BioShock's critique of Ayn Rand & Objectivism

BioShock is not only inspired by the theory of Objectivism that Ayn Rand developed and championed in her written works--and famously fictionalized in her novel Atlas Shrugged--but the game's narrative also functions chiefly as a frightening critique of a society shaped in the image of her political and economic beliefs.  Andrew Ryan’s underwater city of Rapture (the name itself used as a double-entendre for both the height of pleasure and the biblical apocalypse) offers the player a visceral demonstration of the pitfalls of what Rand called “rational self-interest” merged with a dystopian alternate history science fiction epic.  

According to Rand:


My philosophy, Objectivism, holds that:

  1. Reality exists as an objective absolute —facts are facts, independent of man’s feelings, wishes, hopes or fears.
  2. Reason (the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses) is man’s only means of perceiving reality, his only source of knowledge, his only guide to action, and his basic means of survival.
  3. Man—every man—is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.
  4. The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire capitalism. It is a system where men deal with one another, not as victims and executioners, nor as masters and slaves, but as traders, by free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit. It is a system where no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force, and  no man may initiate the use of physical force against others . The government acts only as a policeman that protects man’s rights; it uses physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use, such as criminals or foreign invaders. In a system of full capitalism, there should be (but, historically, has not yet been) a complete separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.

  (Source: The Ayn Rand Institute, from a short description of Objectivism given in 1962.  All preceding hyperlinks link back to the Ayn Rand Institute’s site.)

In a nutshell, Rand believed that no human being “owed” any other human being in the world anything, save to be free from the threat of violence from each other, and that every man and woman should be allowed to pursue their own happiness and economic interests without regard to anyone else.   Her theories hold many diverse implications for politics and economics, as well as religion, but the creators of BioShock primarily use the game to explore a single question that Rand takes for granted in her fiction and in her philosophy: “What would a society look like if everyone were really only in it for themselves and owed no allegiance to anyone but themselves?”

The Downside of Hands-Off Capitalism: Rand’s Blindside and Ryan’s All- Too-Human Lust for Power

BioShock succeeds as a serious social critique, rather than just an extremely well-designed video game, largely because of its willingness to tackle the main tenets of Objectivism head-on; not by lengthy diatribes delivered through main characters (even if Andrew Ryan’s famous mid-game speech provides a griping visual reminder that arguments over free will still loom large in our modern cultural consciousness), but by dropping the player into a world where Ayn Rand’s ideas have been allowed to take hold and endure until their logical—and, some might argue, inevitable—conclusion.

[B]y filling a city with ambitious experts, trained geniuses, and breakthrough artists, Ryan set up a top-heavy class system with most Rapture citizens feeling that essential jobs such as food processing, cleaning, simple maintenance, etc. were beneath them, and thus were often ignored (as Frank Fontaine put it: "Someone had to scrub the toilets."). This led to widespread dissatisfaction when these jobs were neglected and an eventual economic collapse throughout Rapture. The social conditions resulting from the economic collapse allowed Frank Fontaine to establish the influential but undermining Fontaine's Home for the Poor and also allowed Atlas to rise to political power and openly challenge Andrew Ryan's leadership...Furthermore, in order to keep Rapture safely hidden from the parasites, Ryan strictly forbade contact with the surface, inadvertently creating a market for smuggled goods, which in turn led to the rise of Frank Fontaine's criminal enterprises. At Rapture's outset, Ryan intended this law to be Rapture's only one, but in the end, it proved to lay the groundwork for Rapture's decline and then divisive civil war."

  (Source: BioShock Wikia article on Andrew Ryan . All hyperlinks in the preceding paragraph link back to BioShock WIkia pages.) 

The city of Rapture, itself the most damning condemnation of Ayn Rand’s ideas, also functions as the ironic twist of the entire tragedy. By establishing a colony outside the confines of “normal” society and rejecting any principles but his own, Ryan laid the groundwork for his, and Rapture’s, eventual doom. The major flaw in Rand’s theory of Objectivism—and the one which the creators of BioShock seize upon most effectively in their narrative—is that it attempts to deny in ourselves a desire to nurture and empathize with other human beings by placing ourselves at the center of our own interests, to the exclusion of everyone else in our larger society.   The downfall of Rapture was a direct result of Ryan’s attempts to forbid contact with the surface, which was itself a result of Ryan’s effort to install pride as the chief virtue of his city, and deny the corrosive effect of vice and corruption that flourish in the absence of the concept of the collective good.   When the player is dramatically thrust into the heart of this dying city and gradually sees the truth of his, and Rapture’s, situation unfold around him, it’s a potent, immersive reminder that the one trait shared by all dreams of a perfect society is their habit of ignoring the insurmountable flaws in our human nature, often at their own peril.

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Posted by Ubik

BioShock is not only inspired by the theory of Objectivism that Ayn Rand developed and championed in her written works--and famously fictionalized in her novel Atlas Shrugged--but the game's narrative also functions chiefly as a frightening critique of a society shaped in the image of her political and economic beliefs.  Andrew Ryan’s underwater city of Rapture (the name itself used as a double-entendre for both the height of pleasure and the biblical apocalypse) offers the player a visceral demonstration of the pitfalls of what Rand called “rational self-interest” merged with a dystopian alternate history science fiction epic.  

According to Rand:


My philosophy, Objectivism, holds that:

  1. Reality exists as an objective absolute —facts are facts, independent of man’s feelings, wishes, hopes or fears.
  2. Reason (the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses) is man’s only means of perceiving reality, his only source of knowledge, his only guide to action, and his basic means of survival.
  3. Man—every man—is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.
  4. The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire capitalism. It is a system where men deal with one another, not as victims and executioners, nor as masters and slaves, but as traders, by free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit. It is a system where no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force, and  no man may initiate the use of physical force against others . The government acts only as a policeman that protects man’s rights; it uses physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use, such as criminals or foreign invaders. In a system of full capitalism, there should be (but, historically, has not yet been) a complete separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.

  (Source: The Ayn Rand Institute, from a short description of Objectivism given in 1962.  All preceding hyperlinks link back to the Ayn Rand Institute’s site.)

In a nutshell, Rand believed that no human being “owed” any other human being in the world anything, save to be free from the threat of violence from each other, and that every man and woman should be allowed to pursue their own happiness and economic interests without regard to anyone else.   Her theories hold many diverse implications for politics and economics, as well as religion, but the creators of BioShock primarily use the game to explore a single question that Rand takes for granted in her fiction and in her philosophy: “What would a society look like if everyone were really only in it for themselves and owed no allegiance to anyone but themselves?”

The Downside of Hands-Off Capitalism: Rand’s Blindside and Ryan’s All- Too-Human Lust for Power

BioShock succeeds as a serious social critique, rather than just an extremely well-designed video game, largely because of its willingness to tackle the main tenets of Objectivism head-on; not by lengthy diatribes delivered through main characters (even if Andrew Ryan’s famous mid-game speech provides a griping visual reminder that arguments over free will still loom large in our modern cultural consciousness), but by dropping the player into a world where Ayn Rand’s ideas have been allowed to take hold and endure until their logical—and, some might argue, inevitable—conclusion.

[B]y filling a city with ambitious experts, trained geniuses, and breakthrough artists, Ryan set up a top-heavy class system with most Rapture citizens feeling that essential jobs such as food processing, cleaning, simple maintenance, etc. were beneath them, and thus were often ignored (as Frank Fontaine put it: "Someone had to scrub the toilets."). This led to widespread dissatisfaction when these jobs were neglected and an eventual economic collapse throughout Rapture. The social conditions resulting from the economic collapse allowed Frank Fontaine to establish the influential but undermining Fontaine's Home for the Poor and also allowed Atlas to rise to political power and openly challenge Andrew Ryan's leadership...Furthermore, in order to keep Rapture safely hidden from the parasites, Ryan strictly forbade contact with the surface, inadvertently creating a market for smuggled goods, which in turn led to the rise of Frank Fontaine's criminal enterprises. At Rapture's outset, Ryan intended this law to be Rapture's only one, but in the end, it proved to lay the groundwork for Rapture's decline and then divisive civil war."

  (Source: BioShock Wikia article on Andrew Ryan . All hyperlinks in the preceding paragraph link back to BioShock WIkia pages.) 

The city of Rapture, itself the most damning condemnation of Ayn Rand’s ideas, also functions as the ironic twist of the entire tragedy. By establishing a colony outside the confines of “normal” society and rejecting any principles but his own, Ryan laid the groundwork for his, and Rapture’s, eventual doom. The major flaw in Rand’s theory of Objectivism—and the one which the creators of BioShock seize upon most effectively in their narrative—is that it attempts to deny in ourselves a desire to nurture and empathize with other human beings by placing ourselves at the center of our own interests, to the exclusion of everyone else in our larger society.   The downfall of Rapture was a direct result of Ryan’s attempts to forbid contact with the surface, which was itself a result of Ryan’s effort to install pride as the chief virtue of his city, and deny the corrosive effect of vice and corruption that flourish in the absence of the concept of the collective good.   When the player is dramatically thrust into the heart of this dying city and gradually sees the truth of his, and Rapture’s, situation unfold around him, it’s a potent, immersive reminder that the one trait shared by all dreams of a perfect society is their habit of ignoring the insurmountable flaws in our human nature, often at their own peril.

Posted by Video_Game_King

Pretty cool mini-essay on BioShock. You may wish to spice things up so that it doesn't sound like you're writing this for a college class. If you are, however, tell me what college this is, for they deserve so many high fives that their hands will eventually fly off their arms...and people will still high five them for their awesomeness.

Posted by KaosAngel

...so you watched that movie I take it.

Edited by benjaebe

 I hate Ayn Rand.

No really, I do.
Nice read though. I can't help but wonder if you wrote this just for here or for somewhere else.
Posted by Ubik
@Video_Game_King: Thanks for reading it.  I admit the tone is a bit dry, but then there's only so much you can do to spice up Ayn Rand's economic and social philosophies--unless you count this:
Poor Alan Greenspan.  I bet his safety word was "rational self-interest".
Posted by SpicyRichter

As said, great philosophy class essay! I wish games were sophisticated enough back when I took philosophy to actually be mined for material!

Edited by Ubik
@benjaebe: Actually, this blog started off as a wiki edit for the BioShock page here on GB, but it got rejected.  I can understand why; it reads like a college essay, but I still enjoyed writing it so I copied and pasted it into my blog.

Also, I hate Ayn Rand, too.  One of my best friends used to read and reread Atlas Shrugged until he could spout off long strings of her bullshit on command.  God, am I ever glad he got over that phase in his life.  
Posted by Ubik
@KaosAngel: Do you mean the bio pic about Ayn Rand's life?  I think it's on my Netflix queue, but I haven't watched it yet.  Any good?
Posted by Enigma777

It's kinda cool that we can analyze games so deeply now. If anything it shows us how much the gaming industry had developed and how complex games are nowadays. 

Posted by craigbo180
@Enigma777 said:
" If anything it shows us how much the gaming industry had developed and how complex games are nowadays.  "
Mortal Kombat 9 comes out tomorrow.
Posted by Enigma777
@craigbo180 said:
" @Enigma777 said:
" If anything it shows us how much the gaming industry had developed and how complex games are nowadays.  "
Mortal Kombat 9 comes out tomorrow. "
And Johnny Cage has a tattoo of his name on his chest. Like I said, much more complex. 
Posted by Ubik
@Enigma777: Have you ever read Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter by Tom Bissell? If you're interested at all in reading some in-depth analyses of popular games (GTAIV, Far Cry 2, BioShock, among others) it's definitely worth picking up.  The author kinda goes off on a tear about his heroine addiction late into the book (around the time he gets really into GTAIV, ironically), but that's my only real criticism of this book.  I wish there was more written on the subject. 
Posted by yoshimitz707
@craigbo180
@Enigma777 said:
" If anything it shows us how much the gaming industry had developed and how complex games are nowadays.  "
Mortal Kombat 9 comes out tomorrow.
Just like in movies, music, and books you can have games that are just plain fun as well as more serious things.
Posted by Ubik
@yoshimitz707 said:
" @craigbo180
@Enigma777 said:
" If anything it shows us how much the gaming industry had developed and how complex games are nowadays.  "
Mortal Kombat 9 comes out tomorrow.
Just like in movies, music, and books you can have games that are just plain fun as well as more serious things. "
An old English teacher of mine had a theory that for every serious dramatic film you watch you should balance it out with at least one full viewing of Top Gun (or something similar) just to keep from taking yourself too seriously.  He was a wise man.
Posted by Gamer_152

A very good read, great work.

Moderator
Posted by Underachiever007

Great read. Good work!

Posted by 234r2we232
@yoshimitz707 said:
" @craigbo180
@Enigma777 said:
" If anything it shows us how much the gaming industry had developed and how complex games are nowadays.  "
Mortal Kombat 9 comes out tomorrow.
Just like in movies, music, and books you can have games that are just plain fun as well as more serious things. "
It's true. I've seen people take MK seriously and they look like fools as a consequence.
Posted by craigbo180
@Enigma777 said:
" @craigbo180 said:
" @Enigma777 said:
" If anything it shows us how much the gaming industry had developed and how complex games are nowadays.  "
Mortal Kombat 9 comes out tomorrow. "
And Johnny Cage has a tattoo of his name on his chest. Like I said, much more complex.  "
Character development at its finest.
Posted by Ubik
@Gamer_152 & Underachiever007:  Thanks for taking the time to read it and for the compliment.  Much appreciated.
Posted by HandsomeDead
@Enigma777 said:
" It's kinda cool that we can analyze games so deeply now. If anything it shows us how much the gaming industry had developed and how complex games are nowadays.  "
Yeah, one game from 4 years ago really proves the industry has pushed on to mature topics like those discussed in Just Cause 2 and Bulletstorm. Also, I'm currently about a third of the way through Atlas Shrugged and really enjoying it. I don't get the hate.
Posted by Gamer_152
@Ubik said:
" @Gamer_152 & Underachiever007:  Thanks for taking the time to read it and for the compliment.  Much appreciated. "
No problem. I thought you might also like to know I recommended this blog post for next weeks community spotlight.
Moderator
Posted by RsistncE

Objectivism is wrong. Post-modernism and, by extension, constructivism is correct. /thread

Posted by babblinmule

I actually studied Rand about 4 months after Bioshock came out. Needless to say that I did pretty damn well on that paper (as well as giving me an excuse to play Bioshock - ITS EDUCATIONAL DAMMIT!!!)

Posted by Ubik
@HandsomeDead said:
" @Enigma777 said:
" It's kinda cool that we can analyze games so deeply now. If anything it shows us how much the gaming industry had developed and how complex games are nowadays.  "
Yeah, one game from 4 years ago really proves the industry has pushed on to mature topics like those discussed in Just Cause 2 and Bulletstorm. Also, I'm currently about a third of the way through Atlas Shrugged and really enjoying it. I don't get the hate. "
Honestly, the thing that bugs me the most about Ayn Rand is that she not only that attempts to rationalize selfishness, but that she goes on to proclaim that it's the highest virtue we have.  I'm no psychiatrist, but I think in hindsight it's pretty obvious that her childhood experiences and the fate of her family at the hands of the state in the early days of the Soviet Union left a deep psychological scar on her that she spent most of her life trying to come to grips with; I think this found its greatest expression in her work on Objectivism, which is itself essentially the antithesis of communism and socialism.  

Also, she always sounded like a giant bitch to me.
Posted by actionTACO

bioshock was boring because i expected a scathing indictment of objectivism and all i got was a scathing indictment against giving yourself super powers


not to mention making the antagonist of bioshock 2 some crazy socialist. "extremism on both sides is bad! the answer lies in the middle! thanks south park!!"
Posted by Ubik
@Gamer_152: Thanks, man.  That was really nice of you.
Posted by MoonlightMoth

 @Ubik: 
How do you account for the little sisters? If Rapture is truly an example of Objectivism in action, why then is there this essentially slave workforce? Every man, woman and child is an end in of themselves, so how come they exist as they do? I doubt these children wanted to be as such. Ryan's sanction of their existence seems somewhat in contradiction to Objectivism.

Posted by tourgen

Great post, a very good read.


