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The Stranahan Syndrome

March 19th, 2009 by Jim May · 95 Comments · Culture, Politics

On March 13, Ed Cline wrote an excellent article on the Left’s startled reaction to the groundswell of interest in Ayn Rand and her book “Atlas Shrugged”.  As he puts it:

“So the collectivist and altruist elite become very touchy when the people for whom they are “doing good” for their own sake, even to the point of enacting coercive and felonious legislation, exhibit signs of intelligence, resistance and anger. How dare these yokels!

And nothing raises their hackles higher than any mention of Ayn Rand. “

Ed’s article says everything that I would say about the anti-Rand reaction in general.

There exists, however, another sort of anti-Rand reactionary, who is not a member of those elites but desperately wants to be.  This sort of person hates Ayn Rand and her ideas too, but instead of being threatened by her rising profile, see in it an opportunity for themselves — the same sort of opportunity that a brand new ship represents to young barnacles.

We are already familiar with many examples of such opportunists over the years: the prototypes Nathaniel and Barbara Branden, and David Kelley come to mind.  The current example that caught my attention this week is Huffington Post writer Lee Stranahan.

Normally, this sort of thing doesn’t warrant much attention on anyone’s part.  Stranahan is making things up, as is usual for Ayn Rand’s critics, and passing on the usual falsehoods about Ayn Rand and Alan Greenspan, as so many other unremarkable pundits.

But there’s something different here.  For one thing, Stranahan is pimping himself — hard — as a former “insider”, whose “Ayn Rand cred” can stand up to anyone’s.  That claim is laughable on its face, of course, but it is clear that Stranahan is not talking to anyone who would care to know the truth;  he parrots the same populist poppycock as the run-of-the-mill critics do — the ones who slam Ayn Rand without having read a thing she wrote.  It is pretty clear from this, who he is writing for — and how credulous he expects that audience to be.

And sure enough, when we examine his likely motives, things get really interesting.

In his post, he kicks things off by declaring “I know my Ayn Rand” and then follows it up with a laundry list of things that he claims he has done, that purportedly grant him this mythical “insider” status:

1.  He says he attended Ayn Rand’s funeral (this was in 1982)
2.  He says he did the “audio taping” on a lecture course taught by Leonard Peikoff
3.  He was personally kicked off Neil Peart’s lawn.  (Neil Peart is the drummer/lyricist for the Canadian rock band “Rush”)
4.  He known how to pronounce “Ayn”
5.  He’s attended Objectivist conferences.
6.  He’s owned first edition copies of Atlas Shrugged.

This list of behaviours certainly does make him look like something… but it’s not what Stranahan wants us to believe.  Let’s look at them individually, and see what picture they paint.

1.  By his own confession in his October 24 Huffpo column, Stranahan “crashed” Ayn Rand’s funeral.

2.  What does “did the audio taping” mean, besides pressing “Record”?  That job is done by volunteers; anyone can do that, even Ayn Rand haters or ten year old kids.

3.  Neil Peart is on record as having distanced himself from Objectivism; “I am no one’s disciple”, he said.  So how does trespassing on his front lawn count towards  “Ayn Rand cred”?

4.  Anyone who does even a bit of due diligence knows how to pronounce “Ayn”.

5.  I too have attended Objectivist conferences.  Newsflash: they are open to everyone.

6.  And so is Ebay, where first editions of Ayn Rand’s books come up occasionally.

Apart from the fact that Objectivism is wide open to anyone, all of these things cited by Stranahan can be done by anyone who merely wants to follow Ayn Rand and Objectivists around.  There is no “inside” there.

In fact, “follow around” is pretty much what Stranahan is doing throughout his list — and as two of the items make clear, he was doing so where he was not wanted.  The picture that this list of behaviors paints is not that of an insider, but of a groupie, a wannabe that nobody wants to have around — someone like that kid Buddy Pine from “The Incredibles” who eventually becomes the bitter, vengeful “Syndrome”.

Like Syndrome,  perceiving himself as wrongfully spurned  (but in fact, properly ignored) by Objectivists, he is taking the path blazed before him by the likes of the Brandens — passing himself off as a wronged “insider”, dishing dirt about Ayn Rand, and telling his target audience what they expect to hear.

By beating his chest about getting kicked off Neil Peart’s lawn, he is trying to get back inside the Left’s good graces — which he likely fears he’s lost since getting booted off the Daily Kos front lawn by M. M. Zuniga himself.  Perhaps Stranahan imagines that sexing up his hatchet job with “whispered rumors” of a gay man’s suicide over “incompatibility” with homosexuality and Objectivism will improve his chances; his choice of subject for that particular fabrication leaves no doubt over who he is writing for.

As with all attacks of this sort, a significant element of projection on the part of the critic is a given  — in this case, his unelaborated references to Objectivism’s supposed “destructiveness” “at a personal, human level”.  In Stranahan’s case, however, I have my own direct evidence of this.  Stranahan used to be a LightWave artist, as I am now, and we have several mutual acquaintances.  I will only say that in the mid-90’s, I mistakenly thought that a lot of the hostility directed at Stranahan from former colleagues was merely because of his open advocacy of Ayn Rand’s ideas.  As I established my own career over the millenium and ended up meeting many of these folks, I learned otherwise.

But I know better than to go around claiming that I’m some sort of  Lee Stranahan “insider” — just as Lee Stranahan knows better than to believe that he is, or ever was, any sort of  Objectivist “insider”.

Only he went ahead and did it anyway… so much the worse for his readers.

95 Comments so far ↓

  • Lee Stranahan

    Well, Jim…you’re just wrong. I attended the first ‘Objectivist High School’ in the 1980s.

    My dorm parent and Philosophy teacher was Andrew Bernstein, currently a major speaker / writer at the Ayn Rand institute. I lived with Andy for about a year and I was his teaching assistant in philosophy at two colleges for my work study – this was when I was 17. My interest in Objectivism predated going to ARS, though and Andy wrote an evaluation where he praised me highly – this is when I was towing the cultist company line, though. I crashed Rand’s funeral because I was around 16 years old and didn’t know anybody, but subsequently I did. I wasn’t a ‘volunteer’ – I was hired to do audio and videotaping of Peikogg’s Understanding Objectivism course. I’ve been in Ayn Rand’s apartment, after Leonard took it over. About the only major Objectivist I never spoke to was Rand herself – Peikoff, Binswanger, Reisman, Packer, Schwartz, Kelley, both Brandens – I’ve talked to all of them at one time or another. And on and on and on…it sure counts as insider as far I can tell.

    Of course, you couldn’t have known this just from what I wrote – but you apparently don’t have the intellectual honesty or curiosity to….ya know – ask. I’m VERY easy to get in touch with. But you’re a cult member, so far be it from you to let facts get in the way of reality, right? I left out this level of detail because on HuffPost, I write for a general audience. I tried to keep it light and entertaining, hence the Neil Peart joke. The whispered rumor is true – it was Alan Blumenthal, it’s all documented and I heard it firsthand from other people, too. And I don’t know you, Jim – but you’re obviously a cultist, too. I know you don’t get this, but you’re akin to the L. Ron Hubbard cultists and the game you’re playing is called ‘fair game’. Just wikipedia it… I hurt your feelings because I said mean, bad things about your hero so you feel it’s fair to launch an ad hominem attack against me. Well, whatever. There are people who don’t like me. I don’t like some of them, either. I didn’t used to be a LightWabe artist – I currently am and a lot more. And the NewTek movement has as many fractures and inside drama as Objectivism. If you want to actually debate ideas sometime, bring it on, cowboy. Until, enjoy your KoolAid.

  • Burgess Laughlin

    Mr. Stranahan: “But you’re a cult member, so . . .”

    Using your knowledge of Objectivism, especially its core subject, epistemology, would you please define “cult”?

    What is the genus? What is the differentia?

    A definition will advance the discussion.

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  • madmax

    Stranahan is regurgitating the standard leftist narrative that “Republicans are Randian free market ideologues”:

    “A twisted version of Rand’s thought is the basis for a lot of NeoCon movement, much of the modern libertarian / Ron Paul movement and much of the right wing economic rhetoric used by the tattered remains of the Republican party.”

    “the reality is that Ayn Rand is pretty directly responsible for the economic destruction we see around us today.”

    “The ultimate horrible truth is that most of Rand’s ‘philosophy of the real world’ has worked out very badly in the real world. It’s a collection of ideas that haven’t been tested or just don’t work but its adherents still have a Bush-like unshakable faith in it because…well, it’s just RIGHT and reality be damned.”

    Linking Bush with Rand and free markets? Its absurd yet leftists believe it mainly because they want to and they *need* to. My guess is that a leftist must do everything they can to defend altruism in the same way theists must do everything they can to defend the existence of god. They can’t afford to even admit the possibility that it is intervention that it failing and not free markets. Much like theists, if they lose their core premises they would be lost psychologically.

    Its interesting, there are a number of people who were part of the first or second wave of the Objectivist movement that ended up hating it and attacking Rand. Obviously the Brandens were the best example of that. But I’m thinking of others like Arthur Silbur and Nicholas Strakon who were each part of the 60s-80s Objectivist movement that ended up extremely critical of Rand and her philosophy. One became a hysterical “liberaltarian” and the other became a racialist.

    I guess it was bound to happen. In the end, this is probably inherent in the development of an intellectual movement. Sadly, that means that we will have to deal with the likes of Stranahan from here on out.

  • Lee Stranahan

    Oh, you know what a cult is and how it’s members behave.

    There’s a strict ideology, outsiders are suspect, dissent is quelled by excommunication, heavy use of internal jargon, dismissal of heretics, a constant reference to sacred texts…

    You know – what you kids are doing.

    I know – you can’t be a cult! You belief in objective reality, evidence of the senses and reason as man’s sole means of knowledge, rational self interest and individualism! How can THAT be a cult?

    (I did all that from memory, too. Whoopee!)

    Look – I know you don’t get it. People in cults actually never get it. Once you get it, you leave the cult. QED. And then all the people still IN the cult talk about what an idiot you were.

    But those things – reality, reason, et al – all buzzwords. If you were actually interested in reason, you wouldn’t believe in a good chunk of the stuff you think you believe. Like – you wouldn’t believe in a form of government that’s never existed anywhere. You wouldn’t fall for obvious pieces of thought control like “Tell me what a man finds sexually attractive and I will tell you his entire philosophy of life.”

    I mean – ponder THAT level of crazy – AR told you that you can tell a person’s ENTIRE philosophy of life but what turns them on? I mean – it’s SO obvios that that speech is meant to eff with your brain….

    Well, again – I know. You don’t get it. Continue the circle jerk. It’s what you find sexually attractive…

    (Hey, what does it say about Ayn Rand that she was sexually attracted to a drunk and to Nat Branden?)

  • Burgess Laughlin

    > “In the end, this is probably inherent in the development of an intellectual movement.”

    Madmax, I think you are right, as usual. By its very nature, a movement has no gate-keepers. Anyone, regardless of his actual beliefs or level of morality, can “join” and not reveal himself for a long time.

    However, there are ways to affect the quality of a movement.

  • Jim May

    Damn, that was fast. And a “Posts about Daily Kos” trackback? It’s like someone is doing the old Kibo sort of thing.

    Lee, I suggest you consider having someone else edit your comments so it isn’t so obvious how rattled you are. ( I counted four gratuitous “cult” references, anbody else find more than that?) The factual errors in your comment alone are pretty glaring (Scientology is far more expensive, and if you really thought I was “fair gaming” you, you wouldn’t be posting anything here) all by themselves, but see madmax’s comment above, just so you know Iwhy I got quite the laugh out of your hollow challenge to “debate ideas”. I outgrew this sort of “debate” over a decade ago on Usenet, Lee. Apparently you haven’t.

    Hell, your comment here is probably an attempt to double down and keep the gambit going. He can now continue shouting “I am wronged!”, but now updated with some live “attacks from the cultists”!

    If Markos buys this BS, it will say more about him than about you, Lee.

  • Jim May

    Oh boy, this is going to be good. I didn’t plan this as a flypaper post, but damn we’re going to have a good collection of bug guts when it’s done!

  • Michael Labeit

    A rape and butchery of Objectivism and Ayn Rand’s convictions.
    Jesus H. Christ -the market for Ayn Rand bashing could be a thesis topic.

  • Jim May

    Michael — the funniest thing about this (in a Sweeney Todd kind of way 😛 ) is that Stranahan has the nasty mouth of the lowest grade of Ayn Rand’s critics — the ones who just parrot what others have said about her, but haven’t read anything she wrote.

    But he *has* read her. (I base that on what I saw on Usenet, before the days of Google — not on any of his claims here). He *ought* to be able to come up with his own original critiques of her ideas, or at least his own take on the serious challenges to Objectivism made by others.

    But all he’s got, is this schoolyard stuff, which anyone can see for what it is — except perhaps the choir to which he’s preaching; he evidently doesn’t fear any independent premise-checking from there.

  • Andrew Matheny

    Again Lee, all I see is more ad hominem on Ayn Rand and Objectivists and no actual intellectual discussion of the issues at hand.

  • Andrew Dalton

    “Look – I know you don’t get it. People in cults actually never get it. Once you get it, you leave the cult. QED. And then all the people still IN the cult talk about what an idiot you were.”

    In other words: “To those who understand, no explanation is necessary; to those who do not, no explanation is possible.” It’s ironic to see that coming from anyone who accuses other people of cult-like thinking.

  • Francis Luong (Franco)

    @Andrew Dalton – Touche and Ditto. That was the part that I found most condemning of LS’s weak retort as well.

  • Lee Stranahan


    You can’t admit you were wrong, can you? The point of your post is that I wasn’t ever privy to any ‘insider’ stuff. I answered it factually, which invalidated your point.

    An honest person would at least shrug and say ‘okay, I didn’t know that – my bad’.

  • Lee Stranahan

    Also – anti-man, anti-life, check your premises, hatred of the good for being the good, socialist, altruist, whim-worship, man qua man….

    Just trying to get most of your cliches out of the way for you – but feel free to continue to pepper your posts with them. Your echo chamber will appreciate it.

  • Damon Peichl

    Stranahan wrote: “You belief [sic] in objective reality, evidence of the senses and reason as man’s sole means of knowledge, rational self interest and individualism! How can THAT be a cult?”


    Since the fundamental that makes a cult a cult is belief in something arbitrary, how can a group of people who reject the arbitrary on principle be considered a cult?

  • Amy Nasir

    Objectivism is a serious and consistent philosophy – it is not a glee club or clique. And it never was, unless you’ve defined your association with it as a second-handed attempt for popularity and social acceptance with those who study the philosophy.

    This Peter Keating-type is obviously afraid to take ideas seriously and talk philosophy, as he is unable to intellectually rise above tabloid-level pap. He is blind to the enormous value of a rational philosophy and how to apply it for the improvement of his life. Self-improvement is the main focus of Objectivists – improvement in thinking, morally judging, producing in a career, and a number of other excellent values and virtues.

    It’s sad to see someone caught up in his hatred-generating insecurities (deflecting his own inability to understand philosophy in general and blaming others) and fail to use to his benefit the best philosophy on earth. Instead he chooses to define his self-worth by how others are worse than he is, and who he might now be accepted by. So sad.

  • Ryan C

    Lee, you’ve come to a debate with nothing but anger and hatred by your side. You did not come here, and you did not write that article on HuffPost, to offer well-argued ideas to the public. You are a member of a smear campaign at HuffPost. You think because you TALKED to an Objectivist, and lived with Andrew Bernstein that you are somehow an insider? I haven’t been an Objectivist more than 2 years, and I’m pretty close to putting down your “Rand cred’ already.

    The fact is whatever you knew about Objectivism 27 years ago is gone now. You demonstrate your utter retardation on the subject when you compare the Objectivist movement with Republican party stalwarts like Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck. These people are members of the religious right. The Republican party is as far from Objectivist ideology as the Democratic party is, but you’re too blind with hatred for SOME reason to see it.
    Is it that your feelings were hurt at sometime? That is what you seem like; a bitter lover who, after being rejected, trash talks what he claimed to love. It seems your real hatred is for Rand and for Peikoff and Objectivists. You are acting like a brat. Go harass some other ideology you joined to fit in to some group. We’re perfectly fine with people who disagree with us who come armed with arguments, not visceral hatred and a cry-baby attitude.

  • Lee Stranahan

    Objectivism is very much a clique and has been since it’s inception and the cape wearing, cigarette holder using sycophants that Ayn Rand both attracted and held sway over.

    I never claimed to be an important member of the O’ist hierarchy but I certainly was privy to a ton of inside information and direct contacts – something that I know bugs some of you, but there it is.

    And as for going away – when people write things that were factually incorrect about me, I always correct it.

    You cowards have already dismissed the idea of defending Ayn Rand’s ideas – and we all know why. So all we’re left with is by definition ‘schoolyard stuff’. That’s your call, not mine.

  • Ryan C

    No, Lee, it’s yours. You did not criticize Rand’s philosophy. You made personal, baseless attacks against Ayn Rand and Objectivism. You offered no intellectual arguments. You simply said that Rand led a cult and that she is directly responsible for a recession that happened 27 years after her death, perpetrated by men who have as little to do with her now as you yourself do. It is unwarranted, unjustified attacks against the person, and not any of her ideas. You are more simple-minded than the cultish, puritanical Objectivists who DO exist in small numbers, and who Peikoff and others have condemned. You could care less about what people say, though. If you listened to someone’s words, you wouldn’t be able to chuck your swill at them. You would be paralyzed, because for a long time now you probably haven’t had a single interesting thought, so you go for controversy instead.

    Tell me, Lee; what bankrupt philosophy have you come to embrace since to fit in? Are you so glad that the creeps at HuffPost accepted you? Were you rejected by Drudge Report? What ideology will you slink to next, begging to be recognized? You exist, it seems, as a joiner or parasite.
    I hear Ariana Huffington’s boots need cleaning. Go run and entertain your current host.

  • Lee Stranahan

    Oh! You got parasite in there. Second hander is coming, yes?

    Again – I know your jargon. Same as it ever was, 30 years later.

    So – am I glad that I write for one of widest audiences on the internet? Yes, I am. I mean as opposed to a major respected website like “The New Clarion”? Yes, for sure.

    I wrote a general piece for a general audience. I don’t assume a familiarity with AR or her ideas. It’s a short piece so I broadly outlined her actual impact on current events.

    Now – here I am – on your widdle turf – ready to talk ideas. And you’re all too afraid to do it.


  • Chuck

    Mr. Stranahan, with which of Ayn Rand’s philosophical principles do you disagree?

  • Lee Stranahan

    Chuck rises to the occasion…

    You asked about principles so I’ll go wide – the crux of a lot of her problems is her meta-ethics; the metaphysical basis of her ethical system. Specifically, it’s her conception of man as an individual and her dismissal man’s collective / group nature. Much of what she says about man’s individual nature is true, of course, and some of her best writing describes the tension between man is individual vs. man as part of the group – but her notion that man is strictly or primarily an individual creates prolblems that pervade her whole system of ideas, especially ethics and politics.

  • KPO'M

    Lee, you are getting petty here. Just because the Huffington Post is read by a large audience doesn’t confer credibility on it. In any case, since you want to discuss philosophy, let’s discuss.

    You point to Greenspan’s comments about his shock and disbelief at what went on in the CDS markets. However, what in Objectivism guarantees that people never make mistakes, even on a grand scale? Isn’t the Objectivist solution not to bail out banks but to let the chips fall where they may?

    Also, haven’t proponents of the Austrian school of economics (which is a key component of Objectivism) been warning for at least a decade (since the Asian financial crisis and resulting bailouts) that fiscal and monetary policies would ultimately lead to a bubble, and that government intervention is the cause of most of the boom-and-bust behavior that we have seen over the course of modern history? Critics of Austrian school economics point to the “long Depression” of 1873, but Keynesian economics over the last 60 years have resulted in stagflation in the 1970s, a “lost decade” in Japan in the 1990s, and the current economic situation. Why does Keynesian get so many chances?

    Also, Objectivism is much more than a philosophy of economics. Even if we take a leap of faith that Objectivist economic philosophy is wrong, does it stand to discredit other aspects of the philosophy?

    Finally, please elaborate as to what your philosophy is. Is it more collectivist or individualist? What is the role of government in your philosophy, and what is the fundamental relationship between individuals?

  • KPO'M

    Lee, if the social nature of our existence is so pervasive that we are not “individuals” per se but rather parts of a larger collective, what are the ramifications for ethics, politics, and economics? The phenomena of “Groupthink” has been studied on end, and perhaps the failings of “individualism” that we are seeing in the current market are really manifestations of that phenomena. I just don’t see how a collectivist philosophy can ever effectively deal with the groupthink issue, since it seems to me that it is built on that foundation. How would you respond?

  • Mike

    Lee “crashed” Rand’s funeral and stalked Rush. So in other words, he is a lunatic who spent a good deal of his life stalking his idols. Maybe it’s easier for him to blame his nutty behavior on “brainwashing” than on himself. Maybe Lee’s not comfortable admitting that not everyone who like Rand behaves as he did. Or maybe it really isn’t his fault. After all, he went funeral crashing with his mom. Maybe mom sent him after Rush, too. And if Lee really believes Rand lovers are brainwashed cultists, why is he talking to them?

    So why are you all arguing with someone who thinks you are in a cult and is a self-admitted loon?

  • KPO'M

    Lee, someone reading your Huffington post would not know that you attended an Objectivist high school. That would potentially confer a lot more credibility than the examples you did cite in your post. One question is why you cite irrelevant factoids to give yourself credibility before launching into an attack on Objectivism rather than something more substantive? It strikes me as an appeal to emotions (“I was there”) rather than an appeal to reason (“I understand the philosophy, here’s how, and here’s why I think it is wrong”).

  • Lee Stranahan

    Let’s go over my lifetime of stalking…

    I went to the open, public viewing of Ayn Rand in NYC. I was 16, I think. My Mom drove me and some friends there from Massachusetts. She overheard where the burial was going to be, so we all stayed overnight and then went.

    It was a small service in Valhalla, NY. Nobody asked us to leave and we weren’t hiding. I referred to it as ‘crashing’ in an article that I never finished and that was published in Rev. 1 draft form accidently.

    Me and a couple of friends found Neil Peart’s house by accident when I was 16 or so. We drove to Canada, were buying gas and as a joke – asked the guy pumping gas if he knew where Neil Peart lived. And he did. It was right down the street, we knocked, Neil came to the door and told us to take off, eh. Or words to that effect.

    So, GFY.

    On the other hand, when I’m in interested in something I pursue it – it’s why I’ve been successful and it’s nothing I feel remotely bad about. Not sure what you’ve accomplished in life, Mikey.

  • Lee Stranahan

    KPO’M – as I mentioned, writing for a general audience in a pithy style. The ARS / high school is a longish story – so not a good example. Or maybe it is. I dunno…

    The wider point to me is that this entire post is premised on the idea that I lied – and Jim May has yet to take it back. The cultist part explains why I ain’t holding my breath.

  • Amy Nasir

    I posted this on Noodlefood too:

    “You are right Ryan C. I doubt he has any real fire left in him to ever realize that he has his own life to live, instead of wallowing in the altruism, or otherism, of obsessively looking for others to blame. Altruism can operate on many levels, and he is a good example of sacrificing (or never having) his own values by spending his time playing the role of the victim. Altruism is truly rotten as hell. It can take your life away without you even noticing (or wanting to notice).”

