General Question

ava's avatar

Does anyone else out there consider themselves to be quite liberal but still loves to read Ayn Rand books?

Asked by ava (982points) September 9th, 2007

My other liberal friends criticize my taste in books becuase Ayn Rand is one of my favorite authors…of course they have never actually read her books. Whether I agree with her politics or not, Rand writes these books (long ones at that) that I just can’t seem to put down. Is that so wrong?

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20 Answers

ezraglenn's avatar

A friend of mine read Atlas Shrugged this summer, but she “enjoys exploring alternative ideologies,” and all of her uber-liberal friends made fun of her.

archer's avatar

so typical of liberals.
most conservatives are former liberals who read everything. we know what a lunatic chomsky is, for instance, from having read him, and encourage others to do so with confidence that the thinking person will recognize eloquent nonsense when they read it.

zina's avatar

odd, because many liberals i know are former conservatives who read everything.

i really don’t think that gets toward the answer of Ava’s question.

sdeutsch's avatar

There are a lot of people out there who believe you should only expose yourself to things that you already believe in. Personally, I think that’s pretty ridiculous – the more you’re exposed to, the more you can solidify what you believe – maybe reading something that doesn’t agree with your ideology will change your opinions a little – or maybe it will just reinforce what you already think…

Either way, I think it’s great that you’re reading Ayn Rand, even if you don’t necessarily agree with her. I don’t particularly see eye to eye with her either, but she’s a pretty amazing writer, whether you agree with her politics or not.

Poser's avatar

Read away. The typical liberal or conservative depends almost entirely upon the confirmation bias to continue in their beliefs.

Scratch that—they typical person depends almost entirely upon the confirmation bias to continue in their beliefs. Since we as humans also tend to form our relationships (at least the closer ones) based upon shared beliefs, anyone who threatens to upset the status quo by exposing themselves to other ideas tends to make the herd nervous. Those who are most insecure in their beliefs are the most vocal and adamant about avoiding alternate views, and most likely the most critical of your reading material (you’ve heard “the empty can rattles the most”?).

Either way, I hope you’ll ignore the criticism of those who would try to stifle the expansion of your mind. Those people are weak-minded and small.

It’s been my experience that those who’ve read everything and come to their own conclusions identify themselves as neither Liberal nor Conservative.

hossman's avatar

Hmmm. . . it’s been MY experience that most people who don’t identify themselves as either liberal or conservative lack the intestinal fortitude to commit to a viewpoint, but I digress. Ava, one of the great curses of American education for the last few generations (I can’t speak as to other countries or generations before me) is that we have taught our students to form opinions based upon criticism of works, summaries of works, instructor’s opinions of works, textbooks, and the current politically correct or conventional wisdom opinion of works, RATHER than a critical reading of the works themselves. Thus, you have the situation you describe, where ignorance fails to prohibit the formation and expression of an opinion. Why we are so reluctant to admit ignorance, why ignorance has such a negative vibe now, is beyond me. Orwell was close to the mark when he said “Ignorance is Strength,” which I would amend to “the Awareness of Ignorance is Strength.” While I am as flawed as anyone else, one of the areas I do try to focus upon improving is my awareness of the scope of my ignorance. I may not always be able or willing to correct it, but I should be at least aware of it.

Yet so many of us are willing to vehemently assert positions without any foundation in fact or logic. You enjoy Rand. You find value in her works (which are not only amazingly well written, but insightfully apply logic to fact, but that’s my opinion, but at least I base it on an informed reading of her work). Yet you receive criticism from others based upon their 3rd hand criticism of something they have not read. And nothing you say will be able to sway their conviction, nor will they find it necessary to read the works to have some foundation for their belief. It is my opinion that this is one of the underlying hypocrisies of modernism and post-modernism, that so many who wish to label themselves as “progressive” or “intellectual” indulge in the same blind fervor of faith that created the Inquisition. In fact, much of academia today routinely indulges in an intellectual Inquisition, seeking to purge the heresy of real critical thought from the safety of what is “accepted as true,” with no real basis. It has been my observation that, contrary to the opinions of elitist liberals and conservatives alike, that ignorance and stupidity are often far more obvious among the educated and privileged in America than among the “masses,” because only the educated and privileged have the luxury of indulging in useless pursuits, while most others are too busy surviving.

