Ayn Rand believed that people could become self-reliant by elevating their own interests above all else; as the Ayn Rand Institute’s web site says, she “wrote volumes urging people to be selfish.” As a result, she opposed religious and political controls that could hinder individuals from pursuing their personal goals. Certainly, there’s something to be said for having a society of people who are free to achieve their goals, right?
But when Rand’s followers extol her promotion of personal liberty, they fail to recognize or admit that individualism—or objectivism, as she preferred to call it—as a guiding principle:
- Doesn’t work in practice, and
- Is not the highest expression of mankind.
“I had a hard time with Ayn Rand because I found myself enthusiastically agreeing with the first 90% of every sentence, but getting lost at ‘therefore, be a huge a**hole to everyone.'”
And there are concrete examples of her philosophy’s failure in practice and as a description of what drives human achievement.
Sears CEO Eddie Lampert has been largely guided by Rand’s ideas in his leadership of the company:
“Lampert broke the company into over 30 individual units, each with its own management, and each measured separately for profit and loss. Acting in their individual self-interest, they would be forced to compete with each other and thereby generate higher profits…What actually happened is that units began to behave something like the cutthroat city-states of Italy around the time Machiavelli was penning his guide to rule-by-selfishness. As Mina Kimes has reported in Bloomberg Businessweek, they went to war with each other.”
A decade into Lampert’s tenure, Business Insider said, “the 124-year-old retailer is imploding.”
Rand said, “Man must choose his actions, values and goals by the standard of that which is proper to man—in order to achieve, maintain, fulfill and enjoy that ultimate value, that end in itself, which is his own life.” She believed that teamwork was for savages.
But not only have humans always had a tendency to cooperate and to look out for each other, in fact, it may be “that it is our hyper-social, cooperative brain that sets us apart [from other human-like species]. From language and culture to war and love, our most distinctively human behaviours all have a social element.” Teamwork is mankind’s greatest achievement.
Oftentimes, Rand’s self-interested fans end up simply sounding like children who scream through tears, “You’re not the boss of me.”