I would like to post a little comment here on the aforementioned Catallaxy article. I cannot comment on the article at their site, unfortunately. However the topic of the article still has relevance on this blog.
A significant point the article makes is one of Rand Vs. Hayek. I wish, as an Objectivist, to dispute some of Catallaxy’s arguments. I also wish, as an economic Hayekian-Misesian, to defend Hayek against some of Rand’s allegations.
1. Rand’s Motives For Hating Hayek
Catallaxy alleges that Rand hated Hayek because Hayek was an egalitarian wheras Rand allegedly was not. This is not the case: Rand’s arguments against Hayek were based on Hayek stressing limits to human reason. Rand however thought Hayek was objecting to her (empiricist) concept of reason, wheras Hayek was actually objecting to constructivist rationalism. So, in this case, both Catallaxy and Rand misjudged their target’s intentions.
2. Rand as Inegalitarian
Catallaxy defines inegalitarianism as judging humans as having unequal intrinsic moral worth. By that definition, Rand is not an inegalitarian, because her philosophy consistently rejects the concept of intrinsic value. Something can only be of value to an agent. By the same token, Rand is not an egalitarian either, because there is no intrinsic moral worth in Rand’s ethics. Rand however was a political/legal egalitarian: Objectivism supports absolutely equal rights for every single human being.
3. Rand And Market Outcomes
The third mistake Catallaxy makes is to allege Rand considered markets to be tools of cosmic justice sorting out moral heirarchies. This is totally untrue. To use an example from her books, Howard Roark (Hero of The Fountainhead) is economically unsuccessful while second-hander suckups that pander to the basest desires of consumers, such as Peter Keating and Gail Wynand, make a lot of money. Further, not all of Rand’s heroes are uncommonly intelligent: Eddie Willers from Atlas Shrugged is not, and he is portrayed as a very moral man. The point is that, under Objectivism, virtue is not a matter of intellect, it is a matter of how the intellect is used. Rational, independent thinkers, regardless of their ‘absolute intelligence’ or their economic wealth are the most moral of people.
4. Rand on Workers
Did Rand think, as Catallaxy seems to believe, that workers were brainless brutes and only barely human? Absolutely not. Rand considered all work, including labour, to be mentally driven (regardless of the fact it is physically-fuelled). Indeed, this is part of her refutation of Marxism. Second, as indicated above, the key issue in evaluating the ‘goodness’ of someone is not their quantity of intelligence, but how they use it.
Its a shame that people keep misunderstanding and misreading Rand. But certainly, Catallaxy’s misrepresentation is minor in comparison to some others. Regardless of the fact that her denunciation of Hayek as anti-reason was a terrible mistake, I still consider Randian and Hayekian thought to be able to gain value from each other.