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Austin Cline

Ayn Rand: Sociopath Who Admired a Serial Killer?

By May 11, 2011

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If you've ever had the feeling that there was something fundamentally sociopathic about Ayn Rand's philosophy, you may have been on to something. Apparently one of Ayn Rand's early "heroes" was a serial killer named William Edward Hickman. When he was arrested Hickman became quite famous -- the talk of the town, so to speak, but for the entire country. Rand took things a bit further than most, though, and modeled at least one of her literary characters on Hickman.

The best way to get to the bottom of Ayn Rand's beliefs is to take a look at how she developed the superhero of her novel, Atlas Shrugged, John Galt. Back in the late 1920s, as Ayn Rand was working out her philosophy, she became enthralled by a real-life American serial killer, William Edward Hickman, whose gruesome, sadistic dismemberment of 12-year-old girl named Marion Parker in 1927 shocked the nation.

Rand filled her early notebooks with worshipful praise of Hickman. According to biographer Jennifer Burns, author of Goddess of the Market, Rand was so smitten with Hickman that she modeled her first literary creation -- Danny Renahan, the protagonist of her unfinished first novel, The Little Street -- on him.

Source: AlterNet

We shouldn't assume that Ayn Rand admired everything about Hickman. After all, it's not unreasonable to find the odd admirable quality in even the worst human being. On the other hand, those "odd admirable qualities" can be found more easily in people who are more admirable overall. The choice of William Hickman cannot be separated from the reasons for his notoriety -- and it does appear that what she admired in him was not something innocuous, such as being good to dogs, but rather precisely the qualities which made him a sociopath...

What did Rand admire so much about Hickman? His sociopathic qualities: "Other people do not exist for him, and he does not see why they should," she wrote, gushing that Hickman had "no regard whatsoever for all that society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. He has the true, innate psychology of a Superman. He can never realize and feel 'other people.'"

This echoes almost word for word Rand's later description of her character Howard Roark, the hero of her novel The Fountainhead: "He was born without the ability to consider others." (The Fountainhead is Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas' favorite book -- he even requires his clerks to read it.)

It's one thing to be heedless of people who are simply negative and are trying to dissuade you from trying something new, but quite another to simply never "feel other people" and to ignore the very existence of "other people." That describes a sociopath, not an innovator. An innovator is heedless of opinions that are negative about their goals; a sociopath is simply heedless of everyone else because they lack the ability to muster any empathy for others.

What's worse is that others have come to idolize the same sociopathic tendencies precisely because Ayn Rand popularized them. Justice Clarence Thomas is just one of many...

What's really unsettling is that even former Central Bank chief Alan Greenspan, whose relationship with Rand dated back to the 1950s, did some parasite-bashing of his own. In response to a 1958 New York Times book review slamming Atlas Shrugged, Greenspan, defending his mentor, published a letter to the editor that ends: "Parasites who persistently avoid either purpose or reason perish as they should. Alan Greenspan." ..

Republican faithful like GOP Congressman Paul Ryan read Ayn Rand and declare, with pride, "Rand makes the best case for the morality of democratic capitalism."

Sociopathy is the opposite of morality, and promoting it as a core feature of democratic capitalism isn't a recommendation for either Ayn Rand or capitalism. I doubt we can expect people like Paul Ryan to comprehend the contradiction between sociopathy and morality because he isn't even able to comprehend the fact that Rand was less than a committed supporter of democracy...

Except that Rand also despised democracy, writing that, "Democracy, in short, is a form of collectivism, which denies individual rights: the majority can do whatever it wants with no restrictions. In principle, the democratic government is all-powerful. Democracy is a totalitarian manifestation; it is not a form of freedom."

"Collectivism" is another one of those Randian epithets popular among her followers. Here is another Republican member of Congress, Michelle Bachman, parroting the Ayn Rand ideological line, to explain her reasoning for wanting to kill social programs: "As much as the collectivist says to each according to his ability to each according to his need, that's not how mankind is wired. They want to make the best possible deal for themselves."

To be fair, Ayn Rand's attacks on democracy are not entirely without some foundation. It's true that a majority can run roughshod over individual rights. Its' true that democratic governments can behave in a totalitarian fashion. It's true that even with a democratic system, people can lack sufficient freedom -- just take a look at America's own history of slavery and voting rights, all within democratic systems. Democracy is no guarantee of liberty or freedom for all.

At the same time, though, Rand doesn't seem to be simply pointing out democracy is less than absolutely perfect and thus needs to operate within some boundaries. She isn't arguing that there are possible negative outcomes to democratic systems, but rather that those negatives are inherent in democratic systems.

For example, she's not saying that people can be less that completely free in a democracy, she's denying that it's a "form of freedom" at all. She's not simply saying that democracy can have totalitarian tendencies, but rather that it is totalitarian. Rand's denunciation of democracy as a form of "collectivism" should tell us all we need to know about her opinion of democratic systems because "collectivism" in the Randian universe is the embodiment of everything that is base, evil, and wrong in any human society. It's like the label "satanic" in Christian systems.

I suppose democracy is a form of collectivism -- after all, the fundamental principle of democracy is that sovereign power is vested in all the people, collectively, rather than in a monarch, a god, an aristocracy, a priesthood, or anything else. Power is held by "the people," and "the people" is a collective term -- it's all of us together, making decisions together about what needs to be done. There's no "Superman" who is permitted to make decisions for us independent of our permission. There's no elite making decisions for everyone else.

Perhaps it's time to start promoting the value of "collectivist" political systems against those who are trying to argue for sociopathic, dictatorial systems run by their Supermen.

Comments
May 11, 2011 at 5:22 pm
(1) Lynn says:

Not caring about people who do not benifit you is not immoral it’s logical. I’m not saying I would harm someone else, I just want them to leave me alone and stay out of my life and my choices etc… unless we are both agreeing to deal with each other in freewill. Otherwise, why should I care? I have my life and dealings, you have yours.

May 11, 2011 at 9:18 pm
(2) Austin Cline says:

Not caring about people who do not benifit you is not immoral it’s logical.

A lack of empathy is sociopathy, pure and simple.

I’m not saying I would harm someone else,

You don’t need to cause harm to be a sociopath, you just need to lack the human capacity to care when harm occurs to others.

I just want them to leave me alone and stay out of my life and my choices etc…

That’s not “not caring about people who don’t benefit you.” That’s simply wanting to be left alone. A person can want to be left alone and still care if others suffer. A person can want to be left alone and still care about others regardless of any personal benefit.

Otherwise, why should I care?

You shouldn’t, unless you are a normal and healthy human being who has the capacity for basic empathy.

I have my life and dealings, you have yours.

Yes, you do, and none of that preclude basic empathy. Only being a sociopath precludes basic empathy and it’s a serious mental disorder. If you truly lack the capacity to feel empathy and are so selfish that others don’t exist except insofar as they can benefit you, then you suffer from a serious mental problem and should seek professional help.

May 12, 2011 at 4:18 am
(3) Michael R. Brown says:

Does it actually make no difference to you that Rand was *23 years old* and writing notes to herself in the journal you are attempting to arraign her based upon?

You have failed, entirely, to establish that Rand lacked empathy. Her philosophy certainly does not preclude empathy and charity – she just denies that they are the essence of morality. That’s a recognized school called ethical egoism, and Aristotle was a predecessor. Or was he a sociopath too?

