Obama’s Phobia of Ayn Rand

by | May 15, 2015

Capitalism is practical because it respects the sovereignty and efficacy of man’s mind and body.

In a speech at Georgetown University this week we learned two things about President Barack Obama.

One, he loves the Catholic leader, Pope Francis. Two, he hates Ayn Rand.

No, it’s not really a surprise. But the specifics of Obama’s comments — and the fact that progressives like him feel such a compelling need to single out the ideas of someone they supposedly consider marginalized and irrelevant — are quite revealing.

Today’s Washington Post reports:

Obama said he can’t wait to host Pope Francis this fall because he thinks the pope will spark a larger discussion on poverty.

“No one has shown this better than Pope Francis who has been transformative just through his sincerity and insistence that this is vital to who we are, this is following what Jesus Christ our savior taught us, and that emphasis is why he’s had such appeal including to young people all around the world.”

Of course Obama loves Pope Francis. He shares, with the Pope, the ethical viewpoint that man is his brother’s keeper. What this means, in practice, is that no individual life is an end in itself. Instead, the central purpose of life is to serve others.

Obama believes in state-sanctioned, secular socialism to advance this ethical perspective. The Pope probably favors something different. But if we’re honest about it, they rely on the same ethical doctrine when it comes to promoting their approach to morality: Your life does not belong to you. It belongs to God, to the Church, to the government, to the needy masses … anybody but yourself.

The Post story continues:

The Georgetown gathering includes some nitty gritty about specific policies on things like predatory lending, taxes and wages in breakout sessions, but the big event Tuesday with Obama and two leading social scientists – one progressive one conservative – is about countering politicization in policy talks around poverty.

“The stereotype of folks on the Left who just want to pour more money into social progress and don’t care about culture or parenting or family structures … and then you’ve got cold-hearted free-market capitalist types who are reading Ayn Rand and think everyone is mooching, and the truth is more complicated,” Obama said.

Obama implies that “cold-hearted” capitalism was the most fundamental aspect of Ayn Rand’s philosophy. But capitalism, to Rand, was a derivative. Capitalism is the economic system — the only economic system, Rand argued — consistent with man’s nature as a rational human being. Reason, according to Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, is the distinctively human means of survival, and only capitalism can keep man’s mind free to innovate and produce.

Rand summarized it nicely when she wrote, “I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows.”

A lot of people who haven’t read Rand consider her philosophy equivalent to religious conservatism; but she was actually an atheist. Others consider her equivalent to contemporary “country club” Republicans, like Mitt Romney or Jeb Bush, who advocate government pull over the economy; but Rand advocated total separation of economics and state, which would rule out the special favors and subsidies granted to business under what she called the “mixed economy.”

Her most famous novel, “Atlas Shrugged,” detailed the perils and scandals not of outright socialism, but of a mixed economy where political pull gained ascendency over the productive geniuses who could no longer take it, and as a result went on strike. The events of that novel look a lot like America’s government-run, semi-socialist “pull” economy of today, particularly since Obama came to power. The central theme of the novel was not that socialism is evil, but that reason is man’s primary tool of survival — and that socialism is evil because of that.

Rand’s opposition to the entitlement state was far more fundamental than mere opposition to mooching. The welfare state punishes the productive and requires them to carry the load for the non-productive. As economic growth declines, this ultimately hurts everyone — including the most vulnerable, by the way, who depend on a thriving private economy to finance either private charity or government handouts.

When Rand used the term “moocher,” I understood her to be making a moral assessment of people who willfully live off the efforts of others, without attempting to ensure and take responsibility for their own survival. Actually, there are moochers in voluntary associations and arrangements, particularly dysfunctional families. One problem with the welfare and entitlement state is that it rewards and actually entrenches mooching as a way of life. It subsidizes and legitimizes mooching, while pretending it’s not mooching, but a Constitutional right.

Obama claims it’s “cold-hearted” to favor capitalism while opposing his ideas of wealth redistribution and socialism. However, think about what capitalism does. It treats every individual’s life as an end in itself. If you’re able to create billions or trillions of dollars in wealth — it’s yours to keep, or spend, or give away as you see fit.

