The Psychopathy of Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand1” by Phyllis Cerf (April 13, 1916– November 25, 2006), permission obtained from her son Christopher Cerf[…]Richard E. RalstonPublishing ManagerThe Ayn Rand Institute”. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

I am not, nor have I ever been, a fan of Ayn Rand, the author and philosopher who The Tea Party seems to worship with the same reverence they worship Jesus Christ (which is highly ironic, because Rand was an atheist and her values diametrically opposed to Christianity). Certain conservative pundits in recent years have twisted Rand’s ugly philosophy of selfishness (“objectivism”) into their “Christian” right-wing political agenda, and Bill O’Reilly even went so far to say that Jesus would not want to help the poor and homeless because it’s their own fault they don’t have enough to eat. These right wing pundits and politicians never stop to consider that it was the poor and homeless who were Jesus’ disciples and friends, not the rich and powerful. Rand believed that empathy and altruism were the greatest evils to beset mankind, and her childhood hero was a serial killer. She said “she liked the way his mind worked.”

I was going to write an article today about Rand’s obvious psychopathy, but someone has already done it for me. Everything I’d want to say is already here, so I am just going to reblog their excellent article, which uses the items on Hare’s psychopathy checklist to pulverize Ayn Rand because she fit every one of them (these are highlighted in bold).

From Prophet 451’s Journal [link not available]
(stolen from Democractic Underground)

Czar of all the “Rationalists”

You’ve probably heard of Ayn Rand. Most people have these days. She was the author of such inexplicably widely-read “novels” (really, barely-disguised political diatribes) as “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged”. Her books are currently enjoying something of a boom among those who misguidedly believe they would be in the self-righteous community of “Atlases” at Galt’s Gulch. The novels themselves are of only passing interest, being long, melodramatic and mediocrely written. Rather, it is the “philosophy” at the core of the novels which bears attention.

Hear ye, hear ye, I come to bury Rand, not to praise her. While numerous conservative thinkers (and, oddly, Neil Peart) have lauded Rand as a philosopher, few academic institutions include Rand or Objectivism as a philosophical discipline. Conservatives, such as Chris Sciabarra, tend to believe that the academic left decries Rand due to her anti-communist, pro-capitalist slant. Like much of the witterings of conservatives who presume to know what the left thinks, that presumes firstly, more power than the academic left has had in decades; secondly, assumes that the left was universally pro-communist and anti-capitalist, something which has never been true and thirdly, that Rand was saying anything worth studying. She wasn’t. Rand’s “philosophy” was the same defence of endless greed which mankind has been engaged in for eternity, the same attempt to place a moral cover on pure selfishness that has long been pursued by any number of exploiters down the centuries. Nietzche was, and is, pilloried for saying “God is dead”, Rand is lauded for effectively saying “the self is God”. There is nothing new here, save perhaps for the self-delusion that allows so many professed “Christians” to adhere to a philosophy that glorifies greed and athieism. There is also a cult-like deification of Rand by her followers and “swarming” of those who dare criticise her which reminds one very strongly of Scientology (and Glenn Beck followers but that’s another matter).

There is another name for those who hold that the only proper moral consideration is the happiness of the self; for those who view empathy and compassion as weakness; who view selfishness as the only virtue: Psychopaths.

Contrary to popular belief, the psychopath is not automatically violent. Rather, the psychopath is defined by a near-complete lack of empathy. Robert Hare (who created the widely used “Hare Psychopathy Checklist”) describes psychopaths as “intraspecies predators” who use a combination of charisma, manipulation, intimidation, sexuality and violence to satisfy their own desires. The more human qualities of conscience, empathy, remorse or guilt are either completely absent or extremely limited. It must be repeated that the psychopath is not necessarily violent. Indeed, many are not because their lives have never placed them in a position where violence was the only means to satisfy their desires. Many businessmen (and therefore, many politicians) profile as psychopaths because they exhibit the core characteristics or some section thereof. Ayn Rand should also be considered a psychopath.

Hare’s checklist lists certain personality factors as indicative of psychopathy. The average person will perhaps exhibit one or, at most, two. The psychopath will exhibit all but one or two.

