Monday, August 27, 2012

Ayn Rand Didn't Like The Wisdom That Came From The Prairie

Writing in The New Yorker, Judith Thurman examines the relationship between Rose Wilder Lane, daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Ayn Rand.

Lane and Rand exchanged collegial letters for a while in the late nineteen-forties and early nineteen-fifties. But when Lane invoked the Biblical imperative to “love thy neighbor as thyself,” and protested that “without some form of mutual co√∂peration, it is literally impossible for one person on this planet to survive,” Rand “tore apart [her] logic” and denounced it as collectivist heresy. That sor of impulse, she concluded (to help your neighbor save his burning house, for example) led inexorably “to the New Deal.”
Rand’s ruthless supremacism, however—her stark division of humankind into “makers and takers”—leads inexorably to a society like the one that staged “The Hunger Games.” And it’s to Lane’s credit that, for all her zealotry, she couldn’t quite transcend the instinct to give succor. Should Paul Ryan decide to revisit the “Little House” books, he will certainly hear the congenial echo of Lane’s polemics in them, though tempered by something more humane. They exalt rugged self-reliance, but as Lane suggested rather plaintively in her argument with Rand, the pioneers would have perished (in greater numbers than they did) had they embraced the philosophy of every man for himself.
South Dakota is still filled with people who believe "America elected a dictator" when Americans elected FDR. Some might still consider Social Security a "Ponzi scheme." Some might be "rugged individualists"who grow their own vegetables. Lane did all of these things. She also battled depression throughout her long life, but she still saw that Rand's theories taken out to their logical conclusion would create a dystopia. Hopefully, more South Dakotans will adopt that view as well as Wilder's libertarian individualism.

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