It is frequently amazing to me to hear politicians, experts, and people of every stripe make assertions that are obviously, provably illogical or wrong, and when their error is logically demonstrated, they feel threatened and insist on clutching to their “opinion” rather than using their brain. Or those who then assert it is not logic, or fact, or ethic that is important, but rather intention. Perhaps the most obvious demonstration to ME, due to my background, is the complete and deliberate ignorance of economics, psychology and human motivation that forms the basis of much of our politics, or the knowing and deliberate misstatement of the past in an effort to rewrite history to suit an agenda. Other areas would be more glaring to others. When I do find it necessary to oppose the viewpoints of others, I at least make the effort to research the basis, or lack thereof, of their position so I can make a knowing and informed criticism. Thus, I have researched in response to posts here the wisdom of Ron Paul and the diabolical and cunning conspiracies of the Bush Administration re 9/11, etc., no matter how wacked out it appears both before and after study.

As Robert Heinlein said: “Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and annoys the pig.” You know the saying about opinions, like rectums, everyone’s got one. If they admit they are ignorant and uninformed, make no effort to correct their ignorance, yet don’t have the grace, courtesy and decency to remain silent and conceal their piggishness, all you can do is acknowledge their porcine ignorance and move on. The sad reality is that most people I meet have no idea HOW (as opposed to WHAT, everyone’s entitled to an opinion, I’m referring to the process of critically forming an opinion) to think. I love when someone disagrees with me, as long as they bring to the table some valid ideas. It’s the blithering I can’t stand.

But it is nice to see Poser thinking.

hossman's avatar

Sorry, guess my really long post failed to directly answer your question, like most of the posts above. In short, YES. (Although I consider MYSELF to be quite liberal, most “liberals” would not agree with me)

Poser's avatar

@ hossman—I didn’t say liberal or conservative. I said Liberal or Conservative.

hossman's avatar

Ah. And the significance of the capitalization would be? As you used those two words both no caps and capitalized? As I must admit one of my areas of ignorance, despite my best efforts to the contrary, is telepathy.

Poser's avatar

The capitalization was an indicator that it is more than simply a matter of the position of one’s opinions. Rather, Conservative of Liberal becomes the entire litmus test by which to define oneself. Those who call themselves either, in my experience, have a hard time even listening to the views of those who call themselves the other, much less trying to come to some sort of win-win agreement when their viewpoints diverge.

These two narrow-minded ideologies are the foundations of some truly horrifying extremes. What is the difference between a liberal and a socialist? A Christian Conservative and an Islamic radical? Only a matter of degree.

hossman's avatar

Wow. All that meaning was to have been conveyed to me in a capitalized letter. Hope I didn’t miss any commas. I also fail to see why it is necessary or even desirable at all times to reach compromise or “win-win agreements.” Sometimes, one side or another is simply right. Sometimes, compromise dilutes the solution to ineffectuality. Sometimes, there is simply no possibility of compromise. As our political system is inherently a partisan and adversarial process, sometimes there has to be a winner and a loser. There is no shame in being conservative or liberal. It is your choice to view them as “narrow-minded ideologies” which perhaps says more about you than liberalism or conservatism. Further, your comparison between a Christian Conservative and Islamic radical, and the implication that both are horrifying extremes, is both bigoted and offensive (not that that is new to your posts). Perhaps you could provide me links to news stories about the most recent beheading or bombing committed by Christian Conservatives. Or the last time the Baptists car bombed the Methodists. I certainly hope this was poor drafting on your part and not an intentional statement. Perhaps the problem you have with both Christian conservatives and Islamic radicals, is that both would take offense to your suggestion to minors they should go out and “bang some tail.” I also fail to see how liberal and conservative could possibly be the “foundation” of either Christian Conservatives or Islamic radicals, as you are evidently making the common misconception that a conservative Christian is necessarily the same as a political conservative or an economic conservative, which would ignore the strong history of Southern Democrats, who may be very liberal politically but very conservative and fundamentalist in a religous context, or Islamic radicals, who may be fundamentalist or radical in a religious context, but still be Marxist or political liberals. Seems to me you’re the one who is being loose with the labeling here. If you are going to capitalize Liberal or Conservative, you should probably as a matter of grammar reserve that for parties or organizations that use that as part of their name, as the capitalization suggests it is a proper noun rather than an adjective. Christian and Islamic, as the proper names of religions, would of course always be capitalized.

Poser's avatar

First of all, I didn’t say anything about compromise. I said win-win, which, as I’m sure you can deduce, means that each side walks away a winner. Who decided, by the way, that our political system should be inherently adversarial? Is it really an effective method? Yet, the two major ideological parties spend the majority of their time trying to “one-up” the other, simply to gain or maintain political power, rather than address any real issues. Yes, the fact that I identify with neither does say a lot about me. There is also no shame in being neither liberal nor conservative.

I stand by my “comparison” of Christian Conservatives and Islamic radicals, though I never said or intended to imply that both are horrifying extremes. Yes, many Islamic terrorists condone or commit violence in the name of their religion, and most Muslims condemn these actions. Just as most Christians condemn the actions of those who blow up abortion clinics or kill the doctors who perform them. But the same Muslims who condemn violence believe that their laws should reflect the will of Allah, just as many Christian Conservatives believe that our laws should reflect the will of God. I never compared the actions of the two groups. I was saying that their politics are founded upon the same principles. It’s simply a matter of degree.

You call yourself liberal, yet you seem to form your entire opinion of me based on three words. I thought liberals were supposed to be open-minded and tolerant. Not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy or tradition. Yet you formed your entire opinion of my morality, maturity, parenting skills and intelligence on one statement. And you know nothing about me. Sounds pretty narrow-minded to me.

hossman's avatar

Yes, Poser. When you suggest to a minor sincerely seeking advice that he “bang some tail,” when you imply that men pretend to be caring merely so they can have sex, and you insult the minor seeking advice, that is more than “three words,” and your failure to apologize to the minor for it is shameful, and again I say to you “Shame, shame, shame” and if you think that I formed an opinion of your morality, maturity, parenting skills and intelligence based on your own statements, then you are being unusually perceptive. Your own statements have said plenty about you, and far more than I cared to know. Making logical conclusions from your own statements is by no means narrow-minded.

And since you’ve decided to bring it up, and the “apology” you sent in a comment to me was not marked private, so everyone going to my account can view it, I will presume you meant for it to be public and will repost it here.

In response to my responses to Poser’s shameful comments to a minor, Poser sent the following “apology”: “Hoss, if I’ve offended your delicate sensibilities somehow, I apologize. I didn’t realize you were so easily offended by a complete stranger on the internet.”

First, this is a non-apology. If you respond by apologizing for the offended person being “delicate” and “easily offended,” but not for your own offensive comments, such as carelessly advocating a person below the age of consent engage in behavior that is physically, psychologically and socially risky and possibly illegal, and then insult this underage person, then, surprise, it is not an apology but rather an additional insult.

You also say a lot when you say “liberals were supposed to be open-minded and tolerant.” Not only is that not part of the common definitions of liberal, but it implies that conservatives are narrow-minded and intolerant, which is a bigoted statement. Open mindedness and tolerance have nothing to do with liberalism and conservatism.

If you are suggesting I am wrong about your parenting, then you need to make some apologies regarding your prior statements. How would you like it if someone suggested your son should indiscriminately “bang some tail?” Or perhaps that is your parenting advice, which would tell me more about you. So how about it, Poser? Do you have the testicular fortitude to admit your advice to “bang some tail” was offensive, and to apologize to the young man you gave it to? Or perhaps you wish to defend that statement, and give some of us more reason to make assertions about you. I have been fair enough to acknowledge when I believe you are right, but if you think I am going to withhold my opinion of the shamefulness of your prior conduct, please rest assured I will continue to quote you back at yourself until you apologize. Shame, shame, shame.

jezter's avatar

hossman you rock!

Poser's avatar

Hoss, I don’t “need” to make any apologies to anyone. First of all, I really don’t care what you deduce about me as a parent or human being as you are really nothing more than a time-waster for me (nothing personal—much of the internet is).