In no particular order, these items are: Glibness/superficial charm.

After her writings became popular, Rand collected around herself a group of cultists who virtually worshipped her. However, Shallow affection, the psychopath’s charm is only ever superficial. As one comes to know and understand the psychopath more fully, the charm which initially attracted one to them is revealed as only skin-deep. In this, Rand was entirely textbook. She was described by most who knew her best as a bitter, friendless child who grew into an equally bitter and acidic woman.

Grandiose sense of self-worth would certainly fit Rand. A woman who names her beliefs “Objectivism” out of a belief that any reasoning person who observes the objective truths of the world would necessarily come to full agreement with her would probably qualify. The fact that her little cult were required to memorise her works and discounted as “imbecilic” and “anti-life” if they asked questions simply seals the deal. Her sincere belief was that thinking freely would automatically lead to total agreement with her views.

The ruthless policing of her cult would also qualify her under the Cunning/manipulative qualifier.

Pathological lying is one that Rand is probably innocent of. So far as we know, there is no reason to believe she was a pathological liar.

Lack of remorse or guilt and Callous/lack of empathy could be described as “Ayn Rand syndrome”. These two qualifiers are really the core of her books, philosophy and worldview. In one of her books (“The Fountainhead”), her “hero”, Howard Roark, blows up a housing project he designed when a minor alteration is made and then orders the jury to acquit him (the fact that, as an architect, Roark was presumably contracted for his work and therefore, it wasn’t “his” anymore piddles all over the supposed respect for property too). [I will add here that there is a scene in “The Fountainhead” in which Roark rapes a leading female character, and Rand defends his crime because it gets him what he wants–Lucky Otter].

In “Atlas Shrugged,” her ode to the super-rich which imagines them going on strike against progressive taxation, Rand describes the rest of the world (without whom, let us not forget, the super-rich would be unable to make anything) in such niceties as “savages”, “refuse” and “imitations of living beings”.

When one of the strikers engineers a train crash (because they don’t just strike but commit acts of terrorism too), Rand makes it clear that she believes the murdered victims deserved their fate because they supported progressive taxation. A stewing hymn of Nietzchean will-to-power, misanthropy, failure to understand economics, feudalism and sexual politics verging on the obscene, “Atlas Shrugged” is full of this stuff. Her heroes spend their time both insisting that they are the heroic producers (and without labour, what are they producing exactly?) and bemoaning that others do not worship them as such. In her spare time, Rand was an admirer of serial killer William Hickman (I’ll spare you the details of his crimes save to say that they were brutal even by serial killer standards), describing him as “a brilliant, unusual, exceptional boy”; “other people do not exist for him and he does not see why they should” was her evaluation of his crimes and Rand considered this worthy of praise.

Finally, on the personality factor, there is Failure to accept responsibility for one’s actions. Since our record of Rand’s life isn’t fully detailed, it’s difficult to say how much she satisfied this one. Certainly, when her lover Nathaniel Branden found another partner, she blamed him rather than herself or her increasingly poisonous views. We shouldn’t sympathise with Rand as injured party too much here, she was herself married to someone entirely different and cruel enough to carry on the affair without regard to discretion. Indeed, if the only duty of the superman is to please himself, Branden was acting according to Rand’s ideals and she should have applauded him. She once said the USA should be a “democracy of superiors only” with “superior” being defined as “rich”. One scarcely needs to point out that such a system wouldn’t be democracy at all but oligarchy and interestingly elitist for all her followers’ claim to despise elitism.

One doesn’t need to work very hard to diagnose Rand. Her life and writings paint a vivid picture of psychopathy so clear and obvious that it is only surprising so many miss it. She was a phenomenally damaged woman for whom one can feel an element of pity (an emotion that disgusted her) even while aware of how terrifically dangerous she and her philosophy was and are.

Rand herself died alone except for a hired nurse. Her deranged views had driven away anyone who might have been close to her. Like L. Ron Hubbard, however, her lunatic ideas have spawned a cult that would turn all of us into happy little psychopaths; a cult that includes many of the world’s foremost economists, politicians and rabble-rousers (Beck again, although “intellectual terrorist” might be more appropriate). Like George Orwell, Rand imagined a dystopian world characterised by the powerful’s exploitation of the powerless. Unlike Orwell, Rand wanted to live there.


