My contribution to Cato Unbounds Rand symposium is now online. Not many surprises for readers of this blog: I do my Aristotelean eudaimonist dance, my labortarian/anti-conflationist dance, my anarchist dance, and my thick-libertarian dance. (And I drop in links to lots of my friends.)
Heres Catos summary:
In his reply to Rasmussens lead essay, Auburn University philosopher Roderick Long sets out to sort the wheat from the chaff in Ayn Rand’s moral and political thought. Long maintains that Rand sets out to found a classical liberal conception of politics … upon a classical Greek conception of human nature and the human good, and he goes on to defend the plausibility of this project.
In particular, Long stands up for Rands reliance on a naturalistic teleology to ground her neo-Aristotlean ethic theory, pointing to contemporary philosophical work that supports Rands view.
Long is less happy with Rands political thought and criticizes her ideas of the pyramid of ability and of big business as a persecuted minority. Long credits Rand for her trenchant analysis of corporatism, but argues that she was mistaken to deny that corporatism and capitalism go hand in hand. According to Long, Rands ideal of voluntary interaction not only implies a radical departure from historical capitalism, but also a more thoroughly anti-statist social order.
As of this writing, footnote 13’s marker is missing (though footnote 13 is still there). Should be fixed soon.
Yes, fixed now.
You bring her thinking alive.
I’m hoping you’ll say more about generic universalism with specific pluralism. I’d like to know how that idea contrasts — if at all — with multiculturalism.
I’ve said a bit more about universalism/pluralism here, and more abut multiculturalism here. (Though re-reading those pieces now, I think “Gee, I was a lot more wishy-washy then!”)
Seriously. These feel like first principles.
If Rand’s concept of capitalism has no existing referent, then does that mean that her ideal is a “floating abstraction?” Oh. The irony.
It may float a bit more than praxeological ideals, yet still not enough to get it too far off the ground.
A floating abstraction specifically refers to something that CANNOT have an existing referent. For example, if I came up with a design for a flying car, the fact that flying cars do not yet exist does not make my conception of a flying car a floating abstraction.
I agree. But that’s exactly why Rand’s ideal is a floating abstraction. She doesn’t distinguish between historical capitalism and ideal capitalism. Since they are mutually exclusive concepts, then to conceive of them together is to conceive of something that CANNOT have an existing referent.
If you wanted to, you could argue that in another possible world, ideal capitalism and historical capitalism coincide. But Rand — as far as I can tell — seems to imply that she’s talking about this world. And in this world, that’s not the case.
Brian Doherty discusses my article over at Hit & Run. The talkback section is … much as usual.
Just when I was starting to think that the comments section on Mises.org was worse…
Bryan Caplan also comments on the article:
People still make these arguments? Really?
Sadly, they do. And I just lost much of my respect for Bryan Caplan.
Caplan’s citation of the Bell Curve is revealing enough, to say the least. I heard precisely the same kinds of arguments around my father’s dinner table, except with more emphasis that the justice of the marketplace has revealed Nature in the inferiority of women and brown people, rather than poor people. I’ve always found it strange that invocations of meritocracy almost always seem to come from people defending what are conventional rather than rational orders of merit, and it’s always about how the market rewards native superiority, rather than chosen or learned excellence.
The mature Rand at least emphasised that the most important distinctions among men and women were between those who chose to think and aspire to greatness, and was often aware that those most hung up on unchosen superficialities such as race and parentage were those who had the least to be genuinely proud of. The trouble is that Rand advocated genuine meritocracy but combined it with a worshipful admiration for the American capitalist class – and her followers have embraced not her individualism but the classism she wrapped around it.
Good lord … at least the comments at H&R made me laugh ….
I dunno. The guy who asked why Roderick hasn’t started a business, if he’s so smart, made me actually laugh out loud.
Fantastic article. I have just one correction. I don’t prefer the term “socialism” for the free-market alternative. That would confuse people. What I’ve said is that in a linguistically ideal world, there would be two broad categories of political philosophy: socialism and statism. The freed market would be a form of socialism in that case.