    I’ve noticed that he has nothing positive to assert, as well as no words to explain his disapproval of the philosophy of Objectivism.

    Anyway, I’m going to go do something even more meaningful and productive, and be confident in the knowledge that my live is worth living, and not mope around thinking that “The Objectivists” are the cause of all my troubles. 🙂

  • KPO'M

    “I went to an Objectivist high school and had parents who were followers of Ayn Rand” seems pretty pithy and accessible to a general audience. How many people know who Neil Peart is ?

  • Grant Williams

    My guess is that Mr. Stranahan is a guy who decided at a very young age that he was destined to become a professional intellectual and that he wasn’t going to let anything get in his way. In his youth, he probably considered Objectivism the wave of the future and imagined himself riding the momentum created by Rand, Branden, et al to riches and fame. When that didn’t pan out – or when he predicted that it wouldn’t – he jumped ship. The “philosophical change” came afterwards – as it had to – in order, primarily, to be able to sleep at night.

    He is what I call an “aspiring guru.” Aspiring gurus are, in my experience, very dangerous people. They take many forms, but most aren’t as obvious about it as this guy is. . Some try to repackage the work of others, some merely dedicate themselves to ingratiating themselves with those who they have decided are the current gurus, in hopes of one day succeeding them to the “throne.” Still others try a different tactic: they drift from one intellectual fad to another – in a process that can some times be measured in terms of decades – only concerned with keeping those immediately around them feeling like they have something worth paying attention to.

    Even if all that happens to be is a convenient excuse to portray his record of intellectual permiscuity as a concious and noble character trait. The term “tribal lone wolf” comes to mind, but I won’t use it because – as we have all been so eloquently reminded of by Mr. Stranahan’s comments thusfar – if Ayn Rand said it, any agreement with it – let alone any tacit alone recognition of it’s rhetorical precison – is automatically invalid.

  • Lee Stranahan

    My parents weren’t followers of Ayn Rand – they’d never read her until I did. My friends were AR fans – my Mom was just supportive. RIP.

    Hey, Grant – once again, do you motherhubbards ever ASK A QUESTION? Why is your ‘hypothesis’ important when there are facts? Again, you prove that Objectvists are more interested in factless ad hominem attacks then reality. (Chuck excluded, so far…)

    I was interested in going into philosophy – then I did that TA gig with Andy and saw the stuff he went through to get his doctorate and wasn’t interested. So I did what I’d been doing since I was 14 and hadn’t ever stopped – media production.

    I’ve been doing that successfully for 30 years – starting a magazine, making films, working at NBC, working for the company that makes the product Jim May uses to earn a living.

    Even a quick Google serach reveals all that about me, PLUS the pictures of naked people.

  • Grant Williams

    Really Lee, writing an Ayn Rand hit piece for Huff Post is “media production”?

    I will grant you that becoming an actual philosopher – a lover of knowledge – doesn’t have all that much appeal – especially when it’s so much easier to relentlessly lower everyone else’s standards and cash in.

    There was someone, though, who said that the moral and the practical are not incompatable. I forget her name at the moment…

    You’d think that someone like yourself, who was able to escape the cult, would be happy enough in life that dredging up sour grapes wouldn’t seem worth your while.

    Oh, right… the laissez-faire – deregulation axis running amok. You must speak up. I forgot.

  • Joe Zoch

    Lee Stranahan – “Her notion that man is strictly or primarily an individual creates problems that pervade her whole system of ideas, especially ethics and politics.”

    How so? Please indulge this NON HuffPo reader. What in mans nature makes him a non-individual? He can’t be both individual and “Collective” at the same time. A is A right, or do you disagree with that as well?

  • Ryan C

    I haven’t asked you a question, Lee, because you do not seem interested in questions, and I am not that much interested in what you have to say. You are the one that began the ad hominem attacks in your article.

    You say you disagree with Rand’s meta-ethics. You go no further, however, than just saying you disagree with it. You say human beings need groups. Rand did not disagree that human beings were naturally social, and that human interaction and group cooperation CAN be good when tempered with independent thought and a reliance on the facts of reality, not the facts of the collective.

    Your whole article is based on a lie. You call yourself an “insider”. You are not an insider. If you are an “insider”, then most people who have read Rand’s works and met some prominent Objectivists are insiders. This isn’t the case.

    What have you accepted since, instead of Rand’s ethics?
    And lastly, I’d ask you not insult a blog you are currently posting on. It is just rude. I would not bad mouth the Huffington Post if I had posted a comment on your ridiculous article, which I wouldn’t in the first place.

  • Lee Stranahan


    Let me restate your position.

    Stamp. Stamp. Hair flounce. Stamp. Lip quiver. Stamp Stamp. Pout. Stamp Stamp Stamp.

  • KPO'M

    Lee, “I went to an Objectivist high school” (sans the statements about parents) is even pithier. Why are you replying to the ancillary parts of my posts instead of the substantive ones.

  • Jonathan Powers

    “…her conception of man as an individual and her dismissal man’s collective / group nature.”

    I recall Rand stating (I forget where at the moment) that other people are a man’s second greatest resource. That doesn’t sound dismissive of the great value of society to the individual.

    “Much of what she says about man’s individual nature is true, of course, and some of her best writing describes the tension between man is individual vs. man as part of the group – but her notion that man is strictly or primarily an individual creates problems…”

    But man IS primarily an individual, is he not? Society is secondary. I fail to see how those facts inevitably lead to problems. I’m certainly aware that there are those who stop thinking at that point, grab those facts, and run with them, using them as a license to trample over others and be a jerk to everyone they know. But Rand’s thinking continues on from those facts and makes clear an ethics where the above behaviors are anathema.

    If one ranks society HIGHER than a man’s status as an individual, that DOES lead to a lot of really, really bad problems in ethics, and it does so inevitably (because the premise is false).

    (Just to cover all the bases here, one can’t successfully rank man’s individual nature and his membership in society the SAME either. Not only is this false, but trying to live by that idea also inevitably causes problems. For one, a whole lot of basic, everyday decisions would be undecidable.)

  • KPO'M

    To clarify, I’m not necessarily defending Jim May. I don’t know whether he is right or wrong about you not being an “insider.” What he is pointing out is that the examples in your article were pretty weak (even for a “general audience”), and that, for the most part, your piece on the Huffington Post was mostly a declaration rather than an argument. You were basically asking people to accept on faith that Objectivism must be wrong because you say so and are an “insider.” In the end, it’s irrelevant whether you are an insider or not.

  • Ryan C

    You asked to be engaged in discussion. You’ve offered nothing. My statement at Noodlefood stands. I was being civil, as you seemed to want to actually engage in discussion. You don’t. So, bon voyage.

  • Jim May

    You can’t admit you were wrong, can you? The point of your post is that I wasn’t ever privy to any ‘insider’ stuff. I answered it factually, which invalidated your point.

    KPO’M already shot that one down; the main point I am making is that you are not credible, in part because there is no such thing as an Objectivist “insider”, and in part because of the “I smell a book deal” sort of timing.

    I had enough evidence in the original post to make these claims, but now this unintended bit of flypaper is chock full of plenty more evidence in the comments.

    Hell, if you really did all the things you did, it just makes you look worse; all of your criticisms, every last one, is almost verbatim from the pikers on a.p.o. There’s not a shred of original thought anywhere here. You ought to be able to have some original criticisms, in light of your intelligence, but you don’t.

    You are not credible. All you have is this juvenile crap. Oh, by the way,

    I’m starting to miss Chris Wolf.

    I will also admit that my estimation of Markos has gone up a few notches of late.

    Now, having merely denied your credibility, I had not called you a liar, Lee.

    Now in light of that, note this:

    In comment #19, Lee writes:

    You cowards have already dismissed the idea of defending Ayn Rand’s ideas – and we all know why. So all we’re left with is by definition ’schoolyard stuff’. That’s your call, not mine.