I suppose I should add here that Rand was also a hypocrite. Decrying government support systems and safety nets as “coddling the incompetent and undeserving,” she unflinchingly collected both Medicare and Social Security when she contracted lung cancer late in her life. I suppose she thought she was a “deserving” exception to her own ugly philosophy of selfish callousness?

37 thoughts on “The Psychopathy of Ayn Rand

  1. I must be in free association mode.
    The part where it says something about how Ayn Rand thought that the people who (apparently) disagree with her point of view deserved their fate of death, reminded me of a raw vegan YouTuber who made a video a while back, talking about how humans who eat meat deserve to die.

    I actually got some AR books out of the library just out of curiosity. I’d come across some mentions of her (of course) reading about psychopathy and narcissism so I wanted to check her out, but I never got around to reading them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think everyone has a copy but not many have read it. I couldn’t get through it, though The Fountainhead was at least readable.



    Christopher Hitchens was one of my all time favorite writers. I loved his wit, his analysis of so many issues, even though I’m a Christian . This articles shows his learning many lessons from his demise. Maybe not about faith, but certianly about our human condition, and the arrogance of youth and strength. I don’t think ms. Rand learned much. Maybe the difference between the disordered and the nonconformist who isn’t disordered?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve heard of Hitchens and may have read some of his material but I can’t remember. I’ll read the link you posted. It’s raining–nothing else to do but read and sleep lol!


        • I just read it. Whew. Hitchens’ article strengthens my resolve to refuse “heroic measures” when my time comes.

          It also reinforces my personal saying: “That which doesn’t kill me makes me grumpier.” 😦

          Liked by 1 person

          • Right? That which doesn’t kill me usually causes me to break out in a rash.
            Isn’t his ability to document and articulate to the end amazing? I miss me some Hitchens . 😿

            Liked by 2 people

            • Oh me too, I get miserable ugly outbreaks of rosacea when I am stressed. A few months back tho I did a search for natural treatments for rosacea and discovered sea buckthorn berry oil. It is actually the juice of the whole berry. Wow it really works!! Only problem is it makes your face look orange so I use it full strength only at night. My white pillow cases are now stained orange but who cares. So long as I don’t get it in my eyes — burns!! — the relief is wonderful.

              But here is what I want to know…. whatever possessed the first person who ever tried that to rub orange berry juice all over their face…. know what I mean?!? 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

            • Berry juice for rashes? I’ll definitely try it . Lol, who tried that for the first time? Someone. In burning , itching agony that’s who. Slather stuff on and see what works best. 😷😷😷

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    • Dear Alex, have to hand it to Mr. Hitchens, the man kept his convictions to the end ( i guess) . Anyway, growing in Christ, has taught me to not be intimidated with atheists being smarter than Christians ( supposedly). Esau and Jacob – Esau had the temporal advantages. As for claims that belief in Christ is going the way of the hoola-hoop, no news there – Christ’s people have always been a minority, and always be a few percent. That’s humbling and sad.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sue, I like the way you present your religious views in a reasonable and respectful way and don’t attack those who believe differently but just talk about how you may differ. Nothing wrong with healthy debate or intelligent discussion–I see that here and I like it. 🙂


      • I agree Susan. i think organized religion will eventually fall, but that won’t effect true Christians. The world will keep turning and God will still be in control.

        Esau did enjoy his soup, didn’t he?

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        • I’m a Christian, but it can all be so confusing. Some types of Christians have no tolerance for other types, and it all boils down to the WAY we worship, which I think makes no difference at all to God. I think it’s what’s in your heart that matters to God, not the trappings of your particular church or demomination or whether you read the bible as a literal document or more of an allegory and guidebook. But the world is rife with religious abuse and has been for centuries. There have probably been more wars and human misery caused by religious intolerance and hatred than any other factor, even greed.


