I picked up the Centennial Edition of Ayn Rand Answers; The best of her Q & A. The new libertarian book store in town (Liber Books) has a whole shelf of her works and her "philosophy" is experiencing quite a revival nationwide. Her deluded,illogical,poorly analyzed and articulated "answers" speak volumes about the state of popular Thinking.
Question: Are individual freedoms in this country eroding?
Answer: "Freedom" in a political context means the absence of coercion exercised by the government (which has a legal monopoly on the use of force).We are moving rapidly towards the loss of all freedom."
A few points, first: what is with the questioners qualifier "individual"? second: why would Ayn think we are discussing anything other than the "political"? Main point: Why is it only the government that is capable of coercion? Is she unconcerned with all other forms? Certainly the coercion of capital is more subtle but is it any less forceful? Does the government really have that "legal monopoly"?
Rand either purposefully or erroneously assumes capitalists have no power of coercion or that such power is acceptable and not a threat to freedom. And that one is free though under the control of market forces. She neglects the "soft" force embedded in cultural narratives,hegemonic ideologies, and economic power relations (especially production).And then there is this focus on "legal" monopoly, ignoring the far more prevalent and perfectly legal force used by capital: intimidation,indoctrination, exhaustion through labyrinthine bureaucratic spinning. Of course capital can use extra-legal force and just say sue me! Either way,freedom is restricted objectively yet it escapes her notice.
Question #2: Do severely retarded individuals have rights?
Ayn answers: "Not actual rights-not the same rights possessed by normal individuals."
This is where the fascistic side begins to emerge. And what is with "actual"? Actualized by all citizens at all times? As opposed to formal rights?
"Like children, they (retarded people) are entitled to protections because,as humans, they may improve and become partly able to stand on their own."
We can assume Ayn would be on both the Committee to Assess Normalcy as well as the Improvement Committee. One wonders what happens to the un-improvable, both child and retard.
"But you could not extend the actual exercise of individual rights to a retarded person because he is unable to function rationally. Since all rights rest on human nature, a being that cannot exercise his rights cannot have full human rights."
Wow. Rights rest on "human nature". She must know what that is. And the Jews in the concentration camps had no rights because they could not "exercise" them. "Function rationally" is another standard to which it would be helpful to have some coordinates but alas, none are provided. Certainly a retarded person could exercise her rights; what she could not do is defend them. This is what society would do, were it actually free. Her so called epistemology is actually simplistic, off-the-cuff sloganeering. Broad, inconsistent and at heart, reactionary. No wonder Atlas shrugged.