From the Randian horse’s mouth: “My views on charity are very simple. I do not consider it a major virtue and, above all, I do not consider it a moral duty. There is nothing wrong in helping other people, if and when they are worthy of the help and you can afford to help them. I regard charity as a marginal issue. What I am fighting is the idea that charity is a moral duty and a primary virtue.” “To view the question in its proper perspective, one must begin by rejecting altruism’s terms and all of its ugly emotional aftertaste – then take a fresh look at human relationships. It is morally proper to accept help, when it is offered, not as a moral duty, but as an act of good will and generosity, when the giver can afford it (i.e., when it does not involve self-sacrifice on his part), and when it is offered in response to the receiver’s virtues, not in response to his flaws, weaknesses or moral failures, and not on the ground of his need as such.”

May 14, 2011 at 1:18 am
(4) Lynn says:

I only feel empathy for family and close friends, animals and children. Adults who are strangers to me and do not benefit me do not illicit an emotional response whatsoever… except maybe annoyance or pleasure if they directly interact with me. This is not a mental illness, this is natural.

November 8, 2011 at 1:50 am
(5) katibi says:

Everyone’s action in some way affects another, its just a matter of how much we’re willing to tolerate it. Complete freedom and isolation is impossible and anyone who desires this needs therapy.

May 12, 2011 at 4:14 am
(6) Michael R. Brown says:

This is what comes of copying text from attack websites. First off, “sociopath” is a term of psychological diagnosis, and Rand was never so diagnosed. It’s time to stop throwing around terms aimed at those one hates. Secondly, biographical accounts of her abound with her being obstreperous and difficult – and also kindly and highly empathic. (See the recent oral biography of her “100 Voices.”) This is not consistent with sociopathy. Thirdly, with regard to Hickman, the Alternet article copies from an initial attack website that omitted material facts about Rand’s private [i.e., thinking to oneself] journal entries regarding Hickman – which were written when she was barely out of her teens, and yet still contained strong criticisms of Hickman (who was a legally innocent man at the time of her writing anyway). Here’s one sample of what Alternet and previous attack sites saw fit to excise: “[My hero is] very far from him, of course. The outside of Hickman, but not the inside. Much deeper and much more. A Hickman with a purpose. And without the degeneracy. It is more exact to say that the model is not Hickman, but what Hickman suggested to me.” – Not quite the “fan girl” she is being portrayed as.

May 12, 2011 at 5:38 am
(7) Austin Cline says:

First off, “sociopath” is a term of psychological diagnosis

Indeed – and when you specifically single out qualities of sociopathy for promotion and praise, you don’t get to insist that you’re mentally fit simply because you haven’t been officially diagnosed.

Here’s one sample of what Alternet and previous attack sites saw fit to excise: “[My hero is] very far from him, of course. The outside of Hickman, but not the inside. Much deeper and much more. A Hickman with a purpose. And without the degeneracy. It is more exact to say that the model is not Hickman, but what Hickman suggested to me.” – Not quite the “fan girl” she is being portrayed as.

The original article doesn’t say or suggest that she never had anything negative or critical to say about Hickman. Key is, though, that the disagreement you quote does not actually contradict the conclusion of the article: that what she specifically praised and liked about Hickman was precisely that which made him a sociopath. She didn’t like something incidental to what made him evil, she liked the essential nature of his evil.

Does it actually make no difference to you that Rand was *23 years old* and writing notes to herself in the journal you are attempting to arraign her based upon?

Not unless you later rejected and repudiated such views, no. What’s more, bringing up her youth like this is irrelevant unless it’s part of an argument that concedes that what she wrote was bad but should be excused. However you also try to argue that what she wrote wasn’t really so bad, at least in context. You can’t have it both ways – either her youth excuses something bad or it was never really bad at all. The only reason to try to have it both ways is if you are grasping at straws and know it.

You have failed, entirely, to establish that Rand lacked empathy.

Is there another reason to praise the absence of empathy? I suppose you might be able to successfully argue that she had empathy but wished she didn’t and wished for a world without empathy, but is that really an argument that would rescue her image?

Her philosophy certainly does not preclude empathy and charity – she just denies that they are the essence of morality.

Since we know for a fact that people who are incapable of empathy are sociopaths, we also know that it’s false to deny that empathy is necessary for morality. So in effect you’re admitting that Ayn Rand’s philosophy has been proven false.

May 12, 2011 at 8:00 am
(8) Puneeta Uchil says:

“Since we know for a fact that people who are incapable of empathy are sociopaths, we also know that it’s false to deny that empathy is necessary for morality.”

Hahaha!! Stating opinions like they are facts! That doesnt make what you said right. OK. Christians keep saying that God exists, like its a fact, doesn’t make it any more false than it is. Who gave you the right to decide that people without empathy are sociopaths?

May 12, 2011 at 7:50 am
(9) Lester Hunt says:

Oh good Heavens. Rand wrote her jottings about Hickman when she was in her twenties, long before she developed the ideas for which she is famous. Get some fresh air!

May 12, 2011 at 9:27 am
(10) Austin Cline says:

Oh good Heavens. Rand wrote her jottings about Hickman when she was in her twenties,

As I already pointed out, bringing up her youth isn’t relevant unless she later rejected these views and unless you concede that the views are reprehensible.

long before she developed the ideas for which she is famous.

Therefore, they aren’t relevant? That’s implausible, given the fact that what she explicitly admired about Hickman pops up later in her literary characters. If you wish to argue that the two aren’t actually related, despite appearances, then you’re welcome to do so. Merely asserting a distance in time as if that necessarily means a sufficient distance in relationship is… too insufficient.

May 12, 2011 at 10:34 am
(11) Yossarian says:

I enjoyed the article Austin. It does appear that you really stirred up a shitstorm among the true believers. The Randriods don’t like it when you attack their One True God. Just like the christians, facts mean nothing to the chosen few who actually managed to read all of Atlas Shrugged.
But hey! what do I know, I’m just one of the parasites Ayn Rand wrote about. So please next time have some “empathy” for the Ayn Rand followers, because a heart is a terrible thing to have.

May 14, 2011 at 1:28 am
(12) Lynn says:

I’ve never read Atlas Shrugged actually. I also don’t agree with 100% of her quotes. Plus, I enjoy reading her quotes because they are similar to what I already came up with for myself, not the other way around. Likewise I do not idolize anyone as a general rule, no one is perfect. You show your ignorance by making a sweeping generalization about anyone who doesn’t think she is “evil.”

May 12, 2011 at 11:31 am
(13) Gus Gus says:

She DID reject these views indirectly ad nauseam in her later life while she developed the philosophy she is famous for. Did she revisit her old writings and feel it necessary to systematically repudiate everything she had previously said/written that she disagreed with? Obviously not, but no other human being has been failing to do so, at least, not unless the issue has been raised while they’re alive.

Let us assume that she admired Hickman for his violent acts, and not for any respectable quality. Perhaps she admired him for his violent acts WHILE repeatedly repudiating the same throughout her philosophy? Such WOULD make her a hypocrite, but it would do absolutely nothing to damage the validity of her ideas. To suggest that it should somehow do so would be ad hominem.

In fact, this whole article seems to be alluding to the idea that, if Rand admired a murderer, her ideas are rendered invalid. For a site which contains material which quite ably identifies such fallacies with regard to almost everything else which actually relates to atheism directly, it’s disappointing to see such heinous fallacy within its own writings.

May 12, 2011 at 12:35 pm
(14) Austin Cline says:

She DID reject these views indirectly ad nauseam in her later life

OK, where? And how exactly do you “reject” something that you incorporate into a protagonist in your novel?

Let us assume that she admired Hickman for his violent acts

Why? No one has suggested she did.

