Ayn Rands power isnt dimmed by the collectivist age of the pandemic – Telegraph.co.uk

Posted: October 20, 2020 at 6:29 pm

I first read Ayn Rands best-known novel, Atlas Shrugged, at the height of the financial crisis. Amid the bailouts, the misery, and the crushing of livelihoods by forces of which most of us were only dimly aware, the prevailing narrative at the time was that the excesses of capitalism would give way to socialism. And to some extent it did, emboldening a financial philosophy that we should be shielded from risk, as well as all kinds of new market-distorting monetary experiments.

Yet Rands uncompromising stories of heroic individualism, her rejection of self-abnegation, her elegies to the creative force of the entrepreneur and her elevation of reason above faith led many more in a different direction. Sales of Atlas Shrugged, in which wealth creators bring the world to its knees by revolting against the demand that they owe the products of their own minds to the rest of us, soared. Bailouts of failing industries and the alarming realisation that much of what purported to be the free market was a cronyistic con between enormous corporations, politicians and regulators disgusted many on the Right as much as the Left.

Rands philosophy of objectivism rational self-interest, radical individualism and her odd-ball characters, with their determination to live their lives on their own terms, were to millions an electrifying alternative.

There is an argument that Rand has no relevance in the age of the pandemic. At the most basic level, I can have the virus without knowing it, and cause others harm at no cost to myself. In the US, the Ayn Rand Institute, which promotes her ideas, even accepted a government-backed loan to tide itself over.

Here, part of the logic of the furlough scheme and all the billions taxpayers have spent propping up firms that have been forcibly shuttered is that there is a moral obligation to support those whose livelihoods have been destroyed through no fault of their own.

Yet I will be re-reading Rand nonetheless. Most of the worlds response to the pandemic is, by definition, collectivist. Those who are unlikely to fall ill from the virus face much the same restrictions on their liberties as those who are genuinely at risk. Entrepreneurs are asked to sacrifice whatever self-worth they get from their labours by closing their businesses for the greater good. Politicians appeal to our altruism in their demand that we protect the NHS, an offence to reason given that it is meant to protect us.

I am not surprised that, among friends of all ages, I increasingly hear the question: why cant we be trusted to judge the risk for ourselves? I had originally thought the pandemic would push society to the Left. But there is something morally offensive about a virus strategy that devalues all that makes life worth living, and which hinges on the incompetence of the Government and the states chronic inability to foresee the demands that will be placed upon it. That it then blames its failures on the very individuals it claims to serve only compounds the outrage.

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Ayn Rands power isnt dimmed by the collectivist age of the pandemic - Telegraph.co.uk

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