Also, have you read anything on the cult that has grown up around Rand's ideas?  I think it qualifies as a cult, it has all of the major traits and it's extremely frightening.  Did you also know that the republican proposed budget recently introduced in the house comes from a Rand-ian?  The world is getting scary.
Posted by MildMolasses
@Ubik said:
" @Video_Game_King: Thanks for reading it.  I admit the tone is a bit dry, but then there's only so much you can do to spice up Ayn Rand's economic and social philosophies--unless you count this:
 
Poor Alan Greenspan.  I bet his safety word was "rational self-interest". "


That's awesome.

 

But yes, one of the reasons I loved Bioshock so much was that I loved seeing a world that had descended into chaos exactly the way anyone with sense knows that a Randian society would

Posted by Ubik
@tourgen said:
" Great post, a very good read.

Also, have you read anything on the cult that has grown up around Rand's ideas?  I think it qualifies as a cult, it has all of the major traits and it's extremely frightening.  Did you also know that the republican proposed budget recently introduced in the house comes from a Rand-ian?  The world is getting scary.
"
I totally agree, the weird following Rand has inspired over the years is really scary.  What really scares, though, is when major players in our economy--like former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, a "disciple" of Rand--use her ideas to shit all over our economy.  There's a really cool article about it on Common Dreams.org, if you're interested.
Posted by Ubik
@AllIsHeresy said:
"  @Ubik:  How do you account for the little sisters? If Rapture is truly an example of Objectivism in action, why then is there this essentially slave workforce? Every man, woman and child is an end in of themselves, so how come they exist as they do? I doubt these children wanted to be as such. Ryan's sanction of their existence seems somewhat in contradiction to Objectivism. "
Funny you should mention the little sisters, Alls.  I was going to do a part 2 of this blog that dealt with the unrestricted expanse of scientific research in Rapture, but I didn't know if anyone would want to read it (or even if they wanted to read this one), but maybe I'll write it up after all.  I will definitely keep your criticism in mind when I do.  Thanks.
Posted by Enigma777
@HandsomeDead said:
" @Enigma777 said:
" It's kinda cool that we can analyze games so deeply now. If anything it shows us how much the gaming industry had developed and how complex games are nowadays.  "
Yeah, one game from 4 years ago really proves the industry has pushed on to mature topics like those discussed in Just Cause 2 and Bulletstorm. Also, I'm currently about a third of the way through Atlas Shrugged and really enjoying it. I don't get the hate. "
It's more than any game in the 8-16 bit era....
Posted by npeterson08

My two loves, Sociology and video games, tied into one article. Beautiful!

Also makes me even more eager to analyze BioShock Infinite's storyline.

Posted by jorbear

Where I live, I can't get away from Ayn Rand. The people here worship her as well as her philosophies. 

Good read. It will definitely give me something else to bring up when I get into another argument...
Edited by Ubik
@npeterson08: Me too.  Actually, I need to catch up on BioShock 2--it's been sitting in my Steam library for a good long while now and I haven't even installed it yet.  All of Brad's talk about the Minerva's Den DLC convinced me to buy it, but I suspect that it will take a deluge of preview coverage for Infinite before I play it.  

@jorbear: I know how you feel.  I always thought it was ironic how Rand disavowed religion, but her fans treat her writings like scripture.  They're also incredibly annoying.

Posted by ZombiePie

Good to know that you put this writing to good use.

Moderator
Posted by Ubik
@ZombiePie: Thanks, Zombie.  I appreciated your previous comments when I submitted this earlier, by the way.  You were right, this post didn't fit in that setting.
Posted by Little_Socrates

Will totally return when I read Shrugged and replay BioShock. Been far too long I've put off both those things.

Posted by Psyklon
@Ubik said:
Honestly, the thing that bugs me the most about Ayn Rand is that she not only that attempts to rationalize selfishness, but that she goes on to proclaim that it's the highest virtue we have.  I'm no psychiatrist, but I think in hindsight it's pretty obvious that her childhood experiences and the fate of her family at the hands of the state in the early days of the Soviet Union left a deep psychological scar on her that she spent most of her life trying to come to grips with; I think this found its greatest expression in her work on Objectivism, which is itself essentially the antithesis of communism and socialism.  

