02 February 2012

Happy Randsday

Ayn Rand was born on this day, February 2, in 1905. Harry Binswanger made the excellent suggestion that we celebrate this day as a new holiday: Randsday.[1] 

On Randsday, it is traditional--well, perhaps someday it will have become a tradition--to buy yourself a present.

The simple, selfish action of buying yourself a present for your pleasure should not be construed as some sort of superficial gimmick or stunt; it constitutes a deep and radical philosophical shift away from the moral premises that dominate this culture. America (and civilization in general) is perishing under a corrupt moral code that holds unselfishness as a virtue and selfishness as a vice. Today, it is universally held that morality demands sacrifice, that wherever there is virtue there are necessarily victims. And moreover, this sacrifice must be accepted willingly, even enthusiastically; the truly moral being, we are told, struggles against his "selfish impulses" and submits his own neck to the yoke or the noose. 

This horrifying moral code is, in essence, the two-thousand-year-old Christian morality, revived by the anti-Enlightenment philosophers of the last two centuries in generally secular form, which infects every corner of the globe, from the so-called "progressive" welfare states to the communist slaughterhouses. This is the morality that urges you to live your life not for yourself but for others; that regards you as nothing compared to the collective ("Du bist Nichts, dein Volk ist Alles"); that systematically--with righteousness, piousness, and an authoritarian air of inexorability that is almost polite--suffocates, shackles, and murders you at the unquestioned and unquestionable altar called the "needs of society"; and that ensures this appalling injustice: any honest action of yours that benefits yourself must be accompanied by guilt.

Randsday reminds us that a 20th-century philosopher challenged this monstrous moral code. Ayn Rand demonstrated that selfishness is a virtue. By selfishness, I do not mean the corrupt conventional view that denotes hedonism (do whatever feels right at the moment) or predation (do whatever you can get away with, the hell with everybody else). The drug addict, the mountebank, the thief, the liar, the bully, and the dictator are not selfish but self-destructive. 

To be truly selfish, in the deepest sense, means to pursue one's own values with the longest-range view possible: one's whole life. It is to hold one's own being as sovereign and inviolate--and by extension, to regard everyone else from the same perspective, as individuals, each of whom has the right to live his own life for himself. The idea that a man is a thinking, rational, and efficacious individual has roots in 5th- and 4th-century BC Greece and is the essence of Enlightenment thought. The United State of America, that kingless crown of the Enlightenment, was founded upon the most profoundly selfish and moral idea ever set in parchment: that every man has a right to pursue his own happiness. 

What Ayn Rand achieved was to make explicit what the Founders grasped only implicitly--and to root morality firmly in reason, not superstition.

I've already bought myself a Randsday present--a small, pleasing luxury--that I had been wanting for some time. I hope you do the same . . . for profoundly selfish reasons.


1. "Randsday: A New Holiday," The Harry Binswanger List, http://www.hblist.com/Randsday.htm.

Also, see a good article by Craig Biddle at The Objective Standard, http://www.theobjectivestandard.com/blog/index.php/2012/02/have-a-selfish-randsday/.

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