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Have a Selfish Randsday!

Ayn RandAmerican philosopher Ayn Rand was born on February 2, 1905, and her long-time associate Harry Binswanger has designated her birthday a new holiday: “Randsday.” I love this idea.

Rand, author of The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, The Virtue of Selfishness, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, and several other revolutionary books, was, from the standard of the value of man’s life, the most important philosopher of the 20th century.

Rand advocated what she called rational egoism: the idea that one should always act in a rationally self-interested manner, always pursue one’s life-serving values by means of one’s best judgment, always consider the long-range consequences of one’s actions, and never commit a sacrifice (“the surrender a greater value for the sake of a lesser one”). To enact this principle, she held, is to be moral; hence the virtue of selfishness.

Rand saw this idea both as the key to personal happiness and as the moral foundation of a free society. And she was right. If you want to live your life fully and achieve the greatest happiness possible, you must act in a rationally self-interested manner as a matter of unwavering principle. You must choose life-serving goals, activities, and relationships, and you must pursue them rationally and ambitiously throughout your days and years. To do otherwise is to live less fully, less happily than you are able to live.

Likewise, if you want to live in a society where you are free to act consistently as you see fit, you must advocate a social system in which individual rights are fully recognized and protected. You must uphold the inalienable right of each individual to act on his own judgment for his own sake—whether in regard to his career, business, recreation, romance, or any other value—so long as he does not violate the same rights of others. The proper purpose of a government, Rand emphasized, is to protect rights and thus enable individuals to live their lives