In practice, people who become wealthy inevitably spend it, either through setting up charitable or scientific endowments, or investing it in further economic development. Or they spend it on luxury items which “stimulate” the spending that politicians like Obama claim to care so much about. Regardless, it ends up creating growth for the economy, even though — Rand argued — this was not their central purpose, nor should it have been.

You are sovereign over your wealth — whether it’s $100 or a trillion — because you are sovereign over your life. Neither the Pope nor Obama, neither the Church nor the state, own your life. You do. End of story. I don’t find this cold. I find this amazingly and authentically honest and true. I find it motivating, just and exhilarating.

America, for a time, permitted the greatest degree of economic freedom ever known to mankind. In the process, the standard of living rose for the entire planet at an exponential rate not previously seen in human history, before or since. We continue on the momentum of that burst of inventive and profitable energy to the present day. Such momentum is sustained not because of redistributing and manipulative political power-grabbers like Obama; but in spite of them.

Capitalism creates wealth. Only capitalism creates wealth. It creates the warmth (or coolness) of our homes, the comfort or even luxury of our clothing, our means of transportation, our medical care, our groceries, on and on and on. There’s nothing more callous or cold-hearted than a world without capitalism. Obama could not be more wrong. It’s the only system that will ever create wealth, and prosperity exists only to the extent that economic freedom is permitted. Without material prosperity and productivity, human beings are finished; without the freedom the mind requires, and that only “cold-hearted” capitalism can provide, life as we know it would collapse around us.

Capitalism is practical because it respects the sovereignty and efficacy of man’s mind and body. Ayn Rand expressed this more brilliantly than anyone I have ever read, and I have read a lot of thinkers.

Obama doesn’t have a clue.

Dr. Michael Hurd is a psychotherapist, columnist and author of "Bad Therapy, Good Therapy (And How to Tell the Difference)" and "Grow Up America!" Visit his website at: www.DrHurd.com.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

25 Comments

  1. The absurdity of President Obama’s mischaracterization appears deliberate. Shameful
    Your understanding of theology is a bit superficial Dr. Hurd. In Christianity, free will is how people are inspired to act. One chooses the path of their own life voluntarily.

  2. Mr. Hurd, you’ve quite nicely captured the essence of both Obama and Rand in one fell swoop. Either Obama is simply a bald-faced liar, or he clearly and unequivocally does not comprehend Ms Rand’s philosophy. Frankly, I suspect its four parts liar and six parts intellectual deficiency. Obama isn’t that bright, and he wasn’t elected for his intellectual prowess or his consistency in promoting an intelligible philosophic system. His utter lack of grasping the fundamentals of Rand’s philosophy should not be surprising. Moreover, such mis-comprehension is epidemic in the main stream media. So, thank you for your pithy yet on-point analysis!

    As an aside, I’ve read (here and elsewhere) a few comments regarding Christians, free-will, and capitalism. Most of it is unearned-guilt ridden nonsense. Christians (assuming one is an actual Christian) have free will subject to and premised by their brainwashing and indoctrination into the mysticism that is their religion. Then, it is argued, they have so-called “free will” but their decisions on all issues are supposedly “inspired” by the will of God. This is no more free will than public decisions and actions made by citizens living under a dictatorial regime (insert Nazism, Communism, etc) knowing fully well an the authoritarian dictator was watching their every move.

    Religion in general, and Christianity in particular, are simply and utterly incompatible with the capitalism as described and defined by Ms Rand. I’m sorry to all those Republicans out there who think they can march into buildings on Sunday to worship the supernatural, and then march into their office on Monday and pursue wealth – and simultaneously hold the belief they are being true to either their faith or to the fundamental premises of capitalism. A proper ethics able to promote human life on earth and to fully and freely implement capitalism demands total rejection of religion and an unwavering acceptance of reason and the principal of non-initiation of force as one’s fundamental guide. You noted in your piece that “The central theme of the novel (Atlas Shrugged) was not that socialism is evil, but that reason is man’s primary tool of survival — and that socialism is evil because of that.” Well, the same is true of religion; it is not evil in and of itself, but it is evil to the extent it rejects reason and puts faith in its place.

  3. I believe you misinterpreted the President’s remarks. I think he was also characterizing the Capitalists as being caricatured. I believe he was referring to caricatures here.

