I was casually watching my asynchronous Philosophy lecture one day, when out of nowhere, my lecturer said: “When you try to do science by yourself, you end up being an anti-vaxxer or a flat earther. When you try to do philosophy by yourself, you end up thinking Ayn Rand’s a good philosopher.”
As a former advocate of her Objectivist ideology, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a little hurt by this remark. But it was true, I read Rand’s non-fiction work and watched videos on the Ayn Rand app during sixth form, when I had no one else to seriously engage in philosophy with since I didn’t take A-Level Philosophy. Reading around my interests, but without any discussion around them, I had fallen right into the trap of being the anti-vax equivalent in science, in philosophy.
Yet I wonder what if I was to sit down and have a deep discussion with the author of The Fountainhead. The ideas that she had brought into the world are some of the most fascinating in history; many I once believed in, but have since abandoned due to her lack of good reasoning or development for them.
When it’s either life or liberty on the line, which one would Miss Rand choose?
For example, it would be eye opening to hear her properly explain how she would finance government in a free society, given that mandatory taxation is a use of force and thus not an option. It would finally give some meaning and justification to the phrase ‘taxation is theft’, which many defenders of liberty worldwide have chanted for so long without knowing a true alternative.
It is exactly because Rand has ideas on these things, which were not fully developed when she wrote them, that makes her the author I’d like to meet. Her lack of explanation for what seems like totally utopian and libertarian ideals leaves much still to be discussed. National lotteries or buying contract insurance from the government, as suggested in The Virtue of Selfishness, simply isn’t going to bring in sufficient revenue for a government to keep its country stable. Her supporters even acknowledge it themselves. I wish to hear Miss Rand fully develop a viable alternative to the forced financing she so fiercely rejects.
The Covid-19 pandemic would make for another interesting conversation piece. How would someone so opposed to statism react to the biggest statist takeover of the world since World War II? When it’s either life or liberty on the line, which one would Miss Rand choose? Of course, it is likely she would be totally opposed to national lockdowns, but how would she justify the loss of life this would cause? How about businesses taking government money during lockdown?
Furthermore, I would love to know what it takes to write a novel as impactful and beloved as Atlas Shrugged
If her philosophy is summed up by the words “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,” then is taking government money making other taxpayers live for you, or is the government rightfully returning what was your property in the first place? Two Objectivist organisations, The Atlas Society and the Ayn Rand Institute, have very different answers. I wonder which made the correct choice in the eyes of their ideological mother.
Furthermore, I would love to know what it takes to write a novel as impactful and beloved as Atlas Shrugged. Dubbed by many American readers as the second most influential book in their lives, only after the Bible, it is a shame that during the two month period at the end of 2019, when my interest for Objectivism was at its peak, I never gave it a proper read. How does one create a gargantuan storyline of 1100 pages, and still have it sell seven million copies internationally, with endorsements from all over the political and business world? I have no idea. If only I could really meet Miss Rand to find out.
As I write this article on what would’ve been her 116th birthday, I have one final question regarding the state of the world in February 2021 for our imaginary meet up. And no, that question isn’t “who is John Galt?”. In an era where the left wing is more left than ever, and where the Right sinks lower and lower into the grips of Trumpism (which I have debunked before as far from an ideology concerning freedom), all to the backdrop of huge government interventionism in the wake of Covid-19, the new questions are: “Is John Galt dead? And did we kill him?”