In fact, this whole article seems to be alluding to the idea that, if Rand admired a murderer, her ideas are rendered invalid.

No, that argument isn’t being made at all.

For a site which contains material which quite ably identifies such fallacies with regard to almost everything else which actually relates to atheism directly, it’s disappointing to see such heinous fallacy within its own writings.

Yet the fallacy exists only in your imaginary version of the article, not in the article itself.

May 12, 2011 at 2:05 pm
(15) Dean says:

Thanks for reminding people about Rand’s thoughts on Hickman, it’s something her admirer’s should be aware of. I don’t see why she would be expected to repudiate her private notes and how she constructed a protagonist in an unpublished novel, but that’s a nit.

Rand’s contempt for and lack of understanding of altruistic impulses and empathy was her greatest weakness. The mere fact that she failed to recognize in the first place that the qualities she admired about Hickman were the source of his degeneracy speaks volumes about the quality of her insight into the human condition.

May 14, 2011 at 1:33 am
(16) Lynn says:

Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene seems to allude to the notion that altruism is a function of protecting ones interests and survival. If someone lacks a benefit to me it’s not unhealthy to not feel a connection or empathy with that person. Meanwhile I can feel empathy with friends and family and people I do business with, because they matter for my personal survival and happiness… mutual benefit, etc etc.

May 25, 2011 at 11:18 am
(17) BlackBloc says:

Dawkins’ book is a descriptive book about the behavior of genes. Last time I checked, human beings weren’t genes. How genes behave in nature has no prescriptive power over how humans should behave, anymore than the existence of hive insects like ants should be seen as an example to follow on how to organize human beings.

May 13, 2011 at 1:18 am
(18) Zack says:

I’ve never understood Rand’s appeal. She would have nothing but contempt for most of her supporters.

Here’s a review of a couple of Rand biographies:

http://www.slate.com/id/2233966/

May 13, 2011 at 4:16 am
(19) Eric O says:

Even when I found libertarianism compelling, I never understood some of my fellow libertarians’ devotion to Ayn Rand or ethical egoism. It seems clear to me that morality is about how people interact with each other and that it is rooted in our evolution as social animals. Any “moral” system that tells you to disregard the suffering or wellbeing of other people is not worth any serious consideration.

On a semi-related note, Ayn Rand is a female misogynist:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpzDdTrw5II

Go ahead, Rand-heads – defend her position. But before you do, consider your motivation. If you genuinely support misogyny or believe that it’s wrong to interpret her response as misogynistic, then by all means, let’s argue about it. But if what she said made you cringe yet you still feel some compulsion to come to her defense, consider the possibility that your adoration for Ayn Rand isn’t entirely rational.

May 14, 2011 at 9:44 am
(20) Lynn says:

Your response said she meant to disregard suffering and wellbeing of others, but you didn’t point out that she did not mean everyone. As I understand it, she only meant strangers who she doesn’t deal with personally and who do not contribute to her life and well being in a mutual way (such as doctor and patient, or grocery clerk and customer, or boss and employee, husband and wife).

May 13, 2011 at 6:58 pm
(21) Lucretius says:

Gee, I read all of Ayn Rands books and thoroughly enjoyed them; even to the extent of recommending others to read them.

One of those to whom I recommended reading is a brother.

Had a talk with him a couple months ago. He asked why I did not follow Ayn Rand’s philosophy. I told him that I recommended her books because I thought they were great fiction writing; not because of a “philosophy” and besides did he know she is an atheist?

My brother has maintained his “deep” catholic faith: I “converted” to atheism years ago. He said it didn’t make any difference that she was an atheist. What was important is to maintain an individulistic and capitalistic system which she espoused.

I asked him to reread the books and find a child mentioned in them and then tell me if he maintains there is a rational “philosphy” espoused in them. I reiterated that I thought her books were great fiction; not philosphy.

Why anyone would equate Ayn Rand to philosophy would necessarily have to equate capitalism to God.

May 13, 2011 at 11:57 pm
(22) Austin Cline says:

My brother has maintained his “deep” catholic faith: I “converted” to atheism years ago. He said it didn’t make any difference that she was an atheist. What was important is to maintain an individulistic and capitalistic system which she espoused.

Her philosophy of egoism and anti-altruism is in direct contradiction to Catholic teachings. You might want to point this out to him; perhaps suggest that he discuss it with his priest. I doubt he will, though, which merely helps underscore the degree to which people fill their religions with whatever reinforces their personal prejudices.

May 15, 2011 at 1:38 am
(23) Lynn says:

Btw,a sociopath is physically/mentally incapable of all empathy. People like me, on the otherhand feel empathy just like everyone else but such empathy doesn’t extend to strangers to the extent of say crying if a stranger is hurt. I have morals and social conscious and I love and feel others pain if I love them. If someone is a stranger to me it is wholly normal and common to lack empathy toward that individual.

Would you get emotional if I told you a relative of mine has died? No. Are you a sociopath Austin?

May 15, 2011 at 8:23 am
(24) Austin Cline says:

Except I have no control over having empathy for friends, family, animals, and children…

I never said you did.

But a stranger? Sorry, don’t really care.

And that’s a mental disorder.

You are a little bizarre thinking you can diagnose a person via a couple of blog replies.

I’m not offering a medical diagnosis, so the bizarreness lies only in your own imagination.

This is also not the first time that your liberal bias has caused you to come off to some readers as needlessly inflammatory.

Feel free to make your argument for how this has happened before, then. Vague, unsubstantiated accusations are useless. And needlessly inflammatory.

Btw,a sociopath is physically/mentally incapable of all empathy. People like me, on the otherhand feel empathy just like everyone else but such empathy doesn’t extend to strangers to the extent of say crying if a stranger is hurt.

1. As you already pointed out, your “empathy” is reserved for those how benefit you, not simply for people you know. And that’s not empathy.

2. Empathy isn’t defined as “crying.” Empathy is much broader and simpler. It doesn’t appear as though you even understand what empathy is.

If someone is a stranger to me it is wholly normal and common to lack empathy toward that individual.

No, it’s not. Your projecting your own disorder onto others.

Would you get emotional if I told you a relative of mine has died? No. Are you a sociopath Austin?

Would I “get emotional” as in “cry”? No. But I have the capacity to understand the feelings of someone who is sad at the loss of a relative (which wouldn’t necessarily be you if it’s not a relative who benefits you) and perhaps even share those feelings if I invest some time and attention in it.

That’s because I’m a mentally healthy and normal adult human being I am capable of empathy, which is to say I am able to understand and share the feelings of others. I don’t feign understanding and feelings when I find that it might benefit me.

May 17, 2011 at 9:06 pm
(25) 261mylove says:

You scare me. Did you not cry or feel any pain for the people who died when the twin towers fell? If you saw someone hit by a car who was in pain and needed help, would you just drive on? Btw, you might want to look up “Sociopath” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders, and see how many traits you match. The you don’t have to worry that others are diagnosing you – you can diagnose yourself. And if you find that you do fit the criteria for being a sociopath, please get help!

November 18, 2011 at 7:14 pm
(26) Mike says:

Exactly what I was thinking re: 9/11.

Unfortunately there’s basically no cure for sociopathy. It appears that some treatments just make them better sociopaths in terms of their ability to manipulate and feign empathy and normal feelings about others. Very sad.

May 15, 2011 at 2:01 am
(27) Tolpuddle Martyr says:

Say anything bad about the high priestess of the Randroids, or their divine virtue of selfishness and deadly vice of selflessness and it doesn’t take long for them to crawl out from under their rocks!