    Now head on up to comment #2, where Burgess politely asks for Stranahan’s definition of “Cult”. Standard Objectivist practice: to define terms.

    Stranahan’s response in comment #5:

    Oh, you know what a cult is and how it’s members behave.

    There’s a strict ideology, outsiders are suspect, dissent is quelled by excommunication, heavy use of internal jargon, dismissal of heretics, a constant reference to sacred texts…

    You know – what you kids are doing.


    I will now redress my omission: You are a Liar, Lee Stranahan.

  • Katrina

    Go Jim!

  • Amii Lockhart

    You guys are cracking me up. Ryan C accuses Lee Stranahan of making personal attacks against Rand, and then makes personal attacks against LS in his next paragraph. Don’t you proof read? You also make a point of telling LS that Limbaugh and Beck are not Objectivists, which was one of the very points he made in his HuffPo piece.

    You (collective, haha) make fun of him for getting kicked off The Drudge Report and link to a piece about how big TDR is then accuse him of being petty when he retaliates in kind. You continually deny his “inside cred,” which he has abundantly (and humorously) verified.

    Mike’s comment is just moronic, barely deserves noting except for the discordance it brought to the debate.

    Grant Williams invents the entire life of LS based on two posts and a comments section. Priceless.

    The fact is, Jim May denied LS’ inside cred and hasn’t acknowledged that he clearly does have inside cred, nor has he acknowledged his erroneous assumption that LS was a volunteer (and not paid) recorder of Peikoff lectures.

    Why can’t you live with disagreement? I wouldn’t say Objectivism is a cult because the point of it is not ultimately to relieve its followers of their wealth. It does look like there is an issue with how to handle dissent, however, and there’s the jargon.

    FYI to KPO’M, I regularly quote Neil Peart, “Ten bucks is ten bucks.”

  • Jim May

    I have noted the lack of originality in Stranahan’s critiques twice already; it’s an odd fact in light of the fact that he *is* familiar with Ayn Rand’s ideas, based on what I saw from him on Usenet.

    The only explanation I have seems almost too outlandish to contemplate:

    “(I did all that from memory, too. Whoopee!)” (in comment #5)

    If that’s what he did — memorized all the catch phrases, enough to fool Dr. Peikoff etc. in the early ’80’s — then I say he missed his calling by a few thousand miles. He would have made one hell of a myna bird.

  • Jim May

    You (collective, haha) make fun of him for getting kicked off The Drudge Report and link to a piece about how big TDR is then accuse him of being petty when he retaliates in kind.

    He got booted off of the Daily Kos, not Drudge. Drudge isn’t a blog, nobody can get “booted off” that site.

    As already noted several times here, Stranahan’s credibility does not survive even if he did do the things he claims. I have indicated that his actions, as he describes them, show the Buddy Pine pattern — and his actions now fit those of Syndrome.

    As for “Why can’t you live with disagreement?” We live with it just fine. Stranahan’s the one pissing all over the playground because someone challenged his “Ayn Rand cred”. He’s obsessive enough about it to go piss in someone else’s playground because they merely linked here, for chrissakes.

  • Myrhaf

    Objectivism is not a cult. Cults want mindless, obedient followers. They don’t care how much the followers understand of the cult’s ideas, so long as they are obedient. In fact, the less a cult’s adherents understand, the better it is during the brainwashing process.

    Objectivism is a philosophy. Far from wanting mindless followers, Objectivist leaders want people to understand the philosophy. Both Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff have asked people not to call themselves Objectivists if they don’t understand the philosophy. They don’t want the ideas misrepresented.

    A liberal who had not read Ayn Rand asked me once if Rand was my god. The liberal could only imagine a subjectivism like his or the intrincism of religion. He could not conceive of someone agreeing with a philosophy through reason; faith had to be involved somewhere. When he looked at Objectivism — in almost complete ignorance of its ideas — he saw a cult of personality. This thinking is common among today’s liberal-leftists and libertarians.

  • Flibbert

    Mr. Stranahan:

    The point of Mr. May’s article isn’t that you haven’t done the things you claim nor than you haven’t read loads of Ayn Rand’s writing. The point is that the things you claim do not reflect a deep knowledge or understanding of Objectivism and there’s no reason a critical reader should accept your arguments.

    Even if we subscribe to your beliefs about Objectivists, we cannot accept your article nor subsequent claims in this comment thread as additional evidence supporting those beliefs because your citations lack evidence and your claims to authority on the matter are pretty silly. Not that an argument from authority would or should be accepted in any case.

    Your claim is that conservatives have directly contributed to the current economic crisis by applying Ayn Rand’s ideas in forming economic and political policies. The Objectivist claim is that these economic and political policies do not actually reflect Ayn Rand’s ideas. Your job is to present the facts that support your claim and your high school nor your career in AV management do not serve that end.

    I appreciate the fact that you were writing a very short piece for a general audience. The format isn’t well disposed for long, detailed expositions toward your underlying thesis, but that is really no excuse for your hideous behavior here.

  • Amii Lockhart

    Doh! that’s right, Daily Kos, my bad. apologies.

  • Jim May

    Flibby, thanks for that summary — particularly your observation that he’s been engaged in argumentum ad verecundiam from the get-go.

  • Lee Stranahan

    Lets’ define terms…

    Insider: A person who has special knowledge about the inner workings of a group, organization, or institution;

    This was true of me for Objectivism years ago, as I said. At ARS, I learned a ton of things – from Andy Bernstein, from my roommate whose parents ran an Objectvist speaker’s group, from other teachers at ARS including Ayn Rand’s algebra teacher and on and on. This was a long period. I heard conversations, gossip, secrets…

  • Lee Stranahan

    By the way …

    None of that stuff makes me right about anything, of course….but it’s factually accurate. I heard / knew a ton of stuff that wasn’t available to anyone.

  • Grant Williams

    “This was a long period. I heard conversations, gossip, secrets…”

    None of which, if true, does anything to affect the veracity of Objectivism nor your indictment of it as a cause of today’s economic problems.

    Further, even if they could , you failed to mention them, choosing to stick to vague allusions for ‘entertainment’ purposes, which, considering the subject matter, is both inappropriate as well as completely worthless to an honest person attempting to form a solid opinion.

    But, I suppose once someone has accepted the (warning: “cliche” approaching) moral-practical dichotomy, he is capable of any sort of sniping and pandering.

  • TW

    So what DID happen with gays in the Objectivist movement back when Ayn Rand was alive? I’m not hearing many specifics from anyone about this.

    I think it’s understandable that Rand had the attitudes towards homosexuality that she did, given the time in which she lived, but it doesn’t say much for her capacity to Objectively cut through social biases and prejudices straight to moral truth, does it? Unless you believe her attitudes were correct at the time.

  • Jim May

    You’re defining terms now, Lee? You almost sound contrite.

    Nice try, but no cigar. What I have done here, and others have done, is not to challenge your “inside knowledge” about any organization or group (though I certainly did, and still do, question it), but to destroy your attempt to parlay that into “authority” status on Ayn Rand and her ideas.

    As your article says in its very first line:

    “I know my Ayn Rand.” That’s your attempt to cash in.

    I get the distinct impression that you can only remember your last three or four posts; you keep repeating yourself, and the details keep shifting (first you namedrop Neil Peart and his lawn, then in comment #1, you recant it as a joke, and then that story comes back with some extra…)

    I don’t need to “randomly” make any sort of declarations about you at all; you are writing this stuff for me.

    note: edited to fix Iphone formatting hiccups)

  • Andrew Dalton

    TW –

    My knowledge is limited to some negative statements that Ayn Rand made about homosexuality.

    My understanding is that the leaders of the early gay rights movement hitched themselves to the general leftist/counterculture movement, and therefore included a lot of bad ideas mixed with good ones (the latter being the ending of government persecution of homosexuality). It would be easy for an outsider to come to the conclusion that gay rights, as advocated at the time, was just another part of hippie nihilism.

