Was Barack Obama thinking of Ayn Rand when he spoke against the “virtue of selfishness” ?
“[I]t’s not just charity, it’s not just that I want to help the middle class and working people who are trying to get in the middle class — it’s that when we actually make sure that everybody’s got a shot – when young people can all go to college, when everybody’s got decent health care, when everybody’s got a little more money at the end of the month – then guess what? Everybody starts spending that money, they decide maybe I can afford a new car, maybe I can afford a computer for my child. They can buy the products and services that businesses are selling and everybody is better off. All boats rise. That’s what happened in the 1990s, that’s what we need to restore. And that’s what I’m gonna do as president of the United States of America.
“John McCain and Sarah Palin they call this socialistic,” Obama continued. “You know I don’t know when, when they decided they wanted to make a virtue out of selfishness.”
It’s unclear if this was a nod to the Ayn Rand book “The Virtue of Selfishness,” with all that the invocation of Rand implies.
It would seem to be, given the themes of Rand’s work, what happens when independent achievers are demonized.
Which would fit with this description of those who want to keep their hard-earned tax dollars as “selfish.”
Atlas may not be shrugging, but Obama is.
Of course, Obama’s definition of selfishness probably isn’t the same as Rand’s:
The meaning ascribed in popular usage to the word “selfishness” is not merely wrong: it represents a devastating intellectual “package-deal,” which is responsible, more than any other single factor, for the arrested moral development of mankind.
In popular usage, the word “selfishness” is a synonym of evil; the image it conjures is of a murderous brute who tramples over piles of corpses to achieve his own ends, who cares for no living being and pursues nothing but the gratification of the mindless whims of any immediate moment.
Yet the exact meaning and dictionary definition of the word “selfishness” is: concern with one’s own interests.
The moral purpose of a man’s life is the achievement of his own happiness. This does not mean that he is indifferent to all men, that human life is of no value to him and that he has no reason to help others in an emergency. But it does mean that he does not subordinate his life to the welfare of others, that he does not sacrifice himself to their needs, that the relief of their suffering is not his primary concern, that any help he gives is an exception, not a rule, an act of generosity, not of moral duty, that it is marginal and incidental—as disasters are marginal and incidental in the course of human existence—and that values, not disasters, are the goal, the first concern and the motive power of his life.
Here’s the video of Obama’s speech:
So was Obama evoking Rand when he made the comment and trying to tag her ideas onto the Republicans ?
If he was, it’s sort of ironic because Rand clearly wouldn’t have much good to say about the Republican Party as it exists today.
H/T: The Bidinotto Blog