May 15, 2011 at 1:49 pm
(28) Jack says:

What is glaring in its absence in Rand books/cult­ure is the lack of children. None of her books have child characters­. This makes perfect sense in a Randian kind of way. As prospectiv­e parents, it would be immoral to have children. If, as Rand claims, that it’s immoral to give or accept charity then having children would force that child to be dependent on its parents and immoral for the parent to support that child. This is where her philosphy breaks down. Randians can’t reproduce but must constantly recruit new members from existing people. Sooner or later the innate drive to reproduce will drive objectivis­ts screaming from the cult.

Also, the idea that Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” means “the most intelligen­t” is bunk. “The fittest” means “the most adaptable”­. A really smart human who can’t adapt to living in an abandoned missile silo will not reproduce as opposed to one who can.

May 16, 2011 at 2:31 pm
(29) Rich Polich says:

Kudos to Austin for his description of Rand as a sociopath. It is a conclusion I have held for some time. I also noticed that Ayn Rand had no children, which is no surprise.

Lack of empathy for others is the hallmark of the sociopath. I notice there are MANY in government who hold up her work as gospel and not as the self-absorbed rant it is. Truly, such people lack basic humanity. They are amoral and bankrupt and should never be involved in government!

November 8, 2011 at 1:52 am
(30) katibi says:

A test for sociopathy should be developed and administered to all; those who test positive for it should be given therapy, and, as no cure is currently known, they should probably live life in a maximum security institution. It would be interesting to see just how much of a decrease in crime, corruption, violence, and other social ills would result from locking up sociopaths.

May 19, 2011 at 8:04 am
(31) Sally says:

I think you should be referring to Rand’s fans as ‘Randies’ – they seem to drool over her as if she’d been a porn star.

May 19, 2011 at 2:36 pm
(32) Jack says:

Or in some cases, Randroids, when the person has obvioulsy lost his Objectivism and that persons thinking is subjective to Rand doctrine.

May 24, 2011 at 7:42 pm
(33) Todd says:

i’ve always liked calling them Randroids.

May 20, 2011 at 8:48 am
(34) Coryat says:

Well, you mention their queen bee and suddenly the hive-mind starts buzzing!

Another interesting quote from Rand is as follows (taken from Wikiquote, original source at the end):

“They (Native Americans) didn’t have any rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights which they had not conceived and were not using. What was it that they were fighting for, when they opposed white men on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence, their ‘right’ to keep part of the earth untouched, unused and not even as property, but just keep everybody out so that you will live practically like an animal, or a few caves above it. Any white person who brings the element of civilization has the right to take over this continent.”

◦Source: Q and A session following her address to the graduating class of The United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, March 6, 1974 – found in Endgame: Resistance, by Derrick Jensen, Seven Stories Press, 2006, pg 220

Lynn: For what an anonymous voice on the web is worth (in truth probably very little), I suggest you seek some kind of help regarding your emotional engagement.

Michael R Brown: “Does it actually make no difference to you that Rand was *23 years old* and writing notes to herself in the journal you are attempting to arraign her based upon?”

For what it’s worth, I am a 22 year old student. I have plenty of failings, but despite my youth I’ve never written love-notes about a child-killer and mutilator either.* Perhaps it’s because I’m not one of history’s great moral thinkers.

*Austin has probably wisely not included details of the crime, which was particularly obscene.

May 24, 2011 at 8:03 pm
(35) Todd says:

The essay in the link above seems appropriate to the conversation.

May 24, 2011 at 8:55 pm
(36) Mark says:

Readers might be interested in three books for the general public about rational psychopaths (people who are unable to experience empathy or guilt) or, as they are being referred to here, sociopaths.

“Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us” and “Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work” are both by Robert Hare. Hare designed the definitive test for psychopathy used in the US.

A more recent book, “The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry” is by Jon Ronson. He provides the statistic that while an estimated 1% of the general population would be classified as psychopathic by Hare’s test, an estimated 4% of CEO’s of major corporations would be classified as psychopaths. Further, most psychopaths are never convicted of any crime; they are more likely to be our neighbors and coworkers than prison inmates.

One apparent psychopath said that he spent a lot of time figuring out ways to get people to like him and was worried when people did not. Ronson asked “Why are you worried about that?” The reply was “When people really like me, I can get them to do anything I want”.

Similarly, Hare points out that glibness (it is easier to be glib if lying does not trouble you) is a recognized characteristic of psychopaths. In fact, he said, it is likely that the most charming person you have ever met in your life was a psychopath.

I am surprised the connection between Rand’s Objectivism and psychopathy does not have an extensive history. Reading these three books (all easy reads) makes it obvious that rational psychopaths are natural born Randians because they are incapable of being motivated to do anything that they think is not in their self interest.

While reading about Objectivism, I kept asking myself “What is wrong with this woman?” Now I think I can make a good guess.

July 21, 2011 at 2:38 pm
(37) kathy says:

austin cline, you are sick.

August 14, 2011 at 4:13 am
(38) Andy says:

Ayn Rand is the most moral human that I have ever discovered. Objectivism is so logically based that there is no one that can make a real argument against it. That is why you see an article that tries to demonize by saying she has some psychological problem. Please give me a real fact that says that there is something wrong with anything that she said or did.

August 19, 2011 at 6:46 pm
(39) Zack says:

It is a “real fact” that Rand admired a man who murdered a child.

Why in the world do you need a total stranger to explain to you that there is something wrong with that?

September 18, 2011 at 10:29 am
(40) Hildebrand says:

This Lynn commenter’s not sociopathic, don’t give ‘em so much credit. These people just like pretending to be that way to, you know, be Rand parrots and “sound cool” or “a**hole-ifically righteous” within their little bubble. And this is coming from a non-fanatical Atlas Shrugged reader and admirer by the by.

September 21, 2011 at 4:34 am
(41) GC says:

“Sociopathy is the opposite of morality, and promoting it as a core feature of democratic capitalism isn’t a recommendation for either Ayn Rand or capitalism.”

How exactly does one “promote” a mental illness? Sorry, I’m not buying that one. I’m no expert, but I was under the impression that mental illnesses were caused by disease, chemical imbalances, or brain damage.

“Perhaps it’s time to start promoting the value of “collectivist” political systems”

But this is the real issue here, isn’t it? Values, not mental health.

People have different values and thus different emotional responses to the same situation. Yes, we do value people we know more than those we don’t or those we dislike. It’s why people from one country mourned 9/11, while others celebrated.

If you think this a sign of mental illness, then I’d advise you think a little bit harder – you’re basically condemning the way we evolved (if you don’t believe in evolution – don’t bother replying). People who valued their own kin survived. People who valued no one, or valued indiscriminately, didn’t.

“against those who are trying to argue for sociopathic, dictatorial systems run by their Supermen”

Oh and another thing: “systems” don’t get mental illnesses – only people do. And correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t John Galt offered the presidency in Atlas Shrugged? Didn’t he turn it down?

Not a very convincing dictator.

November 21, 2011 at 5:49 pm
(42) CK says:

I find it particularly funny that the author moves from discussing how Rand did not like democracy because she found it to be totalitarian (bad), immediately on to criticizing Rand’s extolling of a “Superman” and consequently (apparently?) a dictatorial system in which the Superman rules over the lives of others. Because of course, for all of Ayn Rand’s faults, her insistence on establishing a dictatorship was her worst….

(sarcasm, for the many readers who I am sure have such little understanding of Randian philosophy that you would not pick up on this)

I can see why the author had to resort to ad hominem for the “substance” of this article.

