Quote Of The Day

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on August 24, 2009

Here is a good debate proposition: It ought to be less embarrassing to have been influenced by Ayn Rand than by Karl Marx.

The most powerful way to argue the affirmative is to compare the number of human beings murdered by the devotees of each. That line of attack ought to be decisive, but I’m afraid it won’t get you far with the multitude of highly-self-regarded thinkers influenced by Karl Marx. Fact is, commitment to some kind of socialism and fluency in the jargon of Marxism used to be mandatory for serious intellectuals. And there’s something glamorous in the very idea of the intellectual. Even for those of us who came of age after 1989, Marxism, like cigarettes, remains linked by association to the idea of the intellectual, and so, like cigarettes, shares in the intellectual’s glamour. I don’t know if cigarettes or Marxism have killed more people, but it’s pretty clear cigarettes are more actively stigmatized. Marxists, neo-Marxists, crypto-Marxists, post-Marxists, etc. have an enduring influence on intellectual fashion. So it is not only possible proudly to confess Marx’s influence on one’s thought, but it remains possible in some quarters to impress by doing so. It ought to be embarrassing, but it isn’t. Being a bit of a Marxist is like having a closet full of pirate blouses but never having to worry.

The whole thing is excellent. Yes, as Wilkinson points out, there is an intellectual glamour that attaches to Marxism and Marxists. That degree of intellectual glamour is inversely proportional to Marxism’s actual ability to bring about and deliver a better life for others.

  • harrybinswanger

    You're right. Here are some of the essentials of each:

    Marx: Man is a deterministic puppet of (mystical) “forces of production”
    Rand: Man has free will, which consists of his choice to think or not to think.

    Marx: Ideas are only a “superstructure” not anything relevant to history.
    Rand: Ideas are what men act on, and hence set the course of history.

    Marx: From each according to his ability to each according to his nee.
    Rand: “Man—every man—is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.”

  • CSBadeaux

    So the Marxists are one brand of inhuman, and Randians another. The difference is that the Randians were always seen (correctly) as the sorts of bizarre cultists the Marxists always were.

    Sounds about right to me.

  • harrybinswanger

    You're right. Here are some of the essentials of each:

    Marx: Man is a deterministic puppet of (mystical) “forces of production”
    Rand: Man has free will, which consists of his choice to think or not to think.

    Marx: Ideas are only a “superstructure” not anything relevant to history.
    Rand: Ideas are what men act on, and hence set the course of history.

    Marx: From each according to his ability to each according to his nee.
    Rand: “Man—every man—is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.”

  • CSBadeaux

    So the Marxists are one brand of inhuman, and Randians another. The difference is that the Randians were always seen (correctly) as the sorts of bizarre cultists the Marxists always were.

    Sounds about right to me.

Previous post:

Next post: