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Timeless

2 questions about Rand's writing

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I've been reading Rand for many years, and I thought of two things the other day that did not seem to be consistent with her philosophy.

1) The first inconsistency I thought of was when she wrote her essay on the Apollo mission and how it exemplified some of man's ideals. The essay I thought was brilliant, but she never addressed the fact that it was a NASA program, which was subsidized completely by the government and therefore by taxpayers. I was surprised she did not go into how this is not the proper function of government, and that science should definitely not be funded by the government. To me it seemed as if she really chose the good parts of the Apollo mission while leaving out the negative issues, especially since by principle this was wrong.

2) The second point I thought was odd was her interview in playboy. Playboy is run by someone who is not monogamous, and I remember in one of Rand's essays she had talked disdainfully about men who were not monogamous or who were womanizers, almost as if it were a cover for being a type of collectivist. (I'll have to find the specific one). My question is why interview for a magazine that is against your ethics? Isn't this a type of compromise, wanting to spread your ideas but then doing it through sources that are not in line with your ethics?

I would appreciate any feedback.

Thanks,

Timeless

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I've been reading Rand for many years, and I thought of two things the other day that did not seem to be consistent with her philosophy.

1) ...but she never addressed the fact that it was a NASA program, which was subsidized completely by the government and therefore by taxpayers....

2) ...Playboy is run by someone who is not monogamous....

I would appreciate any feedback.

Thanks,

Timeless

I just got home from taking a 3.5 hour final exam, and that was after, well a lot of other stuff. ... :D With this in mind, I'm going to be really brief, but I think you've raised a couple of questions that are fair enough.

Unfortunately, I don't have the reference at hand, but AR did speak about government programs as far your concern indicates. It may or may not have been in the same article about college loans (among those that are government-sponsored i.e. taxpayer funded.) What I generally recall reading is that she indicated that if the government was going to tax and spend by force, then NASA was as good as any program to spend that money on. Naturally, her advocacy of NASA was not wholesale. (I bet she would have been impressed by Scaled Composites in the Mojave though! :) )

As I indicated elsewhere, her interview with Playboy was not a wholesale endorsement of that magazine. I would imagine that she wanted to reach a large and new audience which she otherwise would not likely have done. At the time, _Playboy_ had a reputation that reflected appreciation for "the good life". I believe that that interview was conducted by Alvin Toffler. I think that she considered him and the periodical which he was working on behalf of to have held enough value to make the interview worth her while.

I think a more general way of responding to your concerns involves pointing out that she was an advocate of independence. She knew that she had to reach a great variety of people if she were to ever get Objectivism a fair hearing. It's true that Objectivist intellectuals have to pick and choose among what communication vehicles are of the hghest priority, but as the saying goes: "you have to work with what you've got". She was a rationally optimistic person, so she apparently long held to the belief that she had a good chance of advocating her ideas if she only worked hard enough.

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Regarding the first question, Ayn Rand does talk about how the government has no right to fund a space program at the expense of taxpayers' money, albeit briefly. Like tps_fan said, acknowledging that money is being extorted from all of us, it is better spent advancing our scientific knowledge and accomplishing inspiring feats than rewarding the poor and incompetent for being poor and incompetent.

Regading the second question, Playboy conducted an excellent, intellectual interview. For this reason alone, Ayn Rand should have been happy to participate.

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I think an interview in Playboy also emphasized one of her ideals which is 'sex is good.' I think regardless of Hugh Hefner's personal life, a magazine about sex is exactly the kind of place she would want to interview with. It is in congruence with an ideal she mentioned in P:WNI about censorship of the porn industry, that the popularity of the speech has no bearing on whether it can morally be censored by anyone; it cannot.

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I've been reading Rand for many years, and I thought of two things the other day that did not seem to be consistent with her philosophy.

1) The first inconsistency I thought of was when she wrote her essay on the Apollo mission and how it exemplified some of man's ideals. The essay I thought was brilliant, but she never addressed the fact that it was a NASA program, which was subsidized completely by the government and therefore by taxpayers. I was surprised she did not go into how this is not the proper function of government, and that science should definitely not be funded by the government. To me it seemed as if she really chose the good parts of the Apollo mission while leaving out the negative issues, especially since by principle this was wrong.

True - it was supported by stolen money and made achievable by what was - at that point - a government bordering on dictatorship. However, it was still an amazing accomplishment. Regardless of who did it, the fact that men used their rational minds to send us off of the earth and onto a whole other celestial body is just about incomparable. It shows us what man can do when we put our minds to it.

2) The second point I thought was odd was her interview in playboy. Playboy is run by someone who is not monogamous, and I remember in one of Rand's essays she had talked disdainfully about men who were not monogamous or who were womanizers, almost as if it were a cover for being a type of collectivist. (I'll have to find the specific one). My question is why interview for a magazine that is against your ethics? Isn't this a type of compromise, wanting to spread your ideas but then doing it through sources that are not in line with your ethics?

She was anti non-monogamous men? Weird, as she had 2 lovers at one point. Hmm... Anyways, Playboy is not just a dirty magazine, especially not during the earlier years. It was a relatively high scale magazine that represented the sort of good life, rat pack kind of relaxation, elegance, and high living standard. The women it portrayed were very upper class - example, first person in it was Marylin Monroe. After Monroe died, Rand wrote her own eulogy that is comparable to Chris Crocker's "Leave Britney Alone!!" episode. It seems like something that Rand, while she probably wouldn't get a subscription, wouldn't have much against. And, as Jackethan said, it was the head of the "Sex is Good" belief, something that Rand makes VERY, VERY clear in AS.

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From TVOS...

And here we come to the essence of the unreality - the savage, blind, ghastly, bloody unreality - that motivates a collectivized soul. The unanswered and unanswerable question in all of their "desirable" goals is: To whom? Desires and goals presuppose beneficiaries. Is science desirable? To whom? Not to the Soviet serfs who die of epidemics, filth, starvation, terror and firing squad - when some bright young men wave to them from space capsules circling over their human pigsties. And not to the American father who died of heart failure brought on by overwork, struggling to send his son through college - or to the mother who lost her child because she could not afford to send him to the best hospital. Progress can come only out of men's surplus, that is: from the work of those men whose ability produces more than their personal consumption requires. Capitalism is the only system where such men are free to function and where progress is accompanied, not by forced privations, but by a constant rise in the general level of prosperity, of consumption and of enjoyment of life.

All public projects are mausoleums, not always in shape, but always in cost. The next time you encounter one of those "public-spirited" dreamers who tells you rancorously that "some very desirable goals cannot be achieved without everybody's participation," tell him that if he cannot obtain everybody's voluntary participation, his goals had jolly well better remain unachieved.

Although the specific example is the Soviets, she obviously disaproves of all such monument building by government.

I think Devils_Advocate is correct though, it was the achievement itself (a product of men's minds) not the how it was achieved that she was celebrating.

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Originally posted by Zip

I think Devils_Advocate is correct though, it was the achievement itself (a product of men's minds) not the how it was achieved that she was celebrating.

Yet how can an act be considered great when the means used to achieve that act are principally immoral?

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The first inconsistency I thought of was when she wrote her essay on the Apollo mission and how it exemplified some of man's ideals. The essay I thought was brilliant, but she never addressed the fact that it was a NASA program, which was subsidized completely by the government and therefore by taxpayers. I was surprised she did not go into how this is not the proper function of government, and that science should definitely not be funded by the government. To me it seemed as if she really chose the good parts of the Apollo mission while leaving out the negative issues, especially since by principle this was wrong.

I have to challenge your factual claim here. Here's a quote from the "Apollo 11" essay: "Is it proper for the government to engage in space projects? No, it is not -- except insofar as space projects involve military aspects, in which case, and to that extent, it is not merely proper but mandatory. Scientific research as such, however, is not the proper province of the government." To me, that looks a lot like a statement that science should not be funded by the government.

You are right, however, that she did not focus on this issue in that essay -- because the focus of the piece was on what made Apollo 11 possible, and she made very clear that that was the application of reason to a fantastically complex technological and engineering problem. She chose to focus on the positive elements -- which really were there -- because she wanted to use the moon landing as a chance to talk about a great achievement, not as a chance to complain about the extension of government into areas where it doesn't belong. Given that the chances to talk about the former come along a lot less frequently than the chances to talk about the latter, I can't fault her decision.

Yet how can an act be considered great when the means used to achieve that act are principally immoral?

I think it was pretty clear in the essay that Rand viewed the "means used to achieve that act" (the moon landing) to be the exercise of reason on the part of the scientists and engineers who worked on the project. The funding was provided by government, but the funding was not sufficient for success. It wasn't government money that got men to the moon; it was the power of reason.

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I don't intend to sound mean, but I think this problem is rampant among objectivists, namely loosing sight of what's importand and damning something as evil or bad because of a problem. Yes, the space program is government funded, yet the achievement is monumental. If objectivists want to be taken seriously, perhaps a good start would be NOT to damn something that is wonderful just because there is a problem. Yes, I know Rand said judge and be judged, but perhaps it's just as well to sometimes see the good in something/someone else instead of trying to always find the flaws. Rand herself, by her comments on the space program, certainly followed that train of thought.

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I think the problem among semi-Objectivists or people who criticize Objectivists is that they can't tell the difference between condemning one aspect of a thing and condemning the entire thing outright.

Most of the Objectivists I know rarely condemn in toto because most things aren't bad in toto.

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The space program, particularly the Apollo program, was mankind's finest achievement. That it is govenment funded is due to the fact that most all NASA missions have a Defense component. Space superiority is vital to the security interests of the US.

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