November 21, 2011 at 8:50 pm
(43) Austin Cline says:

I can see why the author had to resort to ad hominem for the “substance” of this article.

Dismissing something as an “ad hominem” without actually demonstrating that is a juvenile way to avoid engaging uncomfortable issue. But, no libertarian has been able to do better. That’s what happens when one idolizes a human being – humans are flawed, make mistakes, and have skeletons in their closets.

Sensible adults take what’s valuable from a person’s ideas and are capable of leaving the rest without worry – because it’s the ideas that matter, not the person. Cult followers get so wrapped up in the person of an authority figure that they’ll do anything to defend that figure and anything they way.

December 14, 2011 at 7:40 am
(44) skylar says:

I lived with a psychopath for 25 years and I can attest that Ayn Rand is not a psychopath. She’s a schizoid.

I’ll explain the difference:
A psychopath would never espouse a doctrin like Rand’s. He never lets his mask down. When you meet a psychopath, you will think he’s the most empathetic person in the world. Loves children (is actually a pedophile), saves animals (bashes their heads in when you aren’t looking), cares about women’s rights (not sure what he did to prostitutes, but the passenger door of his car was jury rigged so a passenger couldn’t open it.). His friends will say he is their soul mate the best friend they ever had (before they die in a mysterious accident and he inherits their helicopter).

A psychopath compartmentalizes. So if you are empathetic, he mirrors that. But if he has a schizoid friend, then he will keep company with the schizoid seperate from you – and he will mirror the schizoid, when with the schizoid.

A psychopath has NO loyalty to anyone. He is alone, but you would never know it because he is surrounded by friends. Physically, he can’t stand to be alone. He has a fear of abandonment. So he is with people or on the phone or working on his next con at all times.

The schizoid lacks empathy for strangers. They want to be left alone, but they do care about certain people: close relatives and others who are (or seem to be) like them, but don’t like to even consider “outsiders”. That’s why Andrew Lobaczewski called them the psychopath’s henchmen. They are easily enthralled by a psychopath who mirrors them.
(remember the columbine massacre – eric was a psychopath, dylan was a schizoid)
Lobaczewski also comments on how persuasive the writings of the schizoids can be. Their use of logic is very persuasive. Logic is a skill they have developed to make sense of the world because they are lacking in empathy, which would have given them meaning. BTW, sense and meaning are two different things.

December 18, 2011 at 12:35 pm
(45) Wolf says:

Lynn, you’re silly. “If someone is a stranger to me, it is wholly normal and common to lack empathy toward that individual.”

How do you know who a stranger is?? You think that just because they’re a stranger, they’ve got nothing for you?? EVERYONE’S a stranger before you meet them. They could turn out to be your best friend, the person you admire the most, the person you LOVE. Wouldn’t it make more sense to be open to the possibility that there *juuuust* might be some value in others?

And you wonder why you should care about others. You just want to be left alone. Well, you see someone in distress; you don’t help them. The next minute, you’re in distress. So, what do they do once they’ve got themselves unstuck? Maybe they still help you and make you look like crap, or maybe they just give you the finger. Now you’re on your own. Now, maybe you’d argue: “That’s okay. Leave me be. I don’t need ‘em. I’ll survive or fail on my own. And if I can’t survive, then I was too weak to survive anyway.” Well, we’re not necessarily talking about survival, maybe you’re just screwed for a while. Not very productive, is it? So, if you leave them in distress and they leave you in distress, and now you’re both in distress…THAT’S the best system for the world????

How do you know who can benefit you and who can’t? The only person who makes such a decision is a person just too short-sighted to know better, because the fact is that you can NEVER know.

But in case you’re thinking that I’m arguing for doing good because it MAY benefit us, rather than just for the sake of being truly altruistic, I’m actually not. Frankly, I think the fact that we DO have the capacity to do good for its own sake IS what makes us superbeings that are special and amazing. There’d be NOTHING special or admirable about us without that. We’d be like robots running on some sort of accounting program. Our “hearts” make us human, and they make us amazing… I

January 7, 2012 at 10:59 pm
(46) Chris Oinonen Ehren says:

Just to compare and contrast for the people who are trying to figure out what the range of normal is, when I was watching TV about the columbine shootings I did cry. I cried for the kids, the kids who did the shooting and the kids that were shot, I cried for the parents of all the kids, I cried for the kids that survived and had to walk around with all that in their heads. When I hear about what women in the third world have to go through just to get clean water for their children it makes me sad. I’m a mom, so I do mom stuff, not just for my kid, but for all kids. I hear a baby cry at the grocery store I catch myself shifting from foot to foot, its just a dance you learn to do to sooth a crying baby, I don’t mean to do it, but when a baby cries, you respond. In my heart every child is my responsibility and my joy. I love going to family restaurants and seeing all the lovely babies in their high chairs, all the beautiful preschoolers running around, all the happy kids and their proud parents. I remember my joy when mine was little, and how proud I am now that he’s taller than his Pappa. I don’t need to know who they are to love them a little. That’s what normal feels like. If you don’t feel that way about something, maybe not kids, maybe just you played football and when you watch football you remember how good it felt to be out on the field and you feel happy for the players, you wince when somebody takes a bad hit, you feel sad when somebody gets injured, something like that. Anyway I hope you can feel something for strangers, for people you don’t know. If you don’t, I hope somebody can help you learn how, because the world is chock full of people, and they’re beautiful people. So many of them are kind and funny and have interesting stories to tell, and caring about them opens you up to them, opens you up to a richer life.

January 24, 2012 at 4:00 pm
(47) Veronica says:

“Not caring about people who do not benifit you is not immoral it’s logical.”

“A lack of empathy is sociopathy, pure and simple.”
Not caring about people is relative to the situation. Not caring about someone’s opinion or involvement in your life can be a healthy detachment that might lead to an overall more enriched life, because there would be more acting out of one’s dreams and less worrying. Now, if you don’t give a rat’s tail about what happens to people: death, harm, etc. If you can’t feel happiness around people, simply from being in and enjoying their company. If you can’t rejoice when something good happens to someone and feel sorrow when something bad happens, then that’s immoral.
But not caring about other people isn’t always a lack of empathy. If we were to care the same level about everyone that entered our lives on a daily basis, then we could not function.

January 24, 2012 at 6:16 pm
(48) Austin Cline says:

Not caring about someone’s opinion or involvement in your life can be a healthy detachment

Red Herring. The question isn’t about not caring about someone’s opinion, it’s about lacking empathy for other human beings generally.

January 28, 2012 at 7:13 pm
(49) Kris says:

I’ve read both the communist manifesto and atlas shrugged and all the arguments against Rand are rare.

After reading this article I’m aware that you think because her character is flawed her philosophies are flawed. (I apologize if I’m making an unfair assumption)

Do you know of any evidence more relevant to her philosophies to dispute her?

March 6, 2012 at 10:08 pm
(50) Bill says:

Chris nailed it – couldn’t have said it better – and would probably have siad it worse – myself.

But one further comment I will make. I have always been struck by the utter hypocrisy of right wingers, whether “libertarian” or “Christian evangelicals.” Rand was up there with the best ot them: altho she insisted that one should never, never, never compromise your principals, such as benfitting from government programs designed to aid people with less money, disabilities, etc. However, Rand GLADLY took Social Security payments for the last several years of her life. What a f…… hypocrite – just like the Tea Party RepilCONs who wanted to grab their tax payer financed health care.

So, why are right wingers so clueless about hypocrisy?

