Sticks And Stones

Dave Killion — February 26, 2011

When it was recently revealed that “Atlas Shrugged” author Ayn Rand had received both Social Security and Medicare payments, I found the reaction was not only very instructive, but also confirmed some positions and beliefs I already held.

For example, I don’t usually bother calling someone a hypocrite/racist/misogynist/choose-your-pejorative, even when it’s true. Because true or not, it doesn’t matter. Just because individuals are (insert derogative here) doesn’t mean everything they say or do is wrong. If you want to strengthen your convictions, you still need to make a real argument.

As a result, I find that a lot of the name-callers not only don’t have good arguments, but are so reliant on argument-by-smear that they don’t even get the smear right. And that’s just what you see in the crowd giggling and high-fiving over what they desperately want to see as Rand’s hypocrisy. Because it’s not hypocritical to say that people shouldn’t do something that you are doing, it’s hypocritical to prevent people from doing something that you are doing.

So when your pack-a-day father lights one up while telling you that you shouldn’t smoke, he isn’t being a hypocrite. But when presidents who got away with using illegal drugs in the past prosecute people who use illegal drugs now, they ARE being hypocrites. When I say socialized health care is a form of theft, and still take my sick and injured kids to the hospital, that is not hypocrisy. But when a president uses his wealth to keep his children out of dangerous and under performing public schools while dismantling a voucher program that allowed poor people to do the same, that IS hypocrisy.

And when Ayn Rand said charity was evil and destructive of character, but still took social security and medicare, she was not being hypocritical. She was doing what libertarians do when they advocate for the gold standard while spending fiat currency, or eat cheap food while protesting farm subsidies. She was living in the system we have while advocating something better. But don’t feel bad for the anti-Rand crowd. They’ve got lots of genuine hypocrisy to root out right in their own back yard.


David Bratzer says

I agree that one has to focus on the substance of the argument, rather than the person making it.

By the way, I’ve read both Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. I found The Fountainhead to be the better of the two. But I guess a movie about architecture would be boring.

— February 28, 2011

Dave Killion says

FYI, The Fountainhead was made into a movie in 1949, starring Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal.Not bad, in my opinion.

— March 3, 2011

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