The blogosphere has been buzzing lately with commentary about Atlas Shrugged, the novel written by author Ayn Rand in 1957. Considered one of the most popular US novels during the second half of the twentieth century, Atlas Shrugged tells the tale of a revolt by innovators and others in society whose ideas and work efforts create wealth and opportunity. The books lays out a philosophy that has come to be known as Objectivism, and advocates free market capitalism, objective reality, and enlightened self-interest.
Opponents of the economic stimulus plan, particularly far right conservatives such as Rush Limbaugh, and others, frequently cite Atlas Shrugged as a type of manifesto that justifies their position that people who have lost jobs or are losing their homes should not be helped by the government because this is contrary to free market individualism. Typically, their argument holds that people (which is usually code for themselves) should not be asked to contribute tax dollars toward efforts that are seen as contrary to free market philosophy. Objectivism's emphasis on an individual's right to pursue happiness and self interest without feeling an obligation toward others is central to the current misguided argument used by anti-stimulus adversaries who cite Rand.
So what does this have to do with doing life well? An oft-cited viewpoint expressed in previous posts on this blogsite is that because we are group-living animals, we are interdependent creatures. We each depend on others, and our species requires altruism and cooperation for its survival. Objectivism rejects unbridled altruism, and its principles have been misrepresented by Limbaugh and others as justifying the kind of selfish "look out for yourself only" type of attitude that led to the unprecedented transfer of wealth over the past decade to the wealthiest one percent of the population. Social Darwinism, which is the kind of winner-take-all mentality that characterizes some viewpoints, misses two points. First, it presumes that by accumulating enough wealth, people don't really have to worry about the greater environment because they can enjoy their riches in protected isolation.
They are so wrong about this. Everything that we know about happiness and the enjoyment of life involves sharing experiences with others. Studies consistently show that we need others for our happiness. But more importantly, advocates who use Rand's book as a justification for their selfish philosophy didn't read the book closely enough. Rand does not advocate the kind of selfishness that some use to as justification to deny unemployment checks to people who are out of work for reasons unrelated to their performance. Rather, she advocates reasoned, rational and enlightened self-interest, which is different than the hedonistic, pleasure seeking, "I refuse to share my rice bowl with others" self-interest that typifies so much of the superficial Rand-citing that is moving across the conservative blogosphere these days. In the interest of creating the kind of world we can all share, whether rich or not rich, it is important to set the record straight. Ayn Rand never justified selfishness in the hedonistic sense that anti-stimulus adversaries are now contending. The Irish proverb is worth citing again: "the people live in the shelter of each other."
DLW is an occasional blog about how people spend the time of their lives (every moment) to enable health, balance, meaning and fulfillment. As a blogspot about doing, it draws from personal stories and from studies of everyday living. It's main idea is that to be well, people must be involved fully in what they do. The activities that occupy our days help to connect us to the world, define who we are, and keep us healthy.
Great Links About What, How, Why, Where and How Often People Do Things
- Calculate your Life Expectancy
- O*Net - A terrific resource to get information about work related occupations
- Wisdom—A must see project of shared experience
- Brian R Little- About Personal Projects
- Authentic Happiness - Take the Work-Life Questionnaire
- wdydwdyd? (Why do you do what you do?)
- Calculate your weekly Time Use
- Bureau of Labor Statistics -American Time Use Survey
- ▼ March (6)
- ► February (7)
Interesting Books about Doing and Not Doing
- Bateson, Mary Catherine—Composing a Life
- Bruner, Jerome—Acts of Meaning: Four Lectures On Mind and Culture
- Christiansen, Charles & Townsend, Elizabeth—Introduction to Occupation: The Art and Science of Living
- Csíkszentmihályi, Mihaly— Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
- Diener, Ed, & Biswas-Diener, Robert—Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth.
- Edgell, Stephen—The Sociology of Work: Continuity and Change in Paid and Unpaid Work
- Gini, Al—The Importance of Being Lazy: In Praise of Play, Leisure and Vacations
- Kabat-Zinn, Jon—Whereever You Go, There You Are
- Little, Brian; Salmela-Aro, Katerina; and Phillips, Susan D. — Personal Projects Analysis: Goals, Actions and Human Flourishing
- Matuska, K & Christiansen, C. — Life Balance -Multidisciplinary Theories and Research
- McAdams, Dan P. —The Stories We Live By: Personal Myths and the Making of the Self
- Robinson, John & Godbey, Geoffrey — Time for Life: The Surprising Ways Americans Use Their Time
- Seligman, Martin—Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment
- Tolle, Eckhart—The Power of Now