Far it for me to defend Ayn Rand, but…
An excerpt of Gore Vidal on Ayn Rand:
“She has a great attraction for simple people who are puzzled by organized society, who object to paying taxes, who dislike the ‘welfare’ state, who feel guilt at the thought of the suffering of others but who would like to harden their hearts.
“For them, she has an enticing prescription: altruism is the root of all evil, self-interest is the only good, and if you’re dumb or incompetent that’s your lookout.”
Come, let’s walk through this point by point.
“Simple people”? That’s statistically false no matter how you conduct the research… Unless you define “simple” as non-authoritarian? Ah, yes, that must be it!
All men are puzzled at complexity, but authoritarians encounter it more often.
“Organized society”? Au contraire! The state is anti-social, anti-organization; planned chaos. While the natural division of labor God created is awe-inspiring in its power and constant change, the state is the invisible hand wishing to congeal, make it all static and impermeable.
“Who feel guilt at the thought of the suffering of others but who would like to harden their hearts. For them, she has an enticing prescription: altruism is the root of all evil, self-interest is the only good…”
I would never defend the “system” of Rand in toto, and it would take great length to examine the matter itself, but GV is here guilt-mongering. Where is the guilt for helping the poor grow richer by denying the looters of us all, producing wealth, raising the standard of living, etc.? And yes, Ayn Rand – like others – misunderstands human nature with the false, shallow dichotomy of “individualism” vs. “altruism”.
Now, authoritarians need not harden their hearts directly; they just ignore reality and pretend to “help” while purposely causing harm, as Thomas Sowell explains in his books. GV has zero economic understanding of how traders serve customers, etc.
Note: Vidal hints at a link between government welfare redistribution and taxes, as though one pays for the other. This folly is easily refuted elsewhere a thousand times over.
As for “dumb or incompetent” Rand contradicts herself. At times she correctly says these traits are a question of degree; anyone can make money by “adding value”. When she depicts utopian society as “subhumans” worshiping a Nietzschean-superman John Galt at an apex, Rand is silly. And we do all have some control upon the intellect and competence of ourselves and our families, through habits, beliefs, and breeding. Needless to say, the state, endorsed by GV, helps make us “dumb or incompetent”, and the bigger the badder.