March 27, 2012 at 1:33 pm
(51) Dwight says:

Sociopaths aren’t ‘independent.’ They have an intense and parasitic relationship with normal empathic people. That relationship consists of trying to gain power in society and to be recognized as superior. Sociopaths and those who mimic them are the real bottom feeders of history and the present. Civilization and progress could be loosely described as the institutionalizing and recognition of empathy as a primary human virtue. Conversely, fascism is the ideology of power over others and embodies all the sociopath’s internal goals.
Whether Rand was a classic sociopath isn’t the issue. That she adopted all the tenets of a sociopathic ideology is undeniable. To lack feeling for others is to lack a capacity. To characterize that lack as superiority is to try to reverse sickness and health and, in the end, good and evil.

May 17, 2012 at 9:38 am
(52) Paulie says:

I’m thinking about the Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes. I suppose that if Jesus had been truly moral and altruistic, he would have charged all those hungry people $5.95 a plate. I guess I need to rethink my beliefs.

No, Ayn Rand wasn’t a sociopath. Not at all.

May 27, 2012 at 3:39 pm
(53) William Carr says:

@Kris: “I’m aware that you think because her character is flawed her philosophies are flawed. ”

That is my logical conclusion.

I wouldn’t ask a doctor indicted for malpractice to perform surgery on my body or a loved one.

I wouldn’t ask a CPA indicted for embezzling to audit my business.

I review the facts on Ayn Rand and Objectivism, and conclude she was in fact a Sociopath.

Watching the Mike Wallace interview convinced me. Simply watching her body language, the way she rarely made eye contact, the fixed gaze, the lack of emotion in her voice, was sufficient evidence.

I choose not to follow any philosophy created by a Sociopath.

We already have sufficient philosophies that are life-affirming, positive, progressive, and moral. Anyone can find a worthy philosophy to dedicate themselves to.

The only people attracted to Objectivism are those that either are Sociopaths themselves, or who feel cheated by life events and are determined to find a justification for selfishness.

August 14, 2012 at 8:37 am
(54) rebecca says:

Patrick, ..interesting I will read more about this book. However, it begs the question, if it is questionable for Ayn Rand to have “admired” a serial kiler, although so far there is no proof of this, how do you explain the unapologetic admiration the left has for Stalin, Mao and Guivera?

August 16, 2012 at 8:33 am
(55) MareRocks says:

There is a holy-roller station in my town. Recently a bank advertising on this station did a commercial quoting Ayn Rand. I could only wonder if they would ever get it that she was a strident atheist. (Most of this station’s advertisers are Christian right-wingers.) But atheists can be highly moral; Ayn Rand, however, exhibited all the traits of a sociopath. And morality in sociopaths can only be a learned trait rather than innate.
The problem of people understanding the real sociopathic core of Any Rand’s philosophy is that you have to survey the totality of it. The parts may seem reasonable and acceptable until you connect all the dots. It is like the parable of the blind men trying to understand the nature of the elephant from the parts.

August 17, 2012 at 7:28 pm
(56) jason mazzon says:

Rand’s philosophical and psychological version of the “ubermensch” conception demanded scorn for the weak , little people that worshiped her. If after reading her work, you can not decipher that, you are indeed deserving of her scorn.

August 17, 2012 at 9:00 pm
(57) Nick Arden says:

I don’t care of humans, except:
1. People who are close to me and those who I love (family, good friends).
2. People who work and are of great valor for ME.
3. My former or present teachers.
4. My President and my congressmen
5. People who kindly ask me for my help, IF I have extra money and IFI get something in exchange (work, services, chores).

August 18, 2012 at 1:59 pm
(58) UA3234 says:

“Sociopath” is a word that violent herd animals have invented to slander those who are not violent herd animals—the violence you herd animals use to conduct your affairs is sick. This very internet could not have been built without a violent, herd-run coercive taxation program to fund DARPA.

A “sociopath” is anyone with the balls to do on his own what socialists do every day by way of their militaries and universities.

August 26, 2012 at 5:46 pm
(59) Timmy Hoit says:

You engage in some serious black and white thinking here. Your writing style is also very declarative; very clever of you. You say its either this or that without allowing for an entire spectrum of possible alternatives to your fixed assertions. Quite a few atheists do this. It’s a trait they share with fundamentalist religionists.

I admire Rand’s ideas about the individual because we are all too often consumed by a conformity that celebrates mediocrity and mocks originality. That doesn’t make me a robot nor is Rand an object of worship for me. Rand was an intelligent person with ideas I consider valuable. Notice I didn’t say infallible. Additionally, Rand is under no obligation to live up to my standards (nor your very self-righteous ones) for me to found some value in some of her ideas.

I’m sure that with experience, you will gain a deeper insight into your subjects and a greater maturity with your writing. Until then, you should exercise some caution with your notion of certitude.

Consider, if you will, Robert Anton Wilson’s quote: “It’s important to abolish the unconscious dogmatism that makes people think their way of looking at reality is the only sane way of viewing the world. My goal is to try to get people into a state of generalized agnosticism, not agnosticism about God alone, but agnosticism about everything. If one can only see things according to one’s own belief system, one is destined to become virtually deaf, dumb, and blind. It’s only possible to see people when one is able to see the world as others see it. That’s what guerrilla ontology is — breaking down this one-model view and giving people a multi-model perspective.”

August 30, 2012 at 8:15 am
(60) Austin Cline says:

You engage in some serious black and white thinking here.

Then you should be able to demonstrate where and how.

You say its either this or that without allowing for an entire spectrum of possible alternatives to your fixed assertions.

Then you should be able to point to relevant possible alternatives that aren’t being given their due consideration.

I’m sure that with experience, you will gain a deeper insight into your subjects and a greater maturity with your writing.

Unlike you, you mean?

Until then, you should exercise some caution with your notion of certitude.

Definitely unlike you.

August 30, 2012 at 4:18 pm
(61) jd00000 says:

Stalin, Mao and Guivera?

I’m sorry, but only Glenn Beck and his ilk assert that the left has any love of these people at all.

As far as the article goes, good job with it and good job also defending it against the people who inevitably come out of the woodwork to defend Ayn Rand.

In Rand’s writings, there is a mountain of evidence that Rand did suffer from sociopathic personality disorder . Many good commentators here have pointed out some of her non-fiction quotes and really, they leave little for her defenders to grasp on to.

For anyone seriously interested in this subject, I also recommend the book The Sociopath Next Door which really goes into what a sociopath is, why you probably know some and what kind of damage they do in this world.

Rand and Objectivism can be thought of as a kind of dog whistle for sociopaths .. they hear it and they come running without really realizing what it is they’re telling the rest of us about themselves. For the person with the Catholic brother who’s into Rand, one thing sociopaths do is compartmentalize. Yes, she’s the opposite of everything found in Christian tenets, but that fact is never going to be reconciled in a sociopath’s head.

Along with a lot of other tell tale traits, they really don’t care if they’re hypocrites. What they want is something that tells them they have a right to whatever is they want they want, and when it comes to justification, just anything will do.

This can fit in very well with religion, consider the so called “prosperity gospel” that fundamentalists have recently invented for themselves.

August 30, 2012 at 4:19 pm
(62) jd00000 says:

I know the estimates on sociopathy are 1% of the general population , but sociopathy and psychopathy or something like them must be on something like a sliding scale. That fact that Rand informs, inspires and motivates so many on the right is telling.

