Book Review: The Virtue of Selfishness

Title: The Virtue of Selfishness

Edited by: Ayn Rand, 173 pages
Reviewed by: Marcus Dunavan

Ah yes…Ayn Rand. What is there to say?
Ms. Rand and Mr. Brenden are definitely true to form in this quick series on essays about the objectivist philosophy. Not only are they redefining words to get a rise out of the reader, but they make logical jumps that are not justifiable. Among the odder idealistic ideas you will find in this book:
In bowing down to rationalism as god Rand makes many statements like the following which are clearly false due to the great number of counter-examples.
“Happiness is a state of non-contradictory joy … Happiness is possible only to a rational man, the man who desires nothing but rational goals, seeks nothing but rational values and finds his joy in nothing but rational actions.”
George Bush looks pretty happy to me…
Ms. Rand rants for pages about how horrible “sacrifice” is and how we should never sacrifice one thing for something less valuable. The whole time she ignores the definition of sacrifice which is to give up something of high value for something of even greater value.
Nathan Brenden and Ms. Rand both ascribe homosexuality to failings of an individual’s rationality.
Finally whole chapters are devoted to why we need unfettered capitalism. There are no mention made of classic problems that have plagued this idea such as the tragedy of the commons or the problems of collective action.

Despite all the poorly argued essays, there are a few of real worth. Rand is at her best when discussing the true roles of government which she says is to enforce agreements between people, protect them from other people, and protect them from the government. If you just have time to skim, read the “Man’s Rights”, “The Nature of Government”, and “Government Financing in a Free Society” and you won’t be disappointed.

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