In QUORA: Why is it so difficult for many people to understand that selfishness is the middle between altruism and selfism when reading Ayn Rand?, Elesa Zehndorfer answered:
Because Ayn Rand was horribly self interested [sic], despised poor people, reified business, wrote horribly and became the ultimate hypocrite in her twilight years when she accepted state financial aid. Her theory was very weak, philosophically poor but extremely pretentious and simply did not hold up to scrutiny whatsoever.
Zehndorfer doesn’t provide any example of “scrutiny” that Rand’s “poor” philosophy doesn’t “hold up” under. But I felt like answering, anyway.
“Ayn Rand was . . . the ultimate hypocrite in her twilight years when she accepted state financial aid.”
As a Social Security recipient who is a conscientious objector to the program, I find this highly offensive.
As far as I can tell, the “state financial aid” Rand accepted was Medicare, a coercive government program that she, like everyone else, was and is forced to pay into, under threat of being dragged off in handcuffs and thrown into a prison cell for tax evasion. So accepting promised benefits of a coercive government program one is forced to pay for, even if morally opposed to the program, is not hypocrisy. It is justice. There is no moral conflict there. If you paid for it, you’re entitled to it, no ideological test required.
The opposite view focuses only on the benefits, while dishonestly ignoring the taxes. Since we are forced into Medicare and Social Security, we are entitled to the promised benefits for the same reason we are entitled to get out wallets back from a street thug who robbed us at gunpoint. When it comes to forced redistribution of wealth, there is no essential difference between turning over your wallet to the thug to avoid being shot or turning over your money to the tax collector to avoid being jailed.
The hypocrite accusation is a sleazy smear of anyone who advocates for a free society and rolling back the welfare state. I oppose tax-funded libraries and tax-funded state unemployment “insurance”. Am I a hypocrite for using the local public library, which my taxes pay for it? Am I a hypocrite for collecting state unemployment benefits if laid off, which my taxes pay for? The list can go on and on. It’s cruel to say it’s moral to force me to pay for the welfare state, but not moral to collect the promised benefits because I have dissenting views. The hypocrite accusation is a sneaky little gimmick to discredit and silence opponents of welfare statism.
Elesa replied, again without backup and again from ad hominem:
Hi Michael, Have you read Ayn Rands [sic] books? I have - all of them. I find her writing offensive and poorly thrown together. In the context of knowing her writing very well, my comments are ones I stand by completely. And yes, she was a hypocrite, if you know her life and philosophising well.
Elisa: Rand may have been hypocritical in some areas—I don’t know. I did not personally know her. But taking Medicare was not one of them, in my view. Yes, I have read all of Rand’s work—often more than once. But I do not conflate her personal life and opinions with her philosophy, which she called Objectivism. A philosopher's life is certainly open to examination. But I also believe a philosophy should be judged on its own merits, not the philosopher's personal behavior. (Personally, whatever her faults, I think she epitomizes the American Dream—a poor immigrant making something of her life.)
I have also read many Objectivist critiques. I believe I have a good grasp of Objectivism and many of the arguments against, and I find Objectivism to be a great guide to live by. So, we disagree. People should not draw final conclusions based on what you or I say, though, but should read her for themselves. Her writing is plenty clear. Sincerely, Mike. [PS; I’m puzzled by your charge that Rand “despised poor people.” I know of nothing about Objectivism or of her fiction and nonfiction writings that supports that view.]
My answer to QUORA: ‘Why is it so difficult for many people to understand that selfishness is the middle between altruism and selfism when reading Ayn Rand?’