A quick rebuttal of Ayn Rand

In her book, The Virtue of Selfishness, Ayn Ran says – “No man, neither Negro nor white, has any claim to the property of another man. A man’s rights are not violated by a private individual’s refusal to deal with him”.

The second sentence has to be understood in context. It’s not always the case that someone’s rights are not violated by a private individual’s refusal to trade with him or her.

For instance, let’s say a hurricane hits a small town in South Florida. The town has no power or running water. However, there is one convenience store that has electricity (from a generator) and is selling bottles of water. If the store owner is a racist and refuses to sell to black people, then Rand’s statement is false. Let’s say the only other functional business is four hours away. If it’s impossible to make a trip to and fro on a single tank of gasoline then the survival, and therefore, the rights of these private individuals are being violated. Even if the store itself is a gas station, not all the black customers would have enough gas to make the initial trip and the gas station would run out of gas in a matter of hours. And they would be unable to procure fuel trucks to refill their pumps due to the circumstances.

Another problem with Ayn Rand’s understanding of private property is that she puts it on a pedestal. Private property rights can do no wrong. It’s a zero sum game. She conveniently ignores how some people may have acquired their private property. Some may have worked hard and their property is legitimate, but others may have cheated people out of their labor power. She ignores exploitation and the capitalist’s accumulation of surplus value.

Regardless, Ayn Rand was a good writer. She has some invaluable insight on the subject of mental health. Having read Virtue of Selfishness, I came to the conclusion that her strong suit was not politics, but psychology.





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