Thursday, April 19, 2018

Producers and Morality: Fake News About ‘Ayn Randism’ from The Weekly Standard

Via Anoop Verma’s For the New Intellectuals Facebook site I found this article from The Weekly Standard, How Hillary Clinton Is Like Ayn Rand. Ethan Epstein notes remarks made by Hillary Clinton in India, in which she claimed “that the areas she won represent ‘two thirds of America’s gross domestic product’,” inferring that people outside those areas are morally inferior. He then jumps too “What I find particularly interesting is the bizarre strand of Ayn Rand-ism in Clinton’s sentiments.” This paragraph sums up the article:

In other words, Clinton’s remarks represent nothing so much as a bizarre strand of Ayn Randism. Clinton, like Rand, seems to be suggesting that “high GDP” people—a.k.a. America’s “producers”—people don’t just have more money than the rest of us. She’s saying they’re better people, too. And as for the Trumpian masses out in low GDP America? What a bunch of “takers!”

I left this comment @ For the New Intellectuals:

Where are the fact checkers at The Weekly Standard? Rand’s view on moral virtue as it relates to economics is that productiveness relies on moral virtue, but that the absolute quantity of any individual’s wealth or level of economic achievement is not the measure of that person’s moral virtue. This view permeates her writing, both fiction and nonfiction. Clinton’s inference is idiotic. But it is not Rand’s view.


When Rand spoke of “producers,” she spoke of people who “go as far on the road of achievement as his ability and ambition will carry him” (P. 25). In any of Rand’s writings, I know of no instance that says or implies that the extent of a person’s achievement is the measure of his morality. Certainly, there is nothing about Objectivism that’s measures morality in terms of dollars. Dollars earned are a measure of value created, for sure. But not morality. Moral virtue as it relates to economics consists of doing the best one can, honorably, in the productive field of one’s choice, within the context of all of one’s life goals and values. Rand understood “productive work” to mean

the consciously chosen pursuit of a productive career, in any line of rational endeavor, great or modest, on any level of ability. It is not the degree of a man’s ability nor the scale of his work that is ethically relevant here, but the fullest and most purposeful use of his mind.
Emphasis added. This comes from Rand’s definitive statement on morality, The Objectivist Ethics. Her novel Atlas Shrugged is full of wealthy villains (Orren Boyle, James Taggart) and virtuous producers of modest means and ability (Eddie Willers, Jeff Allen). At best, Ethan Epstein doesn’t know what he’s talking about. At worst, he’s deliberately misrepresenting Rand’s moral philosophy—or, in today’s lingo, peddling “fake news” about Rand and her moral philosophy.

Related Reading:

Eugene Robinson’s Disdain for the Working Class, and Distortion of Ayn Rand

"Money-Makers" vs. "Money-Appropriators"

On Ayn Rand's Dishonest Critics

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