There are times when I read a passage of Ayn Rand’s and find myself rubbing my eyes to make sure that what I’m reading is real. I take a perverse pride in knowing my way around the Randian corpus, but I just read a passage of hers that I somehow seem to have missed before today, and am having trouble processing what I’ve read. It’s excerpted in a piece on the ARI website on the “moral foundations of the Berlin Wall.” The two prefatory sentences are by Tom Bowden, the author:
In the ensuing decades, Rand never stopped reminding the world of Soviet Russia’s evil and of that evil’s source in the morality of altruism. During her last public speech, in 1981, the Q&A session featured this exchange:
Interviewer: . . . Is Russia a real threat today?
Ayn Rand: Russia as such was never a threat to anyone. Even little Finland beat Russia twice during World War II. Russia is the weakest and most impotent country on Earth. If they were in a war, most of the miserable Russians would defect. But Russia has one weapon by default which we have surrendered, and that is the morality of altruism. So long as people believe that Russia represents a moral ideal, they will win over us in every encounter. That is one of the reasons for dropping altruism totally, consciously, as the kind of evil which it really is.
I can’t make heads or tails of this passage. Can anyone?
- Suppose that we accept Rand’s (tendentious) claim about “little” Finland’s having “beat” the Soviet Union during World War II (“twice” in a single war, whatever that means). If the USSR’s having been defeated by “little Finland” proves its impotence, doesn’t the United States’s having been defeated by “little North Vietnam” prove its impotence? It ought to, but Rand didn’t think it did.
- If “Russia is the weakest and most impotent country on Earth,” how did the Soviet Union end up defeating the Third Reich?
- If our belief in the morality of altruism is the explanation for Soviet predominance over us (assuming, also tendentiously, that it did predominate), why did the Soviet Union fall despite our consistent adherence to that morality?
- How could someone as putatively intelligent as Ayn Rand say things this stupid? Have we over-estimated her intelligence, or is there another explanation?