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"general Good," Not "partial Interests"
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Rand's mini-utopia in Atlas seems akin to that of Adam Smith, the father of free market theory, who explicitly claims that a laissez-faire approach leads to "a universal opulence [that] extends itself to the lowest ranks of the people", paraphrased as "a rising tide lifts all boats," as a result of countless self-interested transactions guided by an "invisible hand" (Wealth of'NationsAS6). Smith himself, unlike his merely "self-interested" players, explicitly promulgates a Links Of London macroeconomic vision that transcends their microeconomic view, regarding the role of government to promote the "general good," not "partial interests".
Rand, however, considers the notion of "the general good" too vague to be enforceable or too close to majority dictatorship, which violates the exacting justice of free exchangeâ€”whereby individuals make decisions based on their values and risks, not on those of others; thus, "the general good" could not entail the protection of everyone's rights (Capitalism 20-21). Although Smith and Rand concede the necessity of a minimal government for protection from domestic miscreants and foreign aggressors in a larger society, Rand's Utopia in Atlas dispenses with government altogether. She rejects all doctrines that subjugate rational self-determination to the will of an abstract superior authority such as God or the collective.
Rand's opposition to collectivism is derived from her bitter experience growing up in Russia in the years following the Revolution of 1917, when the Communists persecuted her bourgeois Jewish family. Born in 1905, she spent her youth as an intellectual loner, alienated from society and critical of both communist ideology and the mystique of Russian Orthodoxy from her atheist perspective. The only mystique that she followed was that of stories of heroism, such as in nineteenth-century romantic novels, which instilled in her the desire to write. Her ideas about rational individualism were deeply entwined with her "sense of life" that gloried in the heroic, self-made individual in early Hollywood movies. Her passionate jouissance and reverence for human potential underpinned the ethical philosophy that she had formed early in lifeâ€”never modifying it, but making a virtue of absolute certainty. When she realized her Links Of London Bracelets dream and went to America in 1926, she changed her name from Alissa Rosenbaum to Ayn Rand and soon found a job as a Hollywood scriptwriter, married an American, and obtained American citizenship (Brandon and Brandon 149-239; Gladstein 7-23). In America, Rand developed her critique of capitalism, but her analysis inverted Marx's.
Even though they both abhor parasitism and exploitation, Rand accuses capitalism and political conservatism of being corrupted by both religious and socialist altruism, instead of allowing individuals to thrive according to their ability. Marx's "To each according to his need" could be rephrased by Rand as "To each according to his merit." She maintains that the right to life entails the right to own, i.e., control, one's means and ends of production. She would add the right to "property" to the Declaration of Independence.4 for Rand, there is no worse evil than the collective exploitation of the productive individual.
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