Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Ayn Rand: Apostle of Darwin

From First Things, the facts:

The dirty Darwinian secret is now out of the closet: If evolution is true, then it must be true about everything. Most Darwinians used to be very restrained about the relevance of their theory for cultural and moral issues, for obvious reasons. If evolution is true about everything, then randomness and competition are the foundations for the highest human ideals as well as the lowest organic life forms.

We kinda knew that. While Darwin's theory may be applicable in certain very narrow areas of biology, the application has spread to all sorts of places--where it cannot co-exist with any reading of Natural Law.

Rand and her disciples (many of whom sit on the Wall Street Journal's editorial desk) picked up Darwin's theory and moved it to economics, combining it with the thought of Adam Smith and a few others...

But since Econ is a 'social science,' unlike physics, chem, or biology, the transfer is illicit.

Now if you think that exchanging "econ" for "bio" is inane, read the rest of Steve Webb's essay. Inanity is perhaps only the beginning...


St. Jimbob of the Apokalypse said...

Ayn had a special place in her heart for Socialists, and to that degree, she and I would agree. But her "economics set to a score from Wagner" seems ruthless and icy in it's ends/means.

I read Atlas Shruggedwhen I was 14, and it blew my mind, already leaning towards a ruthless conservatism. It took the better part of a decade to thaw from it.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Rand explicitly rejected so-called "Social Darwinism" as a basis for her moral, political, and economic views. To advocate a social system on the basis of "survival of the fittest" requires implicitly or explicitly believing that the good is what most benefits society.

Far from believing this, however, Rand applied a consistently individualist method. Her advocacy of egoism is based on her conclusion that one's own life is the only value capable of being an end in itself and, consequently, must be the root of any consistent sytem of values. She advocated capitalism as the only economic system consistent with such a system of values.

The only "Darwinism" in such a system, according to Rand, takes place among businesses, not individuals. The firms that best adapt to the market take over the resources of their less-capable competitors. But the consequence is an increase in wealth and opportunity that makes it easier, not harder, for the least-capable individuals to survive.

Certainly, others—perhaps most notably Herbert Spencer—have advocated capitalism in Darwinian terms. But this does not mean that anyone advocating capitalism accepts those terms or the principles implicit in them.

Disagreeing with me, Herbert Spencer, or Ayn Rand about anything or everything is of course your absolute right. I do think, however, you would do better to make sure that Rand, or anyone else for that matter, actually holds some particular view before you criticize her for doing so.

Dad29 said...

Capitalism, strictly speaking, is one of the perfect vehicles for Darwinism.

IOW, one cannot endorse "capitalism" without the consequence of Darwinism, (whether intended or not.)

See, e.g., the flight of production to PRChina--a consequence of capitalism, unfettered; and its consequences, which (inter alia) have reduced the value of the USD and thus the PurchasePowerIndex of the US consumer.

Simply SAYING that "capitalism is not Darwinism" does not make it so, although I am perfectly happy to allow that Ms. Rand was not necessarily malevolent.