  3. ‘Anthem’ is a good short Ayn Rand read. It gives perspective of her writing without plowing through the heavier works.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I guess her writing can be entertaining. I sort of liked “The Fountainhead” and one of these days will try to read “Atlas Shrugged” AGAIN! But I can’t stand her “heroes” at all

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve told you about my ex, the one who confessed a murder to me that be had gotten away with and then tried to kill me because he was afraid I might turn him into the authorities — that lovely man called Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead his Bibles.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ihad bought Atlas thinking there would be gangsters verses townspeople – some action. Went into her story knowing it would be a long read, but i stuck with it for awhile, but around page 200 or so, began to realize, Ms. Ryand’s work was a long drawn out sermon. The lady was a truely gifted writer, there is no disbuting that. However if i want to read or hear a preacher, there’s a whole lot of real preaching going on over at sermonaudio / sermon index. Please excuse grammar and spelling, am posting on a tablet, cannot get to the laptop right now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hear your frustration, Sue. I always have problems typing on a smartphone. Our fngers are too big and clumsy for those tiny numbers and it keeps defaulting to words I wasn’t trying to write, lol! Your grammar and spelling is fine.

      She was a good writer in a purple-prose torch romance sort of way–she was actually good with sex and love scenes, which makes me wonder because she seems like the last sort of person I could imagine as being “romantic” or “sexual”, but who knows? She was definitely a cerebral narcissist (or cerebral ASPD?) but I bet she might have led a secret sexual/romantic life or more likely, poured all her hidden (and to her, shameful) desire for love and intimacy out onto paper. Of course many of those scenes involved dominance and control too, even rape.
      It’s interesting that she was married, and did have a child (or was it children?)

      However, the overall tone of her books was terribly preachy and sometimes the action scenes were interspersed with actual, and very loooooonnnngg, sermons, which were incredibly offputting. The Fountainhead wasn’t as bad–it was shorter and a straight novel though it could get preachy too.


  6. Man, that article is heated. Politically defensive, even. On the second scan, I’m thinking, “she’s dead; let it go.” But Rand did become bitter and alone. I think of the deadly sins there. Greed isn’t an exact fit with covetousness, but it can be self-destructive as addiction is self-destructive.

    Capitalism doesn’t say what you should/shouldn’t want; it merely acknowledges greed in the nature of man, and to say there is a way to get what you want, but also encourages growth.

    I haven’t done any research of my own on Rand, but fame can attract all sorts of bad things. And articles that draw conclusions based on opinions. Rand was a flawed person, and many people acknowledge that, but not everyone who associates themselves with a political group fits into a particular mold. Good or bad, the media have distorted the Tea party beyond recognition.

    Most people are good as all people are created good. It’s the lies that cause the damage. I’ve come to agree with some of the opinions in this article but only some and after the fact; it’s flawed as well. It underlines how fear cannot lead fact.

    …I do admit, I never read Atlas Shrugged and could stand the first film adaptation of the 21st century, nothing more. Mediocre & manipulative, sure.

    I hope this long response wasn’t too abrasive.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Odd – the impression I got from ‘The Fountainhead’ was closer to ‘social gamesmanship will enrich you in terms of social capital, but in the process, you will become empty of all that endures – while those who *refuse* to do such *Blatant Stupidity* will suffer greatly in this life – but they maintain their integrity, also.’

    Granted, I read about Howard over thirty years ago, so if I were to read the book again, I might well get a different message.

    One another hand – one *must* have integrity to truly care about others – as in care downto the core. There is a ***lot*** of #superficial# ‘caring’ that in truth is little more than a potent species of CON – something closer to that dreaded nonsense named ***superficial charm***.

    There is nothing (I know of) that quite puts the lie to Nietzsche’s foolhardy dictum than Undertreated Hypothyroidism. (I’ve not endured *cancer* – yet… I ***have*** been doing hypothyroidism most of my adult life). Cance – most people sort-of understand it. They know it’s ***bad*** – that it can kill you – that it needs drastic treatment for you to have a chance at survival.