Secondly, I answered a question with my opinion. Was it crass? Of course. I was trying to make a point. When someone asks for opinions, they are likely to get many. It’s their own decision to either take them or leave them. I wasn’t being rude to anyone in my original answer to the question. Upon re-reading some of the things I wrote personally to bybvibe after he made some disparaging comments about me, I was probably too harsh. And you’re right, I should probably apologize to him for calling him a name. That was rude. But to answer your question, I would hope that my son would take any advice he received from a stranger on the internet with many grains of salt (as I also hope bybvibe did). As you yourself said, “Opinions are like rectums.”

And just for the record, I pulled these two definitions for “liberal” directly from

7. free from prejudice or bigotry; tolerant.
8. open-minded or tolerant, esp. free of or not bound by traditional or conventional ideas, values, etc.

I don’t think saying that liberals are open-minded and tolerant is the same as saying that conservatives aren’t. That is a straw man that ignores my point.

hossman's avatar

Then you must apologize for your comments TO BYBVIBE. Not some nonapology to me. You were wrong, you behaved shamefully. Apologize for it. I’ll be blunter. I used the phrase “testicular fortitude” to challenge you to apologize to a minor, whom you now admit you insulted, you now dance around but kinda admit you gave bad advice to, I have used the words “shame, shame, shame” to try to shame you, I have pursued you with facts and quotes from your shameful posts to try to persuade or embarrass you, and YOU STILL CAN’T APOLOGIZE.

So I’ll make it as plain and blunt as possible. A man admits his mistakes and apologizes when he has been wrong or insulting. You STILL refuse to apologize to bybvibe publicly. QED, I logically conclude you are not a man, as you lack the balls to apologize for your shameful conduct. Shame, shame, shame. Evidently you are not a man, as you have expressed men are only caring as an act to obtain sex. Shame, shame, shame. I’ll be blunt. You’re not much of a man. As a matter of biology, I reluctantly admit you must be referred to as male, but please don’t insult men by including yourself among us. To be clear and honest, given you still refuse to apologize to a minor for your shameful conduct, I really think of you less as a human being, and more as a parasite capable of self-expression. Shame, shame, shame. But that’s just my opinion. Like a rectum, I have one. I don’t insist on being one. How can anyone with even a shred of decency admit they were crass to a minor honestly seeking help with a problem and NOT apologize. I will continue to bring what you now admit was “crass” and “harsh” to your attention at every opportunity. The fact you do not feel a “need” to apologize also says a lot to you.

Shame, shame, shame. Grow up, admit you made a mistake, apologize to bybvibe publically, and join the species. You should be ashamed you targeted a minor for such crass conduct. You should be ashamed bybvibe outclassed you every step of the way. He may be too polite to take you to task, but I will. You should be ashamed bybvibe shows far more maturity and is a far better man, evidently, than you can bring yourself to be.

I was about to call you a Neanderthal, but I don’t wish to offend pre-sapiens.

joli's avatar

Reading Ayn Rand liberated my mind many moons ago, prior to my entering my twenties. She’s entertaining in her character depictions and exposes the human element in situations and their outcomes. I would get one of her fantastically long novels from the library and put my nose in it 24/7 stopping only to snack, sleep and put my eight hours in at work! My favorite was placed in Russia. The story left me feeling great compassion for the people there and how their politics have shaped their character and history.

hossman's avatar

joli, if you liked that Rand story, set in Russia, have you tried reading any Solzehnitsyn? (I’m betting I spelled it wrong).

joli's avatar

No, I haven’t. I stopped reading fiction shortly after the Ayn Rand obsession. Once in a while I’ll find something to pull me away from my dry attention to the truth. Thanks for the suggestion! I’ll check it out.

hossman's avatar

Joli, sometimes fiction can be the greatest conveyor of truth. Solzehnitsyn’s fiction was actually almost completely autobiographical, and his exposure of the truth about the gulag system was one of the nails in the coffin of Soviet human rights abuses. He didn’t get the Nobel Prize for just writing a good read.

But if you want to stick with nonfiction, might I suggest Marcus Aurelius? I am always amazed that his work is so contemporary in application. If you read a modern translation of his essays regarding the decay of the Roman Empire, you find yourself thinking he must be writing about the U.S. He is amazingly perceptive, intuitive, but yet rational and logical.

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