Unbelieving Crusaders

This is a Tweet from Don Watkins, formerly of the Ayn Rand Institute, now of Alex Epstein's Center for Industrial Progress.

Don is an aspiring novelist, and the tweet links to a pompous critique of the genuinely awful Dan Brown.

Why would any institution associated with Ayn Rand let within ten miles of its premises someone who is reassured by the popular success of trash? This is someone who has spoken in the name of the Ayn Rand Institute encouraging people to have the mentality of "well at least I'm not that bad." No one with self-esteem, no matter his level of ability, has that attitude. If you take comfort in the success of trash, you consider yourself trash. The responses I've observed when criticisms of this sort are brought up to people affiliated with ARI are the kind that say "Come on, man. Objectivism is great, but you're taking this way too seriously." They are just more evidence that a mind-body split is prevalent among those associated with ARI.

When I went to the Objectivist Summer Conference in 2016, I was surprised and disappointed at the kind of talk I heard by prominent Objectivists. Before beginning the day's lecture, Tara Smith made a quick, offhand joke about how perfection is impossible to us mortals. This was not a joke attacking the idea that perfection is impossible, which is what you'd expect from an Objectivist. This was a joke affirming the conventional, Platonic view of perfection as impossible to human beings.

That was just a joke, but offhand remarks reveal what someone has worked into his soul through thought and action. There are all kinds of jokes that don't occur to you, because they don't comport with what you believe. If a joke affirming the impossibility of perfection occurs to you, that says something about what you believe in your soul. This suggests that to her, Objectivism is a nice set of ideas, but not something to be integrated into one's practical life.

An institution whose members don't live by the ideas they're advocating is not going to convince anyone else to live by them.