Bob Bestler’s column in Saturday’s Sun News (“Pondering Ayn Rand factor”) is a subjective nostalgic look at how he discovered author Rand’s books, ergo her Objectivism philosophy, some 50 years ago when he still harbored ambitious hopes of writing the great American novel. But he opted for making a living by becoming a scribe – the reality of putting food on the table and paying the mortgage can cause many detours on the journey to one’s dream.
His column hit deja vu chords with me on various levels, although our conclusions on some of the points he proffered are polar opposites.
I also was fascinated and captivated by Rand’s books back in the “olden days” of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged” were actually on the syllabuses (or syllabi if you prefer) of some of my college classes, which would be unlikely today. College was where I discovered Ms. Rand, her remarkable story and her now-classic novels. I, also, harbored hopes that one day I might pen novels, perhaps akin to hers, but, like Bestler, reality intruded and I opted for a career in journalism and its attendant entities.
Bob writes that Rand’s “so-called Objectivism flew over my head – as it still does today.”
Allow me to elucidate and perhaps educate. Rand characterizes Objectivism as “a philosophy for living on earth,” grounded in reality, and aimed at defining human nature and the nature of the world in which we live. “My philosophy,” she wrote, “in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.”
“Grounded in reality.” Unlike Bob Bestler, I do not find it difficult to understand that philosophy. I believe it means that I am my brother’s keeper only so long as he doesn’t demand it, so long as he doesn’t feel he is entitled to it, so long as he works beside me for our mutual prosperity and happiness, for I will not carry him if he is perfectly able to walk, and I will not capitulate to him when he threatens to redistribute the fruits of my labor to the masses who have not labored. When you sow a culture of dependence-on-government you eventually reap only the obligation to accept the demands of government, not the “entitled” fruits, for the fruit will likely already have been picked and dispensed and the tree will be bare.
Bestler notes that Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” offers “a utopian world inhabited by an elite corps of men and women who could go about their business without the stultifying interference of government. That world had no place for collectivism or entitlements or welfare, all of them anathema to Ayn Rand.”
He’s quite right – but my question is, why is it wrong to oppose the stultifying interference of government, collectivism, and entitlements? And why isn’t it proper to set boundaries and limits of common sense for welfare and other humane assistance? The paucity of that common sense is a large reason our government is virtually bankrupt and our people live in a politically divided nation in which one element of the population demands its entitlements and the opposite element demands accountability and cost containment. Without that accountability and containment, those entitlements are finite – and soon! The deficit clock is ticking to doomsday.
Mr. Bestler concludes his column by saying, “I came to believe that most of us had little in common with Ayn Rand and I’m more than a little stunned to see so many espousing her views in this election season.”
He’s correct again, although I don’t know why he’s “stunned.” True, the American rank-and-file don’t have much in common with Ms. Rand – except their anathema for tyranny, due in her case to direct exposure to it, but Americans today have not experienced the totality of totalitarianism …yet.
I think Ms. Rand nails the issue better than I with this wisdom:
“It only stands to reason that where there’s sacrifice, there’s someone collecting the sacrificial offerings. Where’s there’s service, there is someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice is speaking of slaves and masters, and intends to be the master. I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”
Having said all this, I would still be honored to share conviviality and civil debate with Bob Bestler and his philosophy versus Ayn Rand’s as voiced by Howard Roark and John Galt. I hope and pray that kind of individual privilege of choice and decision will remain untouched by the tyrannical demands of collectivism, but I’m not nearly as confident of that now as I was once upon a time.
Harris is a frequent contributor to The Sun News Opinion Blog, at thesunnews.typepad.com/opinionblog.