Error Carried Forward

Monday, November 15, 2010

"What Mr. Chase didn't know about coffee, Mr. Sanborn didn't know, either."

The above quote is what I remember of a play on an old advertising slogan used by Chase and Sanborn coffee that I believe I saw as a boy in one of my parents' Mad magazines.

I was reminded of that joke about twenty years ago during Navy training in the northeast, when I had some particularly bad coffee. And I was reminded of it again over the weekend, when I read the following (via Randex):

[Whittaker] Chambers thought that [Ayn] Rand was laboring in the ideological swamps. Rand's thought was that capitalism rather than central planning would lead to the highest state of existence. Many forget but Karl Marx, like Rand, desired for man to live in an atomistic paradise free from the pains of religion and the deep-seated community of family and man's social and political nature. Marxists, however, remained stuck in the unworkability of their system. Rand articulates in Atlas Shrugged, the novel Chambers famously criticized, that man delivers himself through his labor and intellect from the burdens of his nature.

The free market for Rand is not merely a process whereby the variegated interests and desires of man can be peacefully channeled; rather, the market allows man to be a superman. One becomes the ideal man, as articulated by Rand, by being able to remove one's self from the bonds and needs of others. Rand's vision of man consists here in the replacement of love, sacrifice, and humility with a rational and atomistic egoism that defines man. Chambers argues that man defined purely atomistically, unable to know the love of God and man, slowly begins to organize the world against man. He is cut off from his being. [format edits]
Or: What Mr. Chambers didn't know about Objectivism, Mr. Reinsch, doesn't know, either.

The above excerpt comes a magazine interview of Richard M. Reinsch, who has written a biography of Chambers. Unfortunately, if you want an objective assessment of Chambers as an intellectual, I doubt you'll find one there, since it would appear that Reinsch's grasp of Ayn Rand's ideas appears to be informed entirely by Chambers, whose "review" of Atlas Shrugged is a tour de force of ignorance and dishonesty.

The best that one could hope for is that when Reinsch says something like, "Rand's thought was, " during the interview that he really means, "Rand, in Chambers' eyes, thought that," because what he claims Rand thought is not even wrong.

The whole idea that Rand claims that "man delivers himself ... from the burdens of his nature" is perhaps the most ludicrous here. Rand referred to Objectivism as "a philosophy for living on this earth" for a reason, part of which was that she hoped it would enable man to reach his potential by fully understanding -- and living in accordance with -- his nature. As for capitalism, it is merely the political system best suited for man to achieve this potential within a social context. Such a man would no more be a "superman" than a championship greyhound would be a "superpup."

There are other things wrong here. Implying that the ideas of Rand and Karl Marx are essentially the same based on some superficial similarities is a good example.

But don't take my word for it. If curiosity about Ayn Rand somehow leads you to Whittaker Chambers, read her books for yourself and make up your own mind. You will see that that is all she asks of anyone, in stark contrast to Karl Marx and Jesus Christ -- and quite to the contrary of the make-believe character of the same name pilloried by Whittaker Chambers and his legions of sycophants.

-- CAV


Josef said...

"and make up your own mind."
What a different world it would be if people actually did this.

Gus Van Horn said...

Amen, brother.

(Couldn't resist...)

Andrew Dalton said...

The whole idea that Rand claims that "man delivers himself ... from the burdens of his nature" is perhaps the most ludicrous here.

Once again, conservatives are sowing confusion between human nature and individual moral character.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks for reminding me of that New Clarion post, which I saw, but never got around to reading.

Jim's point about man's nature being set in stone, but a man's character being self-made is indeed pertinent to fully understanding just how inane the idea is that Rand thinks we need to "overcome" our nature.