -- all of it with the zeal of a Walter Mitty of the revolution as he pronounced himself a fearless "unapologetic firebrand". (I quietly watched this with the expected assessment of his state of mind.)

        He previously wrote that he is a 46 year old adult, that he received in 2010 a "BA in linguistics, history and cultural geography", and that he has "done very little since". He said that he has been back and forth between Ayn Rand and Herman Hesse's dark novels (of drugs, despair and suicide).

        Of his own current life he wrote: "I've been physically living in San Diego, but allegorically living in the bed of a spiritually tortured invalid, leading a disoriented existence, lost Ideal, a suicidal-Johnny in penance-bound to my moral suburban preapocalyptic fortress against a post-modern, nihilistic dis-civilization."

        He tells us that he is "memorizing" Galt's Speech to "recite it" for his "esthetic pleasure and moral benefit" in order to "fully induce the principles of Objectivism". (Isn't that like what Muslim's do with the Koran?).

        He instructs (and denounces) us that "the only people honest enough to take Ayn Rand's ideas seriously are those who've never pretended to them in the first place, those who have their own idea of what it means to think in principle (usually from religion). As for the others, there are no others" -- you're guilty of dishonesty in advance and have to be inculcated with religious duty to understand principles. That is the diametric opposite of Ayn Rand.

        It's all a very long way from the sense of life and productive achievement of the heroes of Atlas Shrugged (and of your own), yet with that as his history he offers expert instruction on how to live with "psycho-poetry": "Undergo the Learning, The Training is the Treatment. Your own psycho-poetic Training should fit you Soul like a glove in place with the Learning, I am here to empower all would-be lords and ladies of liberty, as I aspire to such myself: don't follow, but walk in step and the fugitive lady liberty will be found and rescued by the dishonest souls who hold her a captive for the ransom that is your life."

        This is not "some complicated disagreement between camps of Objectivists".
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        • Posted by CircuitGuy 2 years, 6 months ago
          Contrary to what you say, I have learned there are different views of Ayn Rand's writings. The disagreement is complicated to me because I don't understand it.
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          • Posted by ewv 2 years, 6 months ago
            That is not contrary to what I wrote. "Ego Priest" asserted that "whoever voted down this post hates or disagrees with Ayn Rand", and accused his 'enemies' of "dishonesty" (again) while wrapping himself in victimhood as he sarcastically insinuated that someone is so "dishonest as to vote down good content out of blind resentment against the Ego Priest".

            You wrote that "Something about this Rand paragraph must bother one camp". It isn't true. "Ego Priest" is gone from the forum following his antics violating requirements for basic civility on the forum, not out of "blind resentment" against him despite his self-proclaimed superiority and not because of "some complicated disagreement between camps of Objectivists". His reference to an alleged "disagree[ment] with Ayn Rand", if it happened at all on this thread, would have been from someone opposed to Ayn Rand's statements typically critical of conservatives -- in this case some conservatives in the 1940s -- not from some "camp of Objectivists". But despite "Ego Priest's" histrionics it is likely that no one downvoted the thread all, as explained previously.

            You accepted his premise, saying, "I don't get it either, but I think there's some complicated disagreement between camps of Objectivists. We'll never know if they don't speak up." I spoke up to explain why his complaint had nothing to do with any "camp of Objectivists" and how he doesn't represent, in either understanding or behavior, Ayn Rand's philosophy at all. He is not and does not represent a "camp". The forum moderator who objected to his behavior and warned him was not acting on behalf of an opposing "camp".

            More generally, of course there are "different views of Ayn Rand's writings", coming from all directions. Among them there are many claiming to be "Objectivist" regardless of knowledge, consistency, quality, alternate motives, and mixtures of ideas (often contradictory). There is an Objectivist "movement", which like all social and intellectual movements has many individuals, groups, centers of activity, organizations, internal and external conflicts and personal loyalties. Even in Ayn Rand's lifetime there were groups, ranging from well-meaning fan clubs, which often became an embarrassment to her -- to ideological groups claiming in her name to understand and even "teach" Ayn Rand better than she did while contradicting her philosophy (prominently including anarchists) and often attacking her. (There are still some remnants of this on the fringes today).

            But "Objectivism" is the name Ayn Rand gave to her own philosophy as she presented it. If you want to know what it is then read Ayn Rand and articles she endorsed during her life. There are other articles and analyses that can help you, and a lot that will not or which are mistaken, poorly written, or outright misleading. Ayn Rand is gone and no one speaks for her; anyone can make any claims he wants, and they do. It is up to those who do know to explain and defend against misrepresentations, but it is up to you to compare what you read with what Ayn Rand said her philosophy is to decide yourself who knows what he is talking about and determine what is true, as you must for every idea in your own mind.
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