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Ayn Rand, Welfare Queen: Living High On Government Assistance?

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The importance of Ayn Rand for modern conservatism would be difficult to overestimate. This has always been ironic given her staunch atheism, something that is completely at odds with almost everything in conservatism in America today. Less ironic is the recent revelation that Ayn Rand was a hypocrite: she secretly accepted government assistance instead of relying on the proceeds of all those books in which she decried government assistance.

A heavy smoker who refused to believe that smoking causes cancer brings to mind those today who are equally certain there is no such thing as global warming. Unfortunately, Miss Rand was a fatal victim of lung cancer.

However, it was revealed in the recent "Oral History of Ayn Rand" by Scott McConnell (founder of the media department at the Ayn Rand Institute) that in the end Ayn was a vip-dipper as well. An interview with Evva Pryror, a social worker and consultant to Miss Rand's law firm of Ernst, Cane, Gitlin and Winick verified that on Miss Rand's behalf she secured Rand's Social Security and Medicare payments which Ayn received under the name of Ann O'Connor (husband Frank O'Connor).

As Pryor said, "Doctors cost a lot more money than books earn and she could be totally wiped out" without the aid of these two government programs. Ayn took the bail out even though Ayn "despised government interference and felt that people should and could live independently... She didn't feel that an individual should take help."

But alas she did and said it was wrong for everyone else to do so. Apart from the strong implication that those who take the help are morally weak, it is also a philosophic point that such help dulls the will to work, to save and government assistance is said to dull the entrepreneurial spirit.

In the end, Miss Rand was a hypocrite but she could never be faulted for failing to act in her own self-interest.

Source: The Huffington Post

She only got lung cancer because of her stupid, pig-headed denial that her smoking caused cancer in the first place. It would have been one thing if she had at least admitted that she knew the risks and wanted to do it anyway because she enjoyed smoking. Instead she lived in denial -- perhaps in order to avoid accepting any moral responsibility for getting the disease that killed her. Waiting, isn't accepting full responsibility for one's choices one of the principle of her philosophy?

This would be consistent with not accepting moral responsibility for refusing to live up to the principles which she demanded that everyone else live by. Randian apologists have argued that there is no hypocrisy in taking back the money one once had to give up in taxation -- and up to a point, they have something like an argument. Unfortunately what little they have quickly falls apart.

First, if her accepting government assistance really was principled and completely consistent with her philosophy, why was it apparently concealed? It should have been well known already as a demonstration that despite having money "stolen" in taxes, she was still able to get it back in the end. Why apply for the assistance under a name that would keep the information quiet?

Even more significant is the fact that a person suffering from lung cancer will likely take far more from the system than they paid into it. The surgery she underwent alone may have used up all that she paid into it, and that doesn't include whatever her husband took out of the system. If she had carefully calculated what she had paid in plus interest and took only that, no more, then one could argue that she stuck to her principles. We have no evidence that this occurred, however, and strong reasons to think that it did not.

In her own words, then, wasn't she little more than a parasite on society, stealing the fruits of others' labor instead of using her own resources and accepting the consequences of her own bad choices in life? Then again, the movement she spawned doesn't seem to be any different. The Tea Baggers all complain about "government health care" for others even as they happily draw on Medicare and Social Security to keep themselves alive, comfortable, and privileged.

Ayn Rand's philosophy is not one that any sane, rational adult can live by consistently any more than it's a philosophy that any successful, prosperous society could adopt. Ayn Rand wasn't insane so as soon as it was plain what her real choices were she chose to path of government support and abandoned her own failed philosophy. She just didn't have the courage to admit how much of a failure her philosophy was before she died.

There is another interesting parallel to be drawn from this: Ayn Rand's behavior tracks disturbing well with the behavior of so many religious leaders. How many of them preach one thing from the pulpit then do something else behind closed doors? How many priests inveigh against homosexuality before their congregation while their male lovers wait for them in some motel room? How many priests promote the virtues of abstinence and chastity just after molesting an altar boy? How many preach the gospel of Jesus then at the end of a hard day drive their luxury car to their multi-million dollar mansion?

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