    For example, the movement did not clearly distance itself from pedophiles/NAMBLA until around 1980.

    I suspect that the counterculture/gay association was a major reason for Rand’s negative reaction. (And unlike the black civil rights movement, which Rand criticized in part, it is much less obvious that homosexuality is an unchosen characteristic.)

    As for the issue of “social biases,” I don’t see how any philosophy could be expected to infallibly lead someone to perfectly correct conclusions in hindsight, on all concrete issues. Objectivism makes no such claims.

  • Jim May

    So what DID happen with gays in the Objectivist movement back when Ayn Rand was alive? I’m not hearing many specifics from anyone about this.

    I can tell you a few things, though I was not around when the Blumenthal thing happened.

    In 1999, I was engaged in a long discussion with two other O’ist conference attendees who were trying to make that weird argument about gays being somehow “in denial” or “stunted” or evading somehow. I was not convinced and while I did not likely convince them, I certainly clobbered their certainty about it.

    My idea about homosexuality is simply this: it is a metaphysical given about individuals, like height or race or nose shape. A trait, morally neutral. I see the onus of evidence on the “gayness is wrong” crowd, Objectivist or otherwise, not on gays to prove “normalcy” or any such claptrap.

    I once happened to help a younger manI met on a.p.o. work out his homosexuality and how to come out to his parents (remotely via email, for what little that was worth). One day he quipped in an email about the day that it dawned on him that he was gay:

    “Everybody keeps trying to define the issue of being gay in relation to the opposite sex. They do not understand that for me, it isn’t about women at all.”

    That was his epiphany. It makes perfect sense to me — for the exact same reason why it makes sense for me to say that my being straight isn’t about men at all.

    There’s more to the whole issue, of course, but the point I stuck with, using that insight, is that whatever the physical and/or psychological origins of homosexuality may be, it is a *trait* like any other. Like nose hair, it isn’t a moral issue.

    Funny, I seem to recall having discussions on Usenet along these lines, and I think Stranahan was arguing a similar line to mine. Stephen Grossman was arguing the other side, back then… I can’t speak for him on what he believes now.

  • Jim May

    Addendum to #57: I realize I wasn’t really addressing TW’s question about the homosexuality issue while Ayn Rand lived. My experience with the wider discussion begins on Usenet in 1995.

    I can say that since my entry into the milieu, there is no element of any issue with homosexuality in Objectivism itself that I have found. That encounter in 1999 was the last time I’ve had reason to discuss the issue with anyone.

    Edited to add: I would also say that this is true despite my having run across several gay Objectivists, including a regular Usenet denizen I have met personally, and whose name anyone on Usenet in the mid-90’s would recognize. I can’t recall when and if the latter fellow came out, so I’ll omit his name for the time being.

  • Toast

    “Specifically, it’s her conception of man as an individual and her dismissal man’s collective / group nature. ”

    That is indeed the crux of the matter. I have had right wingers stare me in the face and deny that there is any such thing as the “Common Good”. My good friend Rob Salkowitz once pithily summarized right-libertarianism as a “hysterical denial of community”.

    Objectivism is the reification of adolescent psychology. Hopelessly self-involved, defiant of any connection to the Other, the larger community. It is what happens when, in the attempt to establish a Self, one gets stuck.

  • Lee Stranahan

    In 1971, Rand reiterated this position, then explained that homosexuality “involves psychological flaws, corruptions, errors, or unfortunate premises”, concluding that homosexuality “is immoral, and more than that; if you want my really sincere opinion, it’s disgusting.”

    And of course, this is the same Ayn Rand who lied to her closest friends and associates about her affair with Nat Branden after she was spurned. Even Peikoff believed her until her found papers after she died.

    Add that to her monstrous ‘everything about a person’s philosophy’ bit.

    If you really want my sincere opinion on Ayn Rand’s views on sex, they are disgusting. Moreover, TW makes a good point – her views showed just how petty and wrong she could be. That her followers still want to make excuses for her is apalling, frankly.

  • Andrew Dalton

    Well, Toast, I’ll also tell you that there’s no such thing as the “Common Good.” And what is this Other, by the way, that is so important that it must be capitalized?

  • Mark Dohle

    Very well put Ms. Nasir

    “Objectivism is a serious and consistent philosophy – it is not a glee club or clique. And it never was, unless you’ve defined your association with it as a second-handed attempt for popularity and social acceptance with those who study the philosophy.”

    I am very fortunate to have come across Ayn Rand’s ideas. I was a miserable wreck as my college years were ending with a debt a worthless degree. Goals? Purpose? Desires? Come on, I was jealous of the lazy life of Tucson bums and angry at copper miners. I also carried a burden of guilt for being a white man.

    Ayn Rand liberated my spirit and I am happy just about everyday. I went back to school to study engineering and everything I learn about physics, mathematics and nature blows my mind.

    It has been 9 years since I read Atlas Shrugged and I have never been friends with an objectivist. I’m simply not in the loop, and see no reason to the force the issue. I use the philosophy to better my life. Cult? Although objectivism has helped me choose better friends, I do not study the ideas in order to be part of social circle. I imagine most of the millions of people who benefit from objectivism are the same way.

    Cult? Perhaps many people get overly excited about the liberating ideas and spit out quotes like psalms from the bible. Perhaps people who share an interest in objectivism like to meet in common places and quote their favorite author. So what?

    If you spout lines in order to gain favor or seek positions of influence by deceit, then you are missing the point of objectivism. Perhaps a group of this type of person could make a cult, but it would not be objectivism as defined by Ayn Rand.

    Call objectivism what you like, it is your loss if you can’t find value in it. I assure you that it is better than a gold mine.

  • madmax

    “Objectivism is the reification of adolescent psychology. Hopelessly self-involved, defiant of any connection to the Other, the larger community. It is what happens when, in the attempt to establish a Self, one gets stuck.”

    I would say this describes left-liberalism to the letter. Leftists believe that man must be retrained and turned into something he isn’t through social engineering; ie the welfare state.

    Leftists try to remake man in the image of ants or bees. Leftists (and their conservative soulmates) believe in using the power of the state to confiscate people’s wealth, regulate their lives in countless ways, and use force against them for their own good (the nanny state ring a bell?). Leftism treats people like children and the self-anointed leftists are the philosopher kings that get to rule over their less sophisticated brethren. And all this in the name of “community” and “tolerance” and “humanity.”

    The historical record shows withougt doubt that whenever and wherever leftist ideas are put into practice they result in death and destruction, sometimes on a horrific scale; Russia, Germany, Cambodia, Cuba, China, N. Korea, any inner city in America, etc, etc, etc. This is the result of all that ” connection to the Other, the larger community.”

    Objectivism does not advocate the use of initiatory force against anyone and leaves each individual to think and act for themselves free from external authority and governmental pressure. So which set of ideas is “adolescent” and which is mature? As usual with leftists, up is down and down is up.

  • Katrina

    I think Lee’s second quotation is wrong. Unfortunately I can’t check it from where I am right now. Can someone verify? In my recollection she never said it was immoral, although she did say she found it disgusting. I don’t fault her for that, although that can certainly be debated. Again, I’ll have to find actual quotations later, but I remember reading something where she basically said she didn’t give it any thought.

  • Ashley

    It is surprising that Lee, who as a young man was attracted to philosophy and ideas, and became somewhat familiar with them, has so clearly abandoned logic.

  • Lee Stranahan

    Saying ‘there’s no such thing as the common good’ is exactly the kind of crazy that Rand’s meta-ethics results in.

    Of course there is, you silly person.

    And to whoever pointed out Communism is bad – yep, agreed. I wouldn’t want to live in North Korea…but of course, Communists would argue that’s not really Communism.

    And you really should fault someone for saying homosexuality is disgusting – it’s a stupid, ignorant statement for an old woman who is smart to make.

  • TW


    “For example, the movement did not clearly distance itself from pedophiles/NAMBLA until around 1980.”

    Yes, my understanding is that this was the case, and this would certainly preclude any reasonable person’s making common cause with that movement, given the state of affairs you describe.

    Nonetheless, this seems to me to be very similar to the situation with atheism. Many people objected to atheism on the grounds that the Soviets were atheists, and look at their abuses. Of course this is not a rational argument against atheism, and not an excuse for rejecting it that Ayn Rand accepted. The gay liberation movement’s alliances with very unsavory groups and ideas at that time has no bearing on the question of the morality of homosexuality among consenting adults per se, and surely Ayn Rand could see that.

    “As for the issue of “social biases,” I don’t see how any philosophy could be expected to infallibly lead someone to perfectly correct conclusions in hindsight, on all concrete issues. Objectivism makes no such claims.”

    Perhaps not. I mean, it would be unreasonable to ask anyone to be infallible on moral questions. Yet, when you call your philosophy “Objectivism” and you claim that your moral judgments proceed from the data of sense experience via sound reasoning to truth, then we ought to at least be able to say, at this point, where the error in Ayn Rand’s reasoning was. Which of her premises were false? Or if none, where did she make a logical mistake?

    Objectivist is a very big title to live up to. You don’t have to be perfect, but you ought to be able to show how you have a reliable path from sense experience to truth, and to explain where you went wrong, if and when you did.

  • Joe Zoch

    Lee Stranahan -“Saying ‘there’s no such thing as the common good’ is exactly the kind of crazy that Rand’s meta-ethics results in.”

    Can you please define the “Common Good?” Does it exist independent of mans consciousness, If so, how?

  • James Wadsworth

    Mr. Stranahan,

    Writing to a general audience, or not, I think you did the readers of The Huffington Post a disservice by leaving your post bereft of a logical argument. If you believe Ayn Rand’s philosophy is wrong, and that it is a danger to society, then you owe it to your readers to explain why and how that is the case. In your post you merely claimed to have the knowledge of Objectivism’s evil, but you failed to, even slightly, demonstrate this claim.

    I assume most of the readers on HuffPo are not very familiar with the inner workings of Objectivism. If, as you say, you have a long history with the philosophy and know it well, then you should educate those who do not, so that they may understand why it is so dangerous.

    I would consider myself an Objectivist, and I can say unequivocally that Ayn Rand was dead wrong on the issue of homosexuality.

    One of the main, and most important, principles I have learned from Objectivist is the virtue of independence, and that fundamentally this means independent thinking. To me this is the opposite of cultism.

  • seine

    I see Ayn Rand as the best ‘tool’ I’ve ever come across for understanding the world around me. Her ideas cut through an unmeasurable amount of fog.
    Was she a god? No, she was a brilliant human being, showing the world man’s true potential. Thank her for opening that window into knowledge.
    Was she perfect is an irrelevant question. Given the attitudes she fought to change and the state of society of her time, keeping in mind she didn’t have Ayn Rand to teach her, who else has accomplished as much?
    She taught me, we are equal, my mind is my tool of survival and my effort belongs to me. Should she be criticized for her ideas? All SHE did was write a few books and says that a mind can not be forced. I use her ideas of my own free will. One can not judge her for my actions. She taught me that and I thank her.
    gary seinen
    The critics? I wonder if it is not a bitterness that, despite knowing her

  • Lee Stranahan

    About the common good – this is too easy. You have access to Google, yes?

    In the popular meaning, the common good describes a specific “good” that is shared and beneficial for all (or most) members of a given community.

    For example – the water system of pipes, drains and plumbing is a common good.

    Now, of course you all realize plumbing is an initiation of force by government – just like roads, schools, and health care. Plumbing is altruism and collectivism in action – treating men not as heroic beings but a disgusting, thirsty group that must be connected by a series of tubes that funnels their disgusting waste together into a perfect metaphor for socialism and tribalism.

    What we need is a voluntary plumbing system that brings competition and freedom of choice. That’s the way to spark innovation and it’s the only MORAL system.

    Of course, we haven’t figured out any way to do it yet. There’s a professor at MIT who has interesting research but plumbing isn’t a primary concept and any real change in our plumbing will take massive changes in the culture first.

  • Grant Williams


    Ayn Rand addressed the issue you just raised already. She did so in her essay “Government Financing in a Free Society” in The Virtue of Selfishness.

    Although financed by business, services such as waste disposal would be allowed to be used by everyone along the line – but the difference is that nobody’s property or lives are being sacrificed for the sake of others. Ayn Rand gave a great analogy, likening this situation to a bus or train service that lets poor people ride for free on unclaimed seats – those who pay are not being sacrificed, but since the seats are empty anyway, the poor can benefit through an act of free non-sacrificial charity.

    The difference between that situation and what advocate is that, for whatever reason, should my neighbor find himself with no way to get rid of his waste, he will have no legal right to force me to provide him with one.

    Try again.

  • Edward Roberts

    Lee, no group has ever done my thinking for me, and whenever I’ve allowed myself to be guided by thoughts I’d not grasped through my own efforts, it’s ended somewhere between wasted time and complete disaster. It has never ended well.

    If someone who knew nothing of Ayn Rand read your post, they would have learned nothing, except that you don’t like her, and anyone who uses your article and the scores like it as a basis for anything other than understanding that you don’t like Ayn Rand deserves whatever they get. My belief is that you and they will receive the full measure of those consequences. Savor them, revel in them, but never complain; you rejected the opportunity to know better.

  • Mike Dial

    Mr. Stranahan,
    I doubt that either of us is going to convince the other that he is on the wrong side of this issue, so I would merely like to clarify a couple of points from your original article:
    1. If a person has repudiated Objectivism, as Mr. Greenspan did years before he became Chairman of the Federal Reserve, can he honestly be associated with it when he errs in the future? You obviously repudiated the philosophy years ago; are you now responsible for your own behavior and the results of that behavior?
    2. When a non-Objectivist like Limbaugh, Gramm or Greenspan misquote or incorrectly integrate a point or two that they selectively pull from the whole, can Objectivism really be blamed for the downfall of civilization? If so, wouldn’t it be better to debate the actual content of Objectivism, rather than to quote non-Objectivists?

  • Lee Stranahan

    Grant – 1st, my plumbing section addressed the stupid notion that’s there’s no common good. I named one.

    that essay by AR is a particularly strong example of total BS. She actually doesn’t answer the question.

    What if I don’t want pipes running under my property? What if I oppose the goverment piping. Can I opt out – so I’m not having my liberty impinged on?

    Objectivism promotes a utopia, the same as Communism. Human nature will be required to change to allow the ‘perfect’ utopian vision to be fufilled..a date always conveniently far off in the future. That sort of thinking allows all sorts of atrocities to happen TODAY….but think long term, comrades!

    Edwards little threat to me is almost perfectly Christian in it’s passive aggressiveness…I had the chance to repent and join him at the alter of Ayn but since I reject her I’m DAMNED…enjoy it now!

    You’re sick, sad people.

  • Grant Williams


    You’re dense. I said nothing about government piping, or running piping under your property (even though the verticle limits of property rights is an issue all by itself).

    What I said was that if I have a pipeline running from my house to the sewage treatment plant, and it happens to run right by your house, it would be in my interest to connect your house to my pipeline, even at my own expense, if you’re not able to connect to it yourself. It would be of far greater value to me to have your property in a sanitary condition – both for it’s affect of my ability to enjoy my property unmolested as well as for it’s affect on your quality of life. A healthy, friendly neighbor is virtually always a good thing to have.

  • Lee Stranahan


    The trick of objectivism qua cult is that it’s a mix of Rand’s fiction and non-fiction plus a strong dose of her personality and personal style. In other words, it’s not just a set of ideas that exists without that context.

    And it’s Rand’s style – brash, unapologetic – that’s big as big an influence as her ideas for many.

    So in short piece, I did what I set to do – lay out some groundwork . I figured I might expand on that in the future and I might.

  • Joe Zoch

    Lee Stranahan – “In the popular meaning, the common good describes a specific “good” that is shared and beneficial for all (or most) members of a given community.”

    Thanks for responding to this. I should’ve asked to give the context and more specifically site the quote.

    Ayn Rand addressed this specifically in “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.”

    She says, ‘“The common good” is a meaningless concept, unless taken literally, in which case its only possible meaning is: The sum of the good of all the individual men involved. But in that case, the concept is meaningless as a moral criterion: it leaves open the question of what is the good of the individual men and how does one determine it?’

    Shall I Google “the good” now?

  • John Alway

    “Also – anti-man, anti-life, check your premises, hatred of the good for being the good, socialist, altruist, whim-worship, man qua man….”

    Are those just cliche’s to you?

    I have seen you before, btw, because my brother, David, attended the Second Renaissance School as well.

  • Lee Stranahan

    John, I remember David, sorta – he was after my time by a few months but I’d go to visit Andy and stuff…

    They are cliches to most of the people who use them – random phrases they throw out as cult jargon, instead if actual independent thought.

    Joe – that Rand quote is goobledygook.

  • John Alway


    I read your Huffington Post article and I can find nothing right about it. Consider this, we are spending 5 trillion dollars a year on the welfare state (state, local and federal taxes) and regulations on industries are greater than at any point in American history. How is that Laissez Faire capitalism?

    Just that one point, how do you answer it?

  • Jim May

    From my comment #55:

    What I have done here, and others have done, is not to challenge your “inside knowledge” about any organization or group (though I certainly did, and still do, question it), but to destroy your attempt to parlay that into “authority” status on Ayn Rand and her ideas.

    Repeated for emphasis, but I must correct one error I made.

    I did not destroy Lee Stranahan’s credibility on Objectivist ideas. I just gave him the rope to do it himself.

    And boy has he done it.

    Has anyone noticed that since I put the final nail in his intellectual coffin, he’s stopped addressing me at all? Instead, he’s going on about his new god, the “Common Good” (not arguing for it, just posting what it *means* as if that were an argument … not unlike the way that theists posit the commonly understood definition of the term “God” as though that were an argument) — and focussing on Ayn Rand’s purported failures as a person?

    That is the very definition of ad hominem right there.

    I’m surprised that he hasn’t told stories about all the members of the “inner circle” who were in dread fear that Ayn Rand would find out that they liked dogs, because of course she was a cat person.

    After all, there were no puppies in Atlas Shrugged.

    Lee Stranahan: You have got nothing. I suggest that you now go and Google for yourself the first rule of holes.

    My job is complete. It was far easier than I expected. I’m going to ensure that this comment thread is backed up, and the backups are backed up, because if anyone anywhere cites Lee Stranahan as if he were credible, I will point them here.

    A big shout out goes to Paul Hsieh for the linkage and his ongoing efforts, and the commenters here who added to Stranahan’s rope pile — and last but not least, Mr. Syndrome himself, Lee Stranahan, for putting on the most bizarre intellectual Danny Deever dance I’ve ever seen.

    No points for originality, though.

  • Lee Stranahan


    You’re pretty arrogant, even for an Objectivist.

    I guess I misread your last posts – I thought you were exiting the field so I didn’t see a reason to address your comments.

    But – seriously, WTF are you even talking about? Your whole Syndrome post – cute widdle cartoon references and all – was nothing but an ad hominem. And a factually baseless one, which you never even had the testicular fortitude to admit being wrong about….or to even look into.

    As I said somewhere, the Ayn Rand cult you’re a clear member of operates on several levels. I asked you to debate ideas, Jim – and you refused..

    So you’re the last person in the world to talk about credibility. You were wrong about me, didn’t back down when it was pointed out, and refused to talk about ideas when I brought it up.

    And you wouldn’t even do it HERE on your home turf with nothing but other cultists to cheer you on.

    You’re fear filled, Jim. A big bully in front of your friends and you claim victory when you backed out of the discussion. The other Kool Aid drinkers will cheer you on here but you know the truth – that when I asked you to discuss idea, you got scared.

  • Ouch!

    I guess I misread your last posts – I thought you were exiting the field so I didn’t see a reason to address your comments.

    But now that he actually has exited the field, you’re going off on him?

    Yeah, that’s impressive.

  • Lee Stranahan

    Oh, I;m sure he’ll read it.,,,

    I’m here on unfriendly ground – can’t win one way or another…

    I’m sure Jim is figuring out new excuses to not actually discuss ideas – let’s see what the coward comes up with..

  • Ashley

    Lee Stranahan, the young man who attended Ayn Rand’s funeral; the old man who now pisses on her grave.

  • Lee Stranahan

    Well, she was kind of a bad person who caused a lot of bad things to happen…

    And a lot of you will eventually outgrow her, too…

  • Edward Roberts

    Lee, your claim that my comment is a threat or is any type of Christian condemnation is dishonest.

  • Edward Roberts

    I said ‘consequences’. You applied the value-judgement and transformed ‘consequences’ into ‘condemnation’. If you’re right about Objectivism, those consequences for you and the people who share you beliefs will be good ones. Why would you turn to negativity at the prospect of evaluating consequences? Also, is it improper to view my beliefs as good and even ‘better’ than those which I’ve evaluated and disagree with? You evaluate Objectvisism as bad, am I allowed to disagree without it being called a threat?

    (Sorry for the split post.)

  • Jeff Montgomery

    Nice post, Jim.

    As I posted in comments below Lee’s article and on my blog, the important thing is to let the public see that Lee is misrepresenting Objectivism. If given the right direction, they will see the truth on their own.

  • Lee Stranahan


    I’ll take you at your word – but at age 43, I’ve seen the consequences – outgrowing Objectivism has been nothing but positive. Getting rid of the negative consequences only will make the world better.

    And Jeff – I didn’t misrepresent a thing. I just said what 99% of people know as soon as they look into – it’s a wacky cult whose adherents are too intellectually immature to realize it. Objectivists are the object of ridicule and scorn….

  • Joe Zoch

    “Joe – that Rand quote is goobledygook.”

    I know this is in vein, but what the heck…

    In other words, Lee, she doesn’t say what you claim she says. She acknowledges the literal interpretation of the common good as the sum of a good shared by those involved. However, it poses an ethical conundrum, as you demonstrated with your forced plumbing example, when the common good stands apart from the individual. When starting with what’s best, beneficial, or good for the community, society, the group, or the tribe, then you’re forever at the mercy of whatever the majority deems to be “the good.” Furthermore, it’s because there is no such entity as “the community,” that no such concept can be formed as the “common good.”

  • Lee Stranahan

    No, the problem is that is just a pointless statement that leads to utterly false conclusions like yours..

    Let’s start with your conclusion – that because ‘the community’ exists as a conceptual entity as opposed to a literal thing that no concept can be formed from it.

    Do you really mean that?

    If so…well, its not Objectivist epistemology. What you describe is instrinsicism – but I don’t blam you because you’re starting from Rand’s load of hogwash.

    Is there such a thing as individual people? Yes, of course – that’s not a brilliant observation on her part. We know that.

    Is there such a thing as a common good – something that benefits all or most people? Again – this is obvious.

    Rand seems to be jumping to ‘in a conflict between the common good and what’s good for any individual, you must side with the individual’ – since the group is only a collection of individuals. Is that your understanding?

  • Joe Zoch

    My conclusion IS based on your INTRINSIC view of the Good as you’ve provided, and you’re correct, that’s not Objectivist epistemology.

    Meaning, you believe the Good is inherent in certain things regardless of their context.

    You provided the definition, gave an example, and showed the inherent ethical flaw. You agree with Ayn Rand.

  • Lee Stranahan

    You lost me, dude. There’s nothing intrinsic about the concept of Common Good according the O’ist epistemology. It may or may not be correct, but that’s a different issue.

    And I never made the statement you claim – because that’s not my view.