The Charitable Ayn Rand

James Peron
Nov 4 · 10 min read

Gawker once said of Ayn Rand: “Self-sacrifice is for idiots, duh! Ayn Rand use to mock poor beggars for being so poor.” Of course, no source is cited for this claim. So how did Atlas Shrugged deal with such a person in the novel? No doubt Rand had her “hero” shove any beggars into ovens to die the wretched death they deserve. Or did she?

Luckily Rand actually describes an incident beginning on page 654 of Atlas Shrugged. Heroine Dagny Taggart is riding in one of the trains of her company. She exits her car and hears a conductor screaming: “Get off. God damn you!” She describes the victim of the scream as an “aging tramp” who “had taken refuge” in the corner of Dagny’s vestibule. He was someone with “no strength” but his eyes were “observant, fully conscious, but devoid of any reaction.” The conductor has the door open and the train is slowing for a curve. It is clear the conductor wants to push the man out into the darkness.

Of course, according to true Randian inspiration, Dagny rushes forward and kicks the man to his death — or NOT!

Dagny actually looks at both men and sees neither views the other properly: “The two men were not human beings to each other any longer.” The tramp gets up, ready to jump, grabbing the small bundle of his belongings. Dagny yells out: “Wait.” Rand wrote, “‘Let him be my guest,’ she said to the conductor, and held her door open for the tramp, ordering, ‘Come in.’”

She offers the man a seat and asks him when he last ate. He responds, it might have been the day before. “She rang for the porter and ordered dinner for two, to be brought to her car from the diner.” Damn, Rand, she missed a chance to prove her critics aren’t liars!

The tramp and Dagny talk. He tells her he doesn’t want her to get in trouble. She wonders why she would, and he says because she must be traveling with a tycoon to be in her own car. She says she isn’t. He assumes she must a tycoon’s wife then. She says she isn’t. He responds with a knowing, “Oh,” implying her purpose was that of a prostitute or mistress. Was this where she sends him flying to his demise? Damn, not again! Instead, she laughed and told him she ran the railroad. They share dinner and conversation for several more pages. What a monster!

Gothamist used the same kind of smear, one you expect from bigots. Bigots tend to operate with a stereotype of the person or group they hate? Ditto for Randaphobes. Bigots also tend to have limited knowledge about the group or person they hate. Ditto again when it comes to Rand bigots. So, yes, this is a form of bigotry rooted in the same ignorance and hatred as other forms of bigotry. Gothamist can’t even start an article on Rand without issuing an insult — much the way neo-Nazis can’t mention Jews with first throwing in insults: “Ayn Rand’s dogmatic 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged, beloved by simpleton frat boys and self-serving millionaires alike…..”

How does that work? Outside the president, who has no affinity for Rand, how do simpletons become millionaires? There have been lots of insults thrown at Atlas, but this is the first time I’ve run into anyone who honestly thinks it is a book for simpletons. But then, I said “honestly thinks” didn’t I? And there is no indication this is a honest thought at all.

Not only did Rand never damn generosity, but she was herself generous. Numerous people were given places to live at Rand’s own expense. She sent food packages after World War II to friends and family. When she learned of a former teacher (Maria Strachova) in a settlement camp in Europe she sponsored the woman to come to the U.S., and allowed her to live in Ayn’s own home for a year.

Consider what happened when Rand came across the Kato family. These Japanese-Americans were incarcerated in race-based concentration camps by the “benevolent” administration of Franklin Roosevelt. The husband and wife, along with a young daughter and small son, had been imprisoned entirely due to their race. But, Roosevelt said all the things that make the Left go soft in the brain, so he’s a good guy — unlike that evil bitch, Ayn Rand.

As for the evil bitch, well she discovered the Kato family had lost everything. Ryoji Kato lost his business when he was arrested due to his ethnicity. His wife Haruno, had worked in their business as well. They also lost their home. Once they were released from FDR’s concentration camp they had nothing left. Daughter June was staying in a church-run hostel helping people from the camps trying to regain their life. Younger brother Ken was with his parents. Rand certainly knew what this felt like. Her father lost his business to the Bolsheviks the same way Mr. Kato lost his business. Her family lost their home and she was a refugee as well.

At the time, Rand and husband, Frank O’Connor, lived in a rural area north of Los Angeles, now part of Chatsworth. Rand hired Haruno as a cook — even though June says her mother couldn’t cook very well and in spite of Rand already having a cook. Ryoji was hired to help Frank with the flowers he grew on the property — even though Mr. Kato had no previous experience gardening. Ten-year-old Ken was a bit young to be hired for anything. As for June, though she had just graduated high school and had no experience, Rand hired her to come to the house every weekend and do typing. In addition to paying a salary to June, Ryoji and Haruno, Rand also gave the family two rooms in her house so they had a place to live. Damn, apparently she didn’t know generosity was against her own philosophy. No one told her. But then, she was such a monster, who would dare? In addition to the Kato family another resident in Rand’s home at that time was Maria Strachova, an elderly refugee who had taught English to Rand as a child, who lived with Ayn for a year.

