Ayn Rand is someone I’ve heard of in the past, but up until now, haven’t really paid much attention to. I “got into it” with someone over Facebook a few weeks ago regarding “Randian disciples” and learned a bit more about her in the process. Then, at the end of April, NPR’s On Point had a discussion about her, specifically with reference to the Tea Party. The architect of the Republican Congress’ budget plan, Paul Ryan, has referenced her on multiple occasions. There is also a movie out, “Atlas Shrugged: Part I,” which was released in a partial attempt to capitalize on her resurgence, though Rotten Tomatoes currently has the film sitting at around 9% positive ratings.
Rand grew up in Russia and moved to the United States in 1926. She was a philosopher and writer, and is perhaps best known for her books, “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged,” both products of the mid-20th Century. Due in part to her upbringing and the general climate in the post-World War II world, she embraced the concepts of Objectivism and was very much a rational individualist. She opposed in Collectivism, an idea that contributes to Socialism and Communism. Because of her beliefs, and the stories she told in her books, fiscal Conservatives, and especially Libertarians, have embraced her and in some ways treat her as a figurehead for their ideas. Alan Greenspan was one of the founding members of Rand’s ironically named “Collective,” a group of close confidants and proponents of Objectivism.
The key idea behind her overall philosophy, as I understand it, is that it is wrong to take what is one person’s and give it to someone else. That the purpose of one’s life is to pursue your own personal happiness and your own self-interest. One could call this whole idea “Randian Economics.” Or, as she puts it:
“My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.”
– Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
Any of you that know me, however, would have another quote come to mind. Something completely different, and the antithesis of this philosophy, in my view:
“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”
“Or the one.”
– James T. Kirk
Which brings me to Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek (pictured atop the camera in the image above). I won’t go into the history behind all of it, but let’s just say that if I were going to choose a side between one philosopher from the mid-20th Century and another, I’ll go with Roddenberry. His vision of the future is one that I’d like to live in. One where money is not the driving force for all we do. Where the desires to serve humanity and all others surpass the desire to serve yourself. Where humans recognize that they are only able to be more than themselves when they are together with others. Where no one human is above anyone else, at least in terms of rights and respect.
Bear in mind that these ideas weren’t necessarily revolutionary in the 1960s, but they weren’t made publicly available on television often, either. At the time, it was highly irregular to have a Japanese American man, an African American woman, and a guy playing a young Russian on the same bridge, serving together, working together, helping each other. Roddenberry infused his fictional universe with hope for the future through Collectivism, where we all share what we have and work together toward a common good.
And so, I wish to coin the term “Roddenberrian Economics.” I think we’d all be better off if we took some pointers from the man.
Heck, I’d even argue that Gene Roddenberry has more followers than Ayn Rand does.