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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Where We Might Agree

Yaron Brook, of the Ayn Rand Institute, writing in the Wall Street Journal on capitalism's detractors and Ayn Rand's defense of it:
The message is always the same: "Selfishness is evil; sacrifice for the needs of others is good." But Rand said this message is wrong -- selfishness, rather than being evil, is a virtue. By this she did not mean exploiting others à la Bernie Madoff. Selfishness -- that is, concern with one's genuine, long-range interest -- she wrote, required a man to think, to produce, and to prosper by trading with others voluntarily to mutual benefit.
As a fresh-off-the-shelf Catholic, I find no conflict with Rand's beliefs stated above and Church teachings. For someone "to think, to produce, and to prosper by trading with others voluntarily to mutual benefit" is, essentially, doing unto others as they would to to you, enlightened self-interest, doing well by doing good; call it what you will.

While I am no Randian or Objectivist, I have a debt of gratitude to Ayn Rand that dates back over thirty years, to when I was an empty-headed college student with vaguely socialistic leanings. Acting on the recommendation of a family member I plowed through most of Ayn Rand's published writings, with alacrity. They served as a most effective cathartic, purging forever all collectivist sludge from my person.

Ayn Rand was famously atheistic, however, so I had to part company with her years ago, particularly on account of her views regarding abortion (if I remember right, in 1976 she endorsed the ineffectual Gerald Ford's bid for the presidency over Ronald Reagan's, citing Ford's waffling support of abortion versus Reagan's clear and emphatic opposition--a terrible pick on Rand's part, I think). No good Catholic (or Christian, for that matter) can support the taking of innocent life. 

On the other hand, it may (or may not) please Randians to know the Holy Catholic Church has long been opposed to socialism. Pope Leo XIII, in his encyclical of 1891 Rerum Novarum, stated
[I]t is clear that the main tenet of socialism, community of goods, must be utterly rejected, since it only injures those whom it would seem meant to benefit, is directly contrary to the natural rights of mankind, and would introduce confusion and disorder into the commonweal. The first and most fundamental principle, therefore, if one would undertake to alleviate the condition of the masses, must be the inviolability of private property.
I don't think any Objectivist could quarrel with that. Reading the whole encyclical, however, an Objectivist would probably find much to quarrel with but on this much we may agree: socialism is a monstrous, pernicious evil and present efforts to force it down the throats of the American people must be stopped at all costs.

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