  4. Obama’s phobia of reality.

  5. The bible itself is very capitalistic. For instance, “you reap what you sow,” the parable of the talents, and not forgetting that the trading principle took Christs life. This is rejected by the majority (but not all) of modern ‘Christianity.” But rejecting this qualification is intellectually dishonest on the part of Randians.

  6. If an explanation of the atonement closer to Christos Victor is chosen instead of the (I think) mistaken penal substitution theories, then the Christian religion need not embrace altruism and may freely and without contradiction support capitalism. And this would not be because, though bad, capitalism uses man’s evil selfishness for a greater good for everyone. No. Rather it would be because capitalism would be seen as the politico-economic system which treats each man as and end in himself, just as Christ showed us God views each man. Christians unthinkingly embracing the penal views of Christ’s death and generally ignoring His life, should be ashamed. Do they really think God created an existence in which the true good of one of the creatures made in His image must be by necessity a bad for another? Do they really think that God made an existence in which morality means to bleed or die for one another? Good heavens, what a corruption to call the murder of the son of man THE definition of morality, somehow substituting God as the author of this atrocity rather than man. It is the resurrection that shows us Christ’s victory and that the agents of force physically, mentally, and spiritually, shall not be permitted to crush, destroy, infect, or blackmail Good forever.

    The reconciliation between a Christian worldview and objectivism can be found through two corrections.
    1) Realizing that penal substitution is an error in theology. Return to the debates of the proper understanding, and reason through them. If you end up in altruism and not rational egoism, you’ve made a wrong turn.
    2) Realizing that Objectivism’s metaphysics is a disguised materialism with no reasoned explanation of an alternative, and thus no reasoned explanation of how to retain human volition and avoid materialism’s determinism. The only reasonable way to ground the human intellect and retain true volition and thus man’s status as a moral agent, is to posit a Mind as the creative foundation of a rational existence.

  7. “man’s evil selfishness”” Since when is self interest evil. Christ did not condemn his two disciples foe wanting to sit on His left and right hand in heaven. Christ did not correct Simon when he stated “we have forsaken all’ (ie what’s in it for us). God is the author of self interest, so it cannot be evil. In fact, He called “wicked” the servant that buried his talents in the ground (ie, not pursuing self interest). Rand assessment of what God created is essentially correct – minus some idiosyncrasies.

  8. It isn’t evil, but that is the common view based on the altruistic ethic many Christians hold due primarily to the prevalent penal understanding of the atonement. The proper passages you mention are indeed contradictory to this view but are ignored and not reconciled. I should have put evil in quotes.

  9. Among other inanities, you note: “and this would not be because, though bad, capitalism uses man’s evil selfishness for a greater good for everyone.”

    Your bald assertion clearly demonstrates you have no conceptualization of what capitalism subsumes nor what it requires. As Ms Rand herself put it: “The moral justification of capitalism does not lie in the altruist claim that it represents the best way to achieve “the common good.” It is true that capitalism does—if that catch-phrase has any meaning—but this is merely a secondary consequence. The moral justification of capitalism lies in the fact that it is the only system consonant with man’s rational nature, that it protects man’s survival qua man, and that its ruling principle is: justice.” Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (p.20)

    Moreover, this is one of the reasons capitalism is incompatible with not only Christianity, but all supernatural religions. The recognition of individual rights (particularly property rights) coupled with the principal of non-initiation of physical force are paramount in the operation of a capitalist-based social system. Thus, a rejection of reason on any level constitutes a rejection of man’s means of survival (reason) and therefore a rejection of man’s life. Religion is fundamentally premised upon the rejection of reason on multiple levels coupled with the institution of the duality of the supernatural and the natural world.

    You cannot have your cake and eat it too.

  10. Keep reading. Materialism of rand and all atheists is a rejection of reason and volition. You are out of your depth Billy.

  11. You quote Rand, not what objectivists are doing in real life. Yet when it comes to Christianity, you exclusively look at Christianities Pharisaic behavior and ignore their reference book, the bible. This is a double standard. One standard for me, another for thee. Quoting the bible:

    Matthew 25:14 For it is as when a man, going into another country, called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.
    Matthew 25:15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one; to each according to his several ability; and he went on his journey.
    Mat 25:16 Straightway he that received the five talents went and traded with them, and made other five talents.
    Mat 25:17 In like manner he also that received the two gained other two.