Also, she always sounded like a giant bitch to me.
"

You don't find it strange that you dislike her holding up selfishness as a virtue, but that it's also the antithesis of  the collectivist mindset?  The one that destroyed her family and her life, as well as countless others'?  As opposed to her individualism that saved her life and made her an icon? 
Posted by Ubik
@Psyklon said:
" @Ubik said:
Honestly, the thing that bugs me the most about Ayn Rand is that she not only that attempts to rationalize selfishness, but that she goes on to proclaim that it's the highest virtue we have.  I'm no psychiatrist, but I think in hindsight it's pretty obvious that her childhood experiences and the fate of her family at the hands of the state in the early days of the Soviet Union left a deep psychological scar on her that she spent most of her life trying to come to grips with; I think this found its greatest expression in her work on Objectivism, which is itself essentially the antithesis of communism and socialism.  

Also, she always sounded like a giant bitch to me.
"
You don't find it strange that you dislike her holding up selfishness as a virtue, but that it's also the antithesis of  the collectivist mindset?  The one that destroyed her family and her life, as well as countless others'?  As opposed to her individualism that saved her life and made her an icon?  "
I think she formed one extremist point of view (objectivisim) to combat another (communism).  Don't get me wrong, I think communism is riddled with just as many pitfalls and problems as Rand's philosophy, but that's a different blog post all together.
Posted by Oldirtybearon
@HandsomeDead said:
" @Enigma777 said:
" It's kinda cool that we can analyze games so deeply now. If anything it shows us how much the gaming industry had developed and how complex games are nowadays.  "
Yeah, one game from 4 years ago really proves the industry has pushed on to mature topics like those discussed in Just Cause 2 and Bulletstorm. Also, I'm currently about a third of the way through Atlas Shrugged and really enjoying it. I don't get the hate. "
Far Cry 2, Bioshock 2, Red Dead Redemption, GTA 4, and Fallout: New Vegas are just off the top of my head.  These games have tackled complex subject matter, and did damn fine jobs of it.

As for Ayn Rand - I view Objectivism as socially endorsed psychopathy. I can't put it any simpler than that.
Posted by Oldirtybearon
@Ubik said:
" @npeterson08: Me too.  Actually, I need to catch up on BioShock 2--it's been sitting in my Steam library for a good long while now and I haven't even installed it yet.  All of Brad's talk about the Minerva's Den DLC convinced me to buy it, but I suspect that it will take a deluge of preview coverage for Infinite before I play it.  

@jorbear: I know how you feel.  I always thought it was ironic how Rand disavowed religion, but her fans treat her writings like scripture.  They're also incredibly annoying.

"
Bioshock 2 = Communism. 

It was still very good though, even if the combat got tedious toward the end (just like Bioshock!)
Posted by DetectiveSpecial

Very well written, man. I have always been amazed that Rand has been able to get a foot in the door of the philosophy community (according to some), considering that the essence of her philosophical method comes from egoism. She focused her rhetoric to include a specific economic system and didn't dwell on the contractual aspects of it, but it is essentially a modern reworking of a fairly well known philosophical and moral theory.


I don't mean to offend anyone who loves Rand, but I find that people who attach themselves to her philosophy don't seem to have a lot of knowledge of previous (and some might argue real) philosophers. 
Thomas Hobbes was an ethical egoist, and once could argue that Andrew Ryan provided the role of the Leviathan in Rapture.

Sorry. I really don't like Ayn Rand. 

Posted by ArbitraryWater

While there are certainly philosophies that I find to be distasteful, I just kind of laugh at Ayn Rand's stuff. She's so nuts in so many ways, as are the people who are way into her philosophy. Bioshock does a great job of acting as a criticism of Objectivism and it's a pity the shooting isn't better.

Posted by Ubik
@DetectiveSpecial said:
" Very well written, man. I have always been amazed that Rand has been able to get a foot in the door of the philosophy community (according to some), considering that the essence of her philosophical method comes from egoism. She focused her rhetoric to include a specific economic system and didn't dwell on the contractual aspects of it, but it is essentially a modern reworking of a fairly well known philosophical and moral theory.

