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Ah, labor day, when a hard-working American’s fancy turns to thoughts of Ayn Rand.
You remember Ayn. She was the one who wrote those crashingly tedious novels about awful people being awful and then rewarding themselves with awful sex. It was long, long ago that I slogged my way through Atlas Shrugged, so I looked up a sample of her writing. Here’s one passage I found, much-liked by her fans:
People think that a liar gains a victory over his victim. What I’ve learned is that a lie is an act of self-abdication, because one surrenders one’s reality to the person to whom one lies, making that person one’s master, condemning oneself from then on to faking the sort of reality that person’s view requires to be faked.
No, it was written in English. Not a bad translation. That’s how she actually writes.
As one can see, one subscribes to the “Needs a Little Oil” school of literature, in which one mirrors the slow crumble and collapse of civilization with a graceless, arhythmic series of participle phrases that grind and rail against the ear like so many ill-matched cogs in a machine designed to drive you completely cuh-razy!
But my memory is poor, as I’ve said (or did I? I forget). It may be a swell book. I do remember thinking, “Boy, for a book with a lot of sex in it, this is really just not a sexy book.”
Anyway, Rand spent a good part of her life smoking two packs a day and railing against the ludicrous hoax that tobacco was bad for you, until she got lung cancer and needed surgery. Which, it turns out, is expensive.
What’s a poor objectivist to do, especially a poor, actually-kind-of-really-rich objectivist who’s made a nice career out of despising parasites, moochers, and thieves who steal money from taxpayers to fund their own pathetic survival when they get lung cancer?
You use your less-famous name and you go ahead and take welfare, that’s what you do. Oh, yarr. Under her married name of Ann O’Connor (she was born Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum, but became “Ayn Rand” because it looks nicer. It just does, okay?) she helped herself to both Social Security and Medicare at the end of her life, despite sitting on an estate of $500,000 (the equivalent of about $1.2 in today’s money).
I says to myself, I says, maybe there’s more to this story. This couldn’t just be such a tidy and revolting tale of bald hypocrisy.
Here’s a defense I found from aynrand.org, in an article promisingly titled The Myth About Ayn Rand and Social Security:
Precisely because Rand views welfare programs like Social Security as legalized plunder, she thinks the only condition under which it is moral to collect Social Security is if one “regards it as restitution and opposes all forms of welfare statism” (emphasis hers). The seeming contradiction that only the opponent of Social Security has the moral right to collect it dissolves, she argues, once you recognize the crucial difference between the voluntary and the coerced. Social Security is not voluntary. Your participation is forced through payroll taxes, with no choice to opt out even if you think the program harmful to your interests. If you consider such forced “participation” unjust, as Rand does, the harm inflicted on you would only be compounded if your announcement of the program’s injustice precludes you from collecting Social Security. This being said, your moral integrity does require that you view the funds only as (partial) restitution for all that has been taken from you by such welfare schemes and that you continue, sincerely, to oppose the welfare state. In contrast, the advocate of Social Security on Rand’s view is not the victim but the supporter of legalized plunder, whether he realizes it or not. This fact morally disqualifies him from accepting the spoils “redistributed” by the welfare state.
This one really isn’t in English, so I’ll translate it for you:
She didn’t believe in welfare, because welfare is obvs stealing, and she was therefore just taking back what was stolen; whereas people who do believe in welfare are stupid suckers who don’t even realize they’re being robbed, so something something something they should die. But Ayn Rand is now doubly awesome, as demonstrated by the use of italics.
Being a rationalist devoid of sentimentality and weakness, one merely needs to firmly hold the right attitude in mind (you whisper “I’m a victim!” three times and blow a kiss in the direction of the federal reserve), then the check in the mail magically transforms from plunder into restitution.
It’s rational. Say it’s rational, or I’ll cry.
As one can see, this theory derives from the Confounded Bulldog School of Economic Theory, in which one frantically taps numbers into the adding machine, one pulls out a long strip of printed figures, and then one pursues voluntary incarceration at the local canine containment facility, because it just don’t add up.
Well, I’m glad the old bat didn’t die in agony based on ridiculous, made-up ethical principles. She certainly had a right to her Medicare and her Social Security. They’re not ideal systems, but if they’re good enough for Ayn Rand, they’re good enough for me.