The Hymowitz Editorial

I was going to comment on a recent editorial (Kay S. Hymowitz, Freedom Fetishists, Comment. Sept. 2007, at 50, available at http://www.commentarymagazine.com/cm/main/viewArticle.html ?id=10925) that paints Ayn Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism in an unpleasant color and with a crude brush. I spent several hours mulling over what I wanted to say about it. But in the end, I decided I really had very little to say that hadn't already been said. That little boils down to this:

Intellectual sloppiness begets intellectual sloppiness. Hymowitz should have done some real research, instead of relying on a few prominent Libertarians' warped interpretations of Rand's philosophy, before purporting to speak with any accuracy about it.

Whereas I initially wanted to withhold an accusation of malice, I now find I cannot do so. The tone of the editorial is never so snarky as when Rand or her influence is mentioned. Hymowitz may (rightly) have a dim view of Libertarian "ethics" (inasmuch as such a thing can be said to exist), but she saves some of her most pungent vitriol for Rand.

Notice that Hymowitz supports some of her claims about Libertarians with actual quotes from real life Libertarians, but does not bother to support either her claim that Rand belongs in the same philosophical category or her outlandish claim about Rand's view of family with reference to Rand's actual ideas. She refers instead to Libertarian representations of Rand. Representations that are fabricated from whole cloth.

Hymowitz commits many of the same errors that are de rigeur for the Libertarians she finds so amoral. Integration by nonessentials. Argumentum ad populum. Affirming the consequent. Substituting a definition of a concept for the concept itself. And of course, my old favorite, failure to recognize the ought in an is.

That Hymowitz was able to come to such an insane conclusion as "Ayn Rand . . . saw the family as a soul-killing prison" demonstrates that Libertarians (Hymowitz' only apparent source for information on Rand and Objectivism) are spreading around some very nasty ideas.

There is no way a rational person could, given even a cursory investigation of Objectivism, arrive at Hymowitz' conclusions about the philosophy. It is for this reason that I decided not to post my refutation of Hymowitz' factual and interpretive errors, and instead decided only to point out that she had made them. Anything else that needs saying, either about Libertarianism in general, or this editorial in specific, has already been said elsewhere in the Objectivist Web-o-Sphere. See Gus Van Horn, Rational Jenn, and the comments over at NoodleFood.

Tom G Varik