I don't mean to offend anyone who loves Rand, but I find that people who attach themselves to her philosophy don't seem to have a lot of knowledge of previous (and some might argue real) philosophers. 
Thomas Hobbes was an ethical egoist, and once could argue that Andrew Ryan provided the role of the Leviathan in Rapture.

Sorry. I really don't like Ayn Rand. 

"
Nice pull!  It's not every day you see a Leviathan reference around here.  I feel like Ayn Rand must have directly commented on social contract theory somewhere in her long-winded diatribes, but I'll be damned if I can find any mention of it from her.  I've either overlooking something very obvious or she certainly was.

 Boy, this got pretty heady real fast.  Now I feel like I should throw a raunchy boob joke in this thread just to keep our noses from pointing sharply skyward.  Instead, I thought you might appreciate this:

Posted by Ubik
@ArbitraryWater said:
" While there are certainly philosophies that I find to be distasteful, I just kind of laugh at Ayn Rand's stuff. She's so nuts in so many ways, as are the people who are way into her philosophy. Bioshock does a great job of acting as a criticism of Objectivism and it's a pity the shooting isn't better. "
True, on both counts.
Posted by beej
@HandsomeDead: Perhaps Rands philosophy about people being parasites unless they contributed to society in a meaningful way places and unwarranted ad hominem attack upon most people, and it completely glosses over the ties of mutuality that we all enjoy as members of society. The society she enjoys is founded upon all of us being willing to cooperate, any philosophy that allows for the continued oppression of groups based off of circumstances out of their control (In Rands terms is Africa a shithole because it is made up of parasites? Or perhaps its the absolute buttfucking it received, and continues to receive at the hands of the western world). People suffer based on arbitrary past injustices, Rand spouts a philosophy that would not only further magnify them but also justify and encourage the exploitation of these injustices. In short she's being a fucking bitch.
Or maybe it's the blatant hypocrisy involved in her using a government funded socialistic health program to pay for her lung cancer surgery.
I could go on and on about how stupid objectivism is. But I feel as though I've given you a taste
Posted by SethPhotopoulos

I didn't know Atlas Shrugged Part One was popular enough to be noticed.

Edited by Korolev

The main problem with Objectivism is due to the fact that it does not take into account human nature (which is exactly the same problem they communists made). Humans are selfish. But we are not entirely selfish. Co-operation does create strength and society is necessary for the advancement of humanity.
If you read Rand's books, you'll find that the heroes super-human industrialists who do everything by themselves, who need no help, and who barely behave like human beings, while the Villains are ludicrous straw-men who also don't act like real human beings. It's not much of a surprise that she chose to highlight her philosophy primarily with fictional works, because it doesn't stack up in the real world. 

Look, here are some reasons that her philosophy, while nobly intentioned, falls apart:

1) Humans need each other. Yes, yes, we've all heard of the "lone genius" inventor or scientist, but even they had help. Newton might have developed Calculus, but he first had to be educated and fed in order to do so. He himself said that he stood on the shoulders of giants. If you live in a modern day society, I'm sorry, but you COULDN'T  honestly say that your achievements are yours and yours alone. I don't care how successful you are, you only got here on the merits of those who came before. We ALL did. You owe society, whether you like it or not. Unless you march yourself out into the forest at the age of 18 and ONLY use tech YOU MADE YOURSELF, then you aren't a "self-made" man or woman. And I don't know if you work in science, but it's a communal process. VERY few discoveries are made by one man or woman working "against the odds". The vast, vast, vast, vast, VAST majority of scientific papers are published BY GROUPS of people working TOGETHER, SHARING equipment and resources and knowledge and time. Don't believe me? Read some papers on PubMed, why don't you?
2) Business people can also be jerks. In Rand's books, her inventors aren't just ludicrously intelligent super-beings who invent everything literally by themselves (which is so stupid I can't begin to tell you what's wrong with that picture. Even Einstein collaborated with others), but they are also incredibly noble, "never-do-anything-bad, never-break-the-laws" sorts of people, and I've got to tell you if YOU think that's an accurate reflection on the morals of a business person you're stupid. Business people would eat you alive if they stood to gain a profit from it. Yes, the government can be bad - but SO CAN BUSINESS FOLKS! In Australia, there was this court case in which an American company told its Australian workers to continue using Asbestos despite the fact that they KNEW (and it was proven in court that they knew) it was extremely dangerous. Lo, and behold: Many of them died and many still suffer from crippling illness. The workers fought like HELL to get compensation from the company, whose justification was "it helped us save money!". Realize, please, that companies can be jerks. Companies can be evil - just look at BAE systems who managed to get a government corruption investigation stopped because of its clout! Or what about lovable, wholesome Enron? Companies NEED to be regulated. You're a fool if you put your trust in government. But you're a bigger fool if you put your trust in businessmen who openly admit that they don't give a shit about you, and who don't answer to you.
3) At some level we ALL work for our own self-interest. Rand just didn't recognize any other kind of self-interest above obtaining power. She couldn't visualize that there could be other kinds of drives and goals. For example, as a scientist, MY interest lies in discovery and exploration and the development of technology that benefits all of humanity. I couldn't give two-hoots about collecting money and power. Rand probably couldn't understand me - my emotions and goals were probably foreign to her in the extreme. Or what about a family man who wants what's best for his children? Or what about a doctor who genuinely likes helping people for little pay? Rand saw self-interest has purely a selfish thing, when in fact, there are many forms of interest and many different types of goals. 
4) You need government. Business folk are always screaming on and on about how it's wrong and it's awful to give assistance to the poor, yet they quickly shut up when the government gives assistance to them. Many conservatives cry out for "Small government!" and "Starve the beast!" and "No to Socialism!", yet you try to cut a dollar from the immensely bloated defence budget, and they'll scream bloody murder. You try to take away money from weapons development research that goes on in government labs and they'll cry that you're cutting necessary jobs! You try to dismantle the MIND-BOGGLINGLY HUGE and INEFFICIENT Government departments which manage the military and they'll accuse you of being a yellow-bellied dove-loving coward! On one hand you cry out for small government, yet on the other, you'll fight to death to stop any reduction in government. You say "Socialized medicine is POISON!", yet have no trouble at all with Socialized Schools (i.e public schools), socialized fire brigades (i.e public fire service) or "socialized libraries" (i.e public libraries). Maybe that's the trick - just call the health care act the "Public health care act" and suddenly all opposition will disappear! The Government of the US takes care of so many things and believe me, you'd miss it if it suddenly did go away as you say you want it to.
5) You know what? You don't want to pay taxes and put up with the "Moochers?" Well, folks, it's called the woods. Go live there. Go live in the jungle. Go live off by yourself on an island. You live in society. You depend on society just as much as everyone else. What's that? You say you don't? You say you don't owe anything to anyone? Okay then! Then the rest of us can say we owe nothing to you! So, if you call yourself an objectivist, I want you to put up a sign on your door, saying "No Public Fire Brigade for me thanks! No Ambulance for me, thanks!". We'll make a deal - you don't have to pay taxes, and the rest of us can drop you like a sack of potatoes!

EDIT: And you know what? I'm going to list the achievements of government sponsored research:

1) Modern Radar
2) Nuclear Power
3) GPS
4) Satellite technology
5) Pretty much all modern rocket technology
6) The Human Genome Project (I am aware that Venter had a parallel project running alongside the sponsored one, but it used government techology and info)
7) The first computers

And countless, COUNTLESS research projects funded by the government. As anyone who is even remotely connected to science will tell you, most of the big discoveries come out of universities with GOVERNMENT FUNDING. Corporations make discoveries too, but mostly they just refine technology. Companies still don't truly understand research - they are unwilling to put money into what they call "Pie-in-the-sky" research or research that doesn't yield any immediate monetary reward, yet it is precisely that "pie-in-the-sky" research that generates the most advanced technology!  Many of the biggest discoveries were made by accident or as a side-benefit of research that many business people dismissed as worthless and wouldn't fund! 

Ayn Rand wasn't a scientist, and it shows. She knew nothing about genuine science and research. 

Posted by beej
@Korolev: Don't forget that many of the "small government" advocates are pulling in a bunch of money from farming subsidies.
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