    Hypothyroidism, on the other hand.. Supposedly easy to treat, easy to test for – ‘just be a good ***lesser being*** and take this drug – and life slowly devolves into something that looks exactly like ***chronic fatigue syndrome***. Yeah, your labs come back ‘fine’. You’re NOT doing at all good. Talk that doesn’t line up with the test results gets subtext implying ‘social insanity’ (much as if one were a dissident in the old Sovjetskaya Onion. the old s.s.s.r. – amd Lunts himself had just labeled you with ‘sluggish schizophrenia’ – treatment for not being a good drone – lovely psych drugs.

    No, the ‘chemical straitjacket’ doesn’t make you stronger. It ruins your life and gives you PTSD.

    You finally crash and burn, thinking ‘I’m screwed no matter what I do, and damn near demand to be treated with something that supplies a biologically active form of thyroid hormone – and then, when you’ve started to come back to life, you say things like, “No, I was NOT an unholy half-dead. I was closer to nine-tenths and change dead, and did not realize it.”

    So I’ve lost years, I don’t trust Norms on principle, I think most Drs are preds (and the ones who don’t start that way become preds in due time), I think society, or at least large portions of it, is essentially deeply mired in absolute barbarism (namely, society looks like it’s turned into what Hitler hoped it would become) – and all Norms regatd **diagnosable*** psychopaths as the apex of humanity.

    Not sure if this translates to *stronger*.

    It makes me wonder If I’m still sane.

    “adversity ***might*** make you stronger. It’s almost guaranteed to make you crazy.”. Pause, grumbles, ” bad medicine ” shudders.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I can’t stand this woman’s philosophy, it’s absolutely abhorrent, cold and devoid of empathy. Worse yet, it seems to have become a growing worldwide phenomenon. I did the political compass and ended up in her quadrant @ +2.00 on the economic axis, and-2.41 on the libertarian axis, so I’m not even a leftist outraged at her philosophy. The poor do not deserve their fate, especially when there is a recession.

    The irony is that I ended up on the libertarian right, despite strongly disagreeing with the question – Social security is better than Charity when it comes to helping the genuinely disadvantaged, and disagreeing with the question – Those with the ability to pay should have the right to higher standards of medical care.

    I fully agree with Gore Vidal’s sentiments – “Ayn Rand’s ‘philosophy’ is nearly perfect in its immorality, which makes the size of her audience all the more ominous and symptomatic as we enter a curious new phase in our society…. To justify and extol human greed and egotism is to my mind not only immoral, but evil.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with what you said, and it’s very scary how many people embrace Rand’s philosophy. To me, the immorality of it should be obvious, but I guess to many it isn’t, or they don’t think of it as immoral. Her philosophy actually believes altruism is evil! I can’t imagine why.

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  9. Preds see ‘not-preds’ and non-predatory behavior as 1) stupid; 2) unreal – as in ‘what is this person’s GAME’?; 2-b: as a useful form of obfuscating deception.

    Remember: it takes *cognitive empathy* to successfully deceive and manipulate others. Lack this,and you’ll be unable to game people – and this incapacity will mark you as *acceptable prey* to those who possess it.

    Secondly, it takes *affective empathy* – the capacity to feel as the prey does – to derive intrinsic / internal reward from its suffering – in the form of sadism and schadenfreude. Without this chief source of reward, predation loses much of its savor.

    In the limit, predation becomes ***pointless*** – save, perhaps, as a means of survival when there are no easier ways. Quoting Nietzsche doesn’t go very far then – one falls into Nihilism very quickly.

    The reason ‘mind-reading / feelings-reading’ is confused with caring is that Goleman *presumed* that knowing and feeling the sense of another would constrain one to succor and aid; and, provided the ‘target’ is seen as sufficiently ***deserving***, this usually happens.

    It is likely to be more accurate to presume psychopaths (and other flavors of preds) know and feel what their target is enduring, but instead of regarding said target as ‘as human as I’ – they (through moral disengagement, or a functionally similar process) see their subhuman, etc targets as ***prey***.

    This process describes most forms of human-type predation, from the casual and otherwise agreable ‘hater of autists / homeless / fill in the blank’ to the most callous diagnosable psychopath – the kind that can try to kill you if you presume to resist their machinations and abuse.

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