Rosalie Wilson was a small child when she met Rand and O’Connor. Her mother was once engaged to O’Connor’s brother Joe, but eventually married someone else. When the Wilson couple were having a hard time in their relationship they went away to try to mend it. Rand and O’Connor gave Rosalie a home with them, even though they lived in a one bedroom apartment. At night Ayn and Frank would sit in the lounge while Rosalie slept in the only bed. After a few hours they would trade with her, sleeping in their bed while she finished the night on the couch. Rosalie remained close to Ayn until one summer when she and her mother were invited to Rand’s home for dinner. Her mother, who Rosalie describes “as a real bigot,” made some bigoted remarks to Rand which ended the friendship between the mother and Ayn. Rosalie says she never contacted Rand again because she was too humiliated by what her mother had done.

Tammy Vaught lived with her parents and brother in Titusville, Florida, when Ayn Rand came to town to see the Apollo 11 launch. Due to the high number of people in town for the launch the local Chamber of Commerce arranged for visitors to stay with families. Rand and her husband stayed with the Vaughts. Tammy remembered her as “just a nice lady” and didn’t know of Rand’s fame, and clearly didn’t realize what her reputation was supposed to be.

Even though her parents told her not to bother the visitors, Tammy did bother Ayn, to have conversations with her and to tell her about her stamp collection. For years afterwards Rand would send Tammy stamps for her collection, from letters she received. Ayn also periodically called her on the phone to see how she was doing and if her gifts had arrived. Tammy described Rand:

I didn’t know her as an artist: I knew her as a friend, through the stamps, and things like that. It was more of a grandmother, or an older person, that just took an interest in you, and just kept in touch. I don’t think as a child I had any idea of how famous she was. She didn’t act like a famous person. I didn’t know of her work.

Damn the woman! Has she no decency? And she got worse, Tammy’s father said, “I was surprised about her not having children, because she seemed to be so good with them.” And it doesn’t end with that horror: “She seemed to enjoy the children so much. They were swimming in our pool, and she just enjoyed listening to them laughing.” Ayn Rand enjoyed hearing the laughter of children — clearly she was a beast and should have been burnt at the stake.

Less well known was Rand’s friendly relationship with the Pacifica radio network, which was seen as largely to the left of center. The Pacifica stations would air speeches Rand gave and she respected them for this. Pacifica included KPFA (Berkeley), KPFK (Los Angeles) and WBAI (New York). Like many public-radio stations Pacifica had to raise funds and Rand was happy to help. She gave them copyright to a speech she gave, The Philosophical Vacuum, which they published in a book, The Exacting Ear, to raise revenue. The book was published by Pantheon in May, 1966. As far as I know this is the only time Rand gave the copyright of a speech away during her lifetime.

She also appeared on the station during their fundraising period to support them.

Similarly she went out of her way to help the Ford Hall Forum raise funds for their lecture series in Boston. Rand had been giving annual lectures at the Forum every spring. She appeared at several fundraisers for them. One Boston Globearticle said she was a speaker at a fundraiser along with Roger Baldwin of the ACLU while another says a fundraiser included “Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward… philosopher Ayn Rand, cvil rights leader Jesse Jackson, playwright Gore Vidal” and others.

During the Q&A period at her 1973 appearance Rand was asked about remuneration for appearing at the Forum. Moderator Reuben Laurie would repeat the questions. He said to Rand:

Perhaps Miss Rand knows what you already know because of my constant appeals, of the financial difficulties of the Forum, and part of the reason for the financial difficulties of the Forum derives from the fact that the fees charged by speakers have grownreally quite enormously, and you on the other hand have been a constant friend of the Forum and have not sought to take advantage of this, and he regards this as an interesting paradox, since he would say that this is altruism, and he wonders what your defense of this is.”

In her answer Rand chastised the question, “The main point of your question is that you assume that the only possible values one can derived from any activity are financial, therefore anyone who wants to be a speaker does only for a very high fee. Well, you know, that is placing your self-interest terribly low and terribly cheap.” Rand said the question implied she had “no interest in spreading ideas, which I believe to be right and true” and thus has “no interest in a free society.”

The Christian Science Monitor reported, after Rand’s death, that she “never raised her fee from $300 and paid her own expenses” while other speakers were now routinely charging $3000 to appear.

Obviously Rand’s critics are either intentionally confusing what she believed, or they simply have no idea what she said. She did damn a moral creed of altruism and self-sacrificing. She didn’t think any human was a sacrifice for any other human. She was a critic of altruism and carefully defined what she meant by the term: “that service to others is the only justification for his [an individual’s] existence.” She warned people to never “confuse altruism with kindness, good will or respect for the rights of others.” Apparently Rand’s whiny critics never actually read what she wrote, otherwise they wouldn’t have made this kind of accusation. The accusation itself proves their own ignorance about her. There is nothing wrong with knowing little to nothing about Rand and her ideas — but these authors are speaking to the public as if they are knowledgeable, when clearly they aren’t. But, bigots are rarely knowledgeable regarding the objects of their irrational hatred.

One of the traits of a bigot is he strips his prey of their humanity. He presents cardboard characters who are supposed to fit some predetermined, evil mould. While such blatant bigotry is no longer tolerated when it comes to gays, blacks, Jews, women, etc., some seem to relish it when it comes to Ayn Rand — even if they have to lie to do it. Then lying is how bigots convince themselves their bigotry is actually a clever perception the rest of us “simpletons” don’t see.

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The Radical Center

A blog for the Moorfield Storey Institute: a liberaltarian think tank.

James Peron

Written by

James Peron is the president of the Moorfield Storey Institute, was the founding editor of Esteem a LGBT publication in South Africa under apartheid.

The Radical Center

A blog for the Moorfield Storey Institute: a liberaltarian think tank.

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