As long as we’re on this topic, I had Romeny down as a kind of sociopath. Consider the number of very basic positions he’s done 180s on in just a few years- socialized medicine like he implemented in Mass and abortion to name just two. These are basic, foundational positions and if you’re say 48 and you hold positions on these issues supposedly you’ve arrived at your conclusions and they conform with your scientific and moral understanding of the world. The fact that he’s flipped 180 degrees on these things in just a few years and in the direction of the party that wants to make him President tells a story.

That would be the same story told by his actions while at Bain Capital and the same story told when he strapped his dog to the roof of his car and drove for 100s of miles despite the obvious terror the dog was displaying. He doesn’t have any real core values, he has opinions of convenience which he uses and changes according to what will advance his power position. He doesn’t empathize with anyone or anything be it the people whose lives he ruined while he was enriching himself or his dog.

As an interesting side note, the book I referenced above, The Sociopath Next Door uses the example of a dog’s owner’s behavior to illustrate what a sociopath is and isn’t. Suffice it to say- Romney fails that test with flying colors.

As far as Paul Ryan’s idolatry of Rand, it’s well documented. She is, by his own admission, the reason why he got into politics (to blow the system up from the inside.. ) and his forces all his staff to read her, so like Clarence Thomas, this is not a passing youthful flirtation with sociopathy, it’s baked right into who he is at his core.

August 30, 2012 at 4:19 pm
(63) jd00000 says:

There is something wrong, really wrong, with a society which produces so many – fully 25% of it’s population, the the hardcore Republican base- people who are attracted to positions which are fundamentally anti-social and make a fetish of the craven and selfish pursuit of personal gain at society’s expense. This is present in everything from their stance on social security to their indifference / denial about climate change . The unifying factor here is it’s a bad thing that is going to happen to someone else. So like the first poster on this thread said, why should they care?

It’s no coincidence that Greenspan and The Koch brothers are both heavily into Randism and libertarianism. This is philosophy of me getting mine for me and screw everything and everyone else, including all future generations. It’s the id gone amok, dressed up as a kind of “principled philosophy”.

It needs to be called out, held up to ridicule and attacked wherever we see it. Sitting back and thinking “wow, those people are crazy” doesn’t really do anything to stop them. The intellectual underpinnings of me-sim have to be attacked directly, convincingly and persistently or the social disease that Rand’s philosophy represents will spread.

August 30, 2012 at 9:21 pm
(64) John Donohue says:

I was going to post rather pointedly, but reading the challenges to Mr. Cline it is clear much refuting has already succeeded. The recent powerful post three days ago by Timmy Hoit and Mr. Cline’s clipped interjective non-answer is a great example.

So i will ask this: why did you construct this essay by excerpting Mark Ames who himself pivoted off another opinion, Burns? Were you incapable of researching, judging and countering off your own bat, in your own words?

And on the obverse, if pulling in the opinions of others is your m.o., why did you not pull in voices on the other side of this particular tempest in a teapot? That’s what a fair journalist does.

August 31, 2012 at 12:16 pm
(65) Austin Cline says:

I was going to post rather pointedly, but reading the challenges to Mr. Cline it is clear much refuting has already succeeded. The recent powerful post three days ago by Timmy Hoit and Mr. Cline’s clipped interjective non-answer is a great example.

So, a comment that utterly fails to even address any of the issues, much less do so in a substantive manner, is in your mind an example of a successful refutation?

You’re in way over your head here.

September 30, 2012 at 5:23 pm
(66) Michael P. says:

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
-from Hamlet
A sociopath is just a label given to those who embody the idea that one should live by their own standards disregarding the opinions and general welfare of others. So far a lot of this discussion has been whether or not Rand was and/or admired sociopaths, yet no posts that I have seen and perused have argued whether or not that is a neutral statement. Society has left us all ingrained to believe that Sociopath is automatically linked with a negative connotation. is that really the case?

October 4, 2012 at 10:28 am
(67) Austin Cline says:

Society has left us all ingrained to believe that Sociopath is automatically linked with a negative connotation. is that really the case?

Somehow, I doubt you even know what a sociopath is.

October 6, 2012 at 10:28 pm
(68) moonwave says:

I have been struggling with the issue of sociopathy since I recently dated someone who was sociopathic. Of course, I didn’t find that out until the relationship was over. I have to say that I can relate to Rand’s thoughts on Hickman because in the end I had admiration for him, as well as disgust. He “seemed to belong only to himself” as I wrote in my own journal. He was a deplorable person, who hurt me deeply and left me with PTSD, but I envied his detachment and individuality. While he was no serial killer, he expressed that he wanted to be.

I’ve gone back and forth on this. There is some superhuman, manufactured divinity you gain by only answering to yourself and letting the rules of society go. It’s also the path of the artist. But in this case it’s obviously destructive. Also, can you really be an authentic individual when driven by a personality disorder that makes all your decisions for you, as you remain completely detached from your humanity?

Their interesting questions and I can see both sides. I am extremely empathetic, to a fault, so that may be one reason I was intrigued by the disorder.

October 12, 2012 at 6:04 am
(69) Aaron McCarty says:

Austin Cline, you’ve said what I would have said, but more artfully! If there was any doubt in my mind that Rand was a sociopath, it was erased by this passage from her first novel, “We The Living”:

“When Gallina Petrovna took her children to see a sad play depicting the sorrow of the serfs whom Czar Alexander II had magnanimously freed, Lydia sighed over the plight of the humble, kindly peasants cringing under a whip, while Kira (Rand’s heroine) sat tense, erect, eyes dark in ecstasy, watching the whip cracking expertly in the hand of a tall, young overseer.”

Besides being the longest sentence I ever read, this was also the most horrifying. And I’m proud to say it was the last sentence by Ayn Rand I ever read.

October 30, 2012 at 7:05 am
(70) Brian Shanahan says:

Quoting Lester Hunt:
” Oh good Heavens. Rand wrote her jottings about Hickman when she was in her twenties, long before she developed the ideas for which she is famous. Get some fresh air!”

To use a totally apropriate analogy (jumping from one hate-filled sociopath to another) Hitler developed his views on the Jews in his early twenties, long before he developed the ideas for which he is famous.

Like Hitler, Rand’s worldview develops directly from her thoughts in her early adulthood, and stem solely from those ideas, including the worshipping of a serial killer because he is incapable of the mores and emotions necessary for the survival of society and his survival within it.

What you say, do, think and are taught in your early years has a direct impact on your final philosophy, often as a reinforcement of those early formations, sometimes as a direct repudiation.

January 4, 2013 at 9:19 am
(71) Dolan U. says:

To be honest, i have “Atlas shrugged” in my library, but i never passed page 50 because her writing style is a quite annoying one. Anyway, from what i’ve got about her philosophy , it’s a little close to the one of the late, pre-”Antichrist” Nietzsche; in certain ways behaving like his Zarathustra: Truth is what benefits me.

To me it seems she became a controverter instead of a philosopher because of the horror she saw in the sowjet system, refusing in a rebellious way to push her analytics further than a straight anti-collective attitude; This would also explain her attraction to anti-social but outstanding people, no matter through what actions they became famous – e.g. that serial killer.

Nonetheless, there is nothing wrong with ethical egoism. I’m quite sure that if she hadn’t that rebellious attitude – or was more intelligent – she would have came to the sound conclusion that egoism inherently includes altruism, because benefitting other people in the end it benefits you as well. as a respected member of society you don’t only get approval to boost your ego, also your network of possibilities, which come handy to your egoism, grows.

Keeping track of this thought, which at first sounds like a justification for a broad-scale collectivism, in deeper analyzing is the fundament of libertarian thinking: collectivism forms everywhere where life can be found. but, there is not just one collectivism, there are a many of them: you’re part of a family, you’re part of a company which operates in a sector of the economy, you’ve got hobbies and so on. in political terms, even a single individual can be seen as a collective political force, depending on his weight in society. but the interests of one collective can coerce other collectives into servitude, slavery or even death.

So, her attraction to a serial killer doesn’t make her philosophy completely wrong, i guess it just shows her reluctance to overcome her (understandable) hatred of the sowjet system.

February 13, 2013 at 10:02 am
(72) Keshav says:

I don’t think this can be a basis on which her philosophy can be debunked. Influence steps in from different areas in any art form, and so what if he influenced her in some way? Ayn Rand is a great thinker and while you might not agree with her, it’s wrong to discredit her.

February 14, 2013 at 4:56 pm
(73) Austin Cline says:

I don’t think this can be a basis on which her philosophy can be debunked.

And did anyone say “this debunks her philosophy”? No? Well, then, your objection is a strawman.

Influence steps in from different areas in any art form, and so what if he influenced her in some way?

In “some way”? You can’t know much about her philosophy if that’s the best you can see.

Ayn Rand is a great thinker and while you might not agree with her, it’s wrong to discredit her.

Why is it wrong? What is “great” about her?

March 21, 2013 at 9:04 am
(74) jake says:

Lol people are such idiots. Social security really isn’t a social program for the senior citizens who WORKED their entire lives and expected RESTITUTION.

I dont blame any libertarian or capitalist who benefits from government help, after all it was the governments meddling that created a situation that caused the capitalist to need help.

March 21, 2013 at 9:07 am
(75) Mike says:

“Somehow, I doubt you even know what a sociopath is.”

Lol Cline are you really a writer or just some random dink from the internet? you seem to have some really snide and immature retorts to people disagreeing with you.

But then to even bother making this “article” implies a great deal of anger.

by all means snap at me if you like i wont be reading it.

March 26, 2013 at 5:18 am
(76) Austin Cline says:

by all means snap at me if you like i wont be reading it.

There’s no need to snap at you. Simply ensuring that your content-free comment is posted is all that’s needed to demonstrate what passes for quality “thinking” among Randian apologists.

April 6, 2013 at 7:24 pm
(77) Jay says:

To Lynn and all the other ayn rand lovers, you arguments are false because they violate one major aspect of biology- we are all interconnected! Air pollution from coal burned in China is found all over the US. If plutonium were released in LA it will circle the globe. No matter how big you build your walls in your private gated community, you are not safe.

July 2, 2013 at 7:48 pm
(78) Newt says:

“Not caring about people who do not benifit you is not immoral it’s logical.”

Ugh. No, it’s short-sighted idiocy, is what it is. We’re *social animals*, and not a little bit where you hunt in a pack once in a while, but a *lot*, to a degree where you owe your entire existence to what’s now an international web of humans that allow you to exist. Unless you mine your own minerals, grow your own food, produce your own electricity…someone else made that possible. Einstein wrote at length about this, and he was 1000 times the writer, and human being, that Ayn Rand ever aspired to be.

By ourselves, we’re basically no better than cavemen. As a collective, we’re pretty amazing. *The only reason that works at all* is the phenomenon of looking out for our fellow man, at least a little bit. It’s not “altruism,’ it’s “enlightened self interest,” and only emotionally immature people don’t realize it.

August 28, 2013 at 10:30 pm
(79) 1teration_z3r0 says:

You seriously wrote an article about Ayn Rand and used only a horribly anti-Rand biased source? How serious can anyone take you know. You have no integrity.

August 31, 2013 at 11:07 am
(80) Austin Cline says:

You seriously wrote an article about Ayn Rand and used only a horribly anti-Rand biased source?

No, I wrote a blog post referencing and commenting on another’s article.

How serious can anyone take you know. You have no integrity.

As opposed to you, who should be taken seriously despite offering nothing in the way of substantive rebuttal.

October 24, 2013 at 7:07 am
(81) K. L. says:

If I said, “I’m having a friend for lunch” could mean I’m having a friend to my house to eat with them, or I’m a cannibal and going to eat them for lunch.

Sentences have different meanings based on the whole context of when they were used.

To clarify one idea mentioned out of context in this article, the ‘not caring about others’, she means to not be fundamentally concerned with others when deciding what you believe to be true, or in what goals you want.
A kid in school pretending they don’t like the geeky kid so they can fit in, or pretending to like a certain type of music they hate, or picking a career not because they love it but because they think others would approve are examples she’s given of someone primarily concerned with what others think. A kid who stands up for the outcast because they like him and takes the ridicule proudly, or someone who speaks out for a cause they believe in instead of conforming or someone who takes a disapproving career path because they believe in it are examples she’s given of someone concerned with their own truth and not primarily with others.

The confusion of the author is simply of not reading her works and taking her sentence out of context.

Someone who can’t value other people is definitely a sociopath, someone who can’t see values because they don’t think for themselves is a conformist, and someone who thinks for themselves, no matter what other people tell them they should think, is independent, and the only type of person who is capable of love, and that is the type of person she strongly advocated.

I would admire the power of the vision of someone who can identify good in other people, no matter what form it comes in, or what evil is wrapped around it.

With bullying and pressure to conform all around us, her message of independence and thinking for yourself is very important and relevant, and I wish our culture celebrated it more, instead of passing off independent thinkers as sociopaths.

October 27, 2013 at 12:04 pm
(82) Austin Cline says:

The confusion of the author is simply of not reading her works and taking her sentence out of context.

For that accusation to have merit, you’d have to present the relevant context and demonstrate that this context requires a different interpretation.

Of course, you don’t even try, do you?

November 16, 2013 at 1:45 am
(83) Jim says:

I first read Ayn Rand (“Anthem”) in the mid sixties, when I was stationed at Austin, Texas. It was recommended to me by a fellow GI.
I liked it. I felt a connection to her “philosophy.” I also remember that, in interviews, she called herself a novelist, and not a philosopher.
As years went by, I found myself growing away from her view, a view I had admired at first.
Two lines from her works have always stuck in my mind – one being “The studied mindlessness of jerk and moan dancing.” and the other being something to do with people “seeking mindless thrills.”
Eventually, I realized that, for all her love of things of the mind, rationality, etc., she was throwing a large part of what makes up human life under the bus.
Feeling.
Love for other human beings.
And when I read that she had written some of her work while on welfare, well, that kind of clinched it. Here she is condemning that which allowed her to live and strive. That seems, at the least, rather ungrateful, lacking grace, and actually, when you really consider it, unmindful.
I guess you can say that, as a child ( a young man) I admired her admiration of excellence and individuality, and as an adult (a more mature human being) I grew up and came to the realization that we are all interconnected, like it or not.
In fact, when you let go of the holiness of the mind and its contents, and see life as it actually is, it is amazing that some still cling to beliefs and other imaginary constructs as their reality, for life is so much more than that.
Ayn Rand was/is good stuff, and then there is more. If you think it stops at Ayn Rand, you are closing yourself off to truth.

November 16, 2013 at 2:00 am
(84) jim says:

Austin Cline,
I have read through all these remarks, and through your responses, and I am quite disappointed. Your intelligence shines, until you start responding to comments in a manner that displays youthful hubris and petulance.
No, I will not provide examples. You can find them all through this page.
But, as you say, yourself, you don’t even try, do you?

November 27, 2013 at 11:22 pm
(85) Austin Cline says:

No, I will not provide examples.

So, you complain that I’m doing something wrong but think it’s fine to make serious accusations without even trying to support them.

And your opinion should be given any weight… why?

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