    As you can see, this is capitalism, pure and simple. Two of the ten ten commandments deal with property rights – don’t steal and don’t covet (don’t even think of stealing). The bibles “you shall know them by their fruit” is the scientific method, pure and simple. That is, the bible is not anti capitalism. Your “duality of the supernatural and the natural world” is in fact very real. Answered prayer is the most simple proof of the existence of the supernatural. Talking of the supernatural, the last superpower is almost here, the ‘ten toes’ in the book of Danial, ie ten nation United States of Europe. This is the exclusive creation of objectivists non existent God.

  12. I am not shocked at Barack’s mislabeling of Ayn Rand’s philosophy…..

  13. But it isn’t your “own life” it’s God’s, right?

  14. God gives people two choices: do what he says and you go to heaven, don’t and you go to hell. And that is the extent of free will. And as Skyler said, your life belongs to God, not you, when you choose the heaven route.

  15. it is not superficial, it is factual.

    Faith and altruism cannot be the basis for capitalism.

    Simples

  16. Your post is gibberish.

    The bible contains many justifications for slavery.

    This is something you evade.

  17. “The reconciliation between a Christian worldview and objectivism can be found through two corrections.”

    The two are mutually exclusive.

    “Realizing that Objectivism’s metaphysics is a disguised materialism with no reasoned explanation of an alternative” – that is nonsensical.

    Please learn the meaning of words before posting again.

    Thank you

  18. “And this would not be because, though bad, capitalism uses man’s evil selfishness for a greater good for everyone.”

    Selfishness is a virtue.

    You have just shown that you reject the philosophy of Objectivism totally but you want to have it and eat it

  19. Rand was not a materialist.

    It is you who has been exposed as a liar.

  20. The bible is false in metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and politics.

    “Answered prayer is the most simple proof of the existence of the supernatural. ” – The supernatural does not exist.

    Simples

  21. She held consciousness as a primary with no explanation, but this is so obviously false. Her disguised materialism is thus evident, or materialism by default. Neither she nor her apostolic succession has written anything to escape the deterministic problems of materialism.
    Settle down with the name calling or proceed with unheeded communicative masturbation.

  22. Read on, sparky. I wrote in the very next sentence: “No. Rather it would be because capitalism would be seen as the politico-economic system which treats each man as and end in himself,”

    Sure, it could have been phrased more clearly, but the very next sentence makes it plain I do not think selfishness (in the sense of rational self interest) is bad, but rather fundamental to morality.
    Frankly, you show tell tale signs of a mind that does little more than regurgitate. On the one hand, it is admirable that you regurgitate Rand’s ideas. On the other, I suspect that ‘s all you may ever do. Work on thinking for yourself.
    Start with this– go to youtube and watch all the ted talks on consciousness. That’s a small start.
    Then read: Eccles and Popper Evolution of the Brain: Creation of the Self, and The Self and Its Brain: An Argument for Interactionism
    Then read everything published that has been written by Rand, as I have. Then look up Dr. Dolhenty’s very brief question of objectivism’s metaphysics (you can find it if you google well.) Then think for yourself. It’s a start.
    Good luck.

  23. Existence exists, is true, as you have regurgitated. Existence however is not limited to what we know about. Supernatural is a useless distinction, as, if something exists, it, and its capacities are as “natural” as anything else that exists, even if the specifics of the entity are singular in frequency throughout the entirety of existence. Discovering or confirming actual existence of something previously unknown or uncertain does not confer supernatural status, obviously. So the supernatural does not exist because it is a corrupt concept. Avoid, however, the silly next step that this excludes everything the a-theist hopes does not exist.

  24. I did not claim or imply faith and altruism were the basis of capitalism.

    Dr Hurd’s error ignores free will. I chose to give him the benefit of the doubt with “superficial”

  25. Get it right … “cold-hearted” capitalism means … “the-cold logic” of capitalism; means capitalism is based on reason; means the “cold-logic” of reason; means capitalism is based on the cold logic of reason. Wiz, Obama got that one right! In case you still don’t get it, I am a cold-hearted capitalist, seeing everything, in cold-hearted black and white, in the cold light of reason.

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