Gore Vidal Sums Up Ayn Rand's Philosophy

“Ayn Rand's 'philosophy' is nearly perfect in its immorality, which makes the size of her audience all the more ominous and symptomatic as we enter a curious new phase in our society.... To justify and extol human greed and egotism is to my mind not only immoral, but evil.” - Gore Vidal

Why do you think Ayn Rand has had such resonance with U.S. society, particularly its policy makers and members of the clergy? Please explain your answer.

“Ayn Rand's 'philosophy' is nearly perfect in its immorality, which makes the size of her audience all the more ominous and symptomatic as we enter a curious new phase in our society.... To justify and extol human greed and egotism is to my mind not only immoral, but evil.”

  • Gore Vidal

My guess is because it gives a philosophical framework to extol greed, something that Christianity isn't supposed to do.


I think her philosophy provides an answer and justification to greed and disregard. There's also a significant portion of the population that intuitively can't fathom social welfare (even if they've received it or are poor and without prospect themselves) and this gives them an opportunity to sanctify greed and selfishness.


"There's also a significant portion of the population that intuitively can't fathom social welfare (even if they've received it or are poor and without prospect themselves..."

I find this lack of self-awareness really frightening. It seems really common.

Vidal is, of course, correct. The true problem with rand's extolling of selfishness is that in the long run revolutions are stimulated by governments who do not care for the lower classes, notably the Working Class Proletariat.


"Greed and egotism" describe Rand's villains like Peter Keating and Jim Taggart, not her heros like Howard Roark or John Galt. It's not like Vidal was slightly wrong, but rather completely backwards. If I guess whether such a statement comes from ignorance or dishonesty, I guess dishonesty.


Capitalism functions basically as an economic version of psychopathy. It is a highly hierarchical, authoritative system dedicated to the extraction of private profit through the exploitation of environment, workers and consumers. We are presently in the final stages of neoliberal capitalism whose winner takes all proclivities ends in financialization, monopolization and wide wealth disparity. Rand functions as the patron "saint" of capitalism...and her personality exhibited many psychopathic simpatico traits. Communism wasn't much better. It was just capitalism at the state level with the Communist party replacing the capitalists in the position of control.

Capitalism perfectly suited the rugged individualism that grew out of the vastness of the new land of America. "Come to America....kill any Indians inconveniently in the way ....buy some slaves...open a factory or mine with low paid workers of the most recent immigrant stock and you too can become a millionaire." The American Dream.

Since capitalists control the money, they control the political power and therefore control the politicians so they end up getting more government handouts than the underpaid workers who are labeled as moochers.

Religious fundamentalism paradoxically dovetails nicely into Rand's celebration of capitalism and individual "self-interest." Fundamentalists set great store by personal agency....free will. You save yourself by accepting Jesus as your personal savior. YOU control your fate.Poverty is a consequence of personal bad choices and not a sign of any system wide failure. The world, since it was created by God, is inherently "just." So everyone receives their just deserts whether it's wealth or ruin. Wealth indicated being favored by God...the prosperity gospel. Charity is to be a personal choice...given according to one's personal judgment of how worthy the recipient is of largess. The biggest social function of organized religions is the dispensing of charity. It is why they are tax exempt. When that job is outsourced to the state, it makes religion less marketable and more superfluous. Secular states with generous social safety nets tend to have weaker church participation.


@MLW I really like your response. "Capitalism functions basically as an economic version of psychopathy." It is hard to argue with this assertion. I think one can argue that the more laissez faire an economy is, the more immoral it is as well.

I believe that Rand's popularity was due to the alignment of her writings with the 20th century mutation of traditional American characteristics of individualism and self-sufficiency. Traits that allowed pioneers to overcome significant obstacles in building an new nation had, by the 20th century, morphed into machismo aggrandizement of greed, selfishness, and the warped notion that cooperation or compromise was an indication of weakness. 'Self-made' became a coveted moniker, despite that such a claim is arguably impossible. As America became less isolationist and more involved in world affairs, that segment of America that clung to narcissistic and xenophobic ideals felt disenfranchised. Rand's writings gave voice and cover to all those chafing under the incursion of foreign ideas, and the movement toward greater interaction and dependence, both personal and national. The election of Donald Trump is merely the consequence of that pent up frustration and anger. It's the tantrum of the ignorant and infantile American electorate, incensed that it cannot have what it wants, refusing to acknowledge the reality of change.




The old expression likening the political parties to two wings of the same bird of prey is essentially accurate. The GOP has gone full bore psychopathic as they openly shill for the 1% and cynically play the religious/racial factions of the prolies against each other. The Weimar Democrats augmented their support from the eviscerated unions with blood money from Silicon Valley and Wall Street. Up neoliberal....down Keynes. Up the 20% rainbow "meritocratic" professional while it's "Up against the wall red-neck mother." They represent the more kindly "calf's foot jelly" segment of the velociraptor, predator class.

To call the two sides haves and have nots is too anodyne and does not rightfully convey the true sense of malice and psychopathy that underlies this power dynamic which is basically that of predator and prey. With the help of both political parties, the corporations are getting more openly predatory and powerful (see: Equifax debacle) while the rest of us baby chicks (the prey) get ground up in debt and the low pay gig-service economy. Meanwhile climate change and the industrial military complex roar on to their fiery conclusions. To argue about parties is really rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic...one chair being class and the other race. The two are intertwined like snakes on a caduceus. The whole system needs to be trashed...but what do you replace it with that will safeguard against the inevitable predator class gobbling up the prey? I lean toward a socialistic system but there is danger there as well. We are constantly in a state of techno/social change and as Frank Herbert said, "A beginning is a very delicate time." Any process of change will attract the velocipators en masse like contractors to a hurricane.


@MLW Great comment. I don't foresee change unless things even get worse. The mechanics of our democracy are antiquated. We need to become more Democratic.

@MLW - love the term "Weimar Democrats"


@conversation MLW: Where do you get your emoprogressive bullshit from, may I ask?

Some facts about the Obama presidency's accomplishments you've been willingly ignorant of for whatever left-wing extremist emoprogressive reason:

Also, this:

@mlw...great comments my head spins at the reversal of the incremental and patchwork "progress" such as it is. Perhaps not reversal so much as the exposing of the systemic and institutional coup by the Captains of industry and other kleptocrats. The brazenness is breathtaking, the American electorate I useless... I despair, I truly do at times. My hope is that the backlash against the "conservative" backlash that came to fruition with the election of Reagan is as strong. I marvel at the cynicism... I remember seeing coverage of candidate Reagan giving a speech on states rights not more than 30 miles, not more than 15 years removed from the national shame at Philadelphia, Mississippi.The Democrats? Phffft!


Rand herself was a child during the Bolshevik revolution and watched her middle class family lose everything and become destitute, so she at least had an excuse. For her followers, however, my best theory is that "Objectivism" is a philosophy perfectly suited for the emotional development of an adolescent. I think most of these people are stuck at this incredibly selfish and narcissistic level.