Campus Media Response: Break Free From Unchosen “Ties That Bind”

In a piece called “Ayn Rand is an Adolescent Sociopath”, Eli Gottlieb of the UMass/Amherst Daily Collegianwrote:

In recent times, American society has brought forth one of the most bizarre ideological aberrations that I’ve ever seen: the radical individualist. This person not only considers himself so special that he should have no obligations to anything greater than himself, but honestly believes that nothing greater than he even exists. Armed with his Ayn Rand books and subscription to Reason magazine, he stampedes onto our college campuses, onto our television screens and into our newspapers. He spreads a seductive creed that each of us has no ties binding us to others, and we can all simply do as we please while remaining entirely moral beings….

I don’t buy it, and I don’t think anyone else should either. For one thing, this violates every commandment of God’s Torah, but even on a secular level this kind of thinking simply kicks me in the gut.….

We responded with the following letter to the editor of The Collegian:

Count us among the radical individualist “ideological aberrations” Eli Gottlieb chides in his column critical of Ayn Rand, an author whom Gottlieb displays little evidence of actually having read or understood.

We agree with Rand’s view that we have “no ties binding us to others.” To be precise, Rand’s view is that we have no such ties that are unchosen. She thinks, and we agree, that we do owe our friends and loved ones affection, energy, and time. We owe our employers and trading partners the goods and services we have agreed to render. And if we want to live in a civilized society, we owe it to others to respect their freedom.

But Gottlieb thinks we are bound to others by ties imposed by a God or by “fate.” We think this is an arbitrary, unprovable assertion. But it is curious how many secular people also share Gottlieb’s conviction that we have unchosen obligations to live our lives for other people. These people should think carefully about whether there is any earthly reason to surrender our precious time on earth to random strangers.

A true mark of overcoming “adolescence” is the commitment to take responsibility for one’s own life and for one’s own thinking—rather than blindly believing the dictates of our culture’s moral and religious “authorities.”

Image from Flickr user gaijin_seb

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Valery Publius is the pen name of a teacher living in the American South.