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Archive for November 30th, 2010

Against Ayn Rand

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

There is one main reason why I have never been tempted to read any book by Ayn Rand.  Her disciples are monomaniacs that if they were anything more than a tiny minority of society, would make life miserable for most people.  I have never met one that I would want to have as a neighbor.  They have the zeal of a religious cult, and twice the negative wisdom.

I write this as one who is a libertarian, but with a sense of ethical values, and a belief in regulating financial promises.  Selfishness is never a virtue.  Anyone who has raised children would know that.  Anyone familiar with what it is like to work in an office with one who is selfish would know that.  Anyone who is the child of a selfish person would know that.  And, surprise, most political scandals involve someone who has been selfish in the use of their office.

Selfishness makes life hard on those nearby, who have to live with the backwash of the actions of the selfish one.  We have seen in corporate America the actions of selfish people who run corporations, and goose their own pay to the detriment of shareholders and employees.  It leads to losses for all, when leaders more farsighted might earn more in the long run than asset-strippers and body-cutters.

Business is a cooperative game, and those that can motivate people to work efficiently and creatively can create a lot of value for many.  But that means sharing the value, not being selfish.

Recently, I have reviewed two books: Secrets of the Moneylab, and Priceless.  One major conclusion of the books indicates that people are not rational profit maximizers.  They care for status and their own sense of ethics.  They don’t want to promote greedy people, and they want to see their own relative status in society preserved.  They care what others think about them.

In one sense, followers of Ayn Rand are no better than Communists because they have the wrong model of man.  Instead of trying to create The New Communist Man, they try to create the New Selfish (Randian) Man.  Both are unrealistic for anyone caring about treating people fairly.

To the man who only has a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  In my own life, I have found that the more I act honestly, and look out for the good of others, the more I get rewarded.  I have known people who try to be tight in every transaction, and they don’t get done what I could, because they aren’t trusted like me.

Trust.  We trust those who are altruistic far more than those who are selfish.  I earned a lot more for my clients by being altruistic to Wall Street than being combative.  I got Wall Street to trust  me, and it yielded dividends for my clients.  Cooperation leads to more benefits than competition.

I have little respect for a woman who wrote a bunch of boring books, partially to justify her immoral life.  I don’t care if she favors free markets or not.  It is far better to consider whether ethical behaviour is present in the markets.

Ayn Rand was an intellectual lightweight, and a moral failure.  Following her is akin to intellectual suicide.


David Merkel is an investment professional, and like every investment professional, he makes mistakes. David encourages you to do your own independent "due diligence" on any idea that he talks about, because he could be wrong. Nothing written here, at RealMoney, Wall Street All-Stars, or anywhere else David may write is an invitation to buy or sell any particular security; at most, David is handing out educated guesses as to what the markets may do. David is fond of saying, "The markets always find a new way to make a fool out of you," and so he encourages caution in investing. Risk control wins the game in the long run, not bold moves. Even the best strategies of the past fail, sometimes spectacularly, when you least expect it. David is not immune to that, so please understand that any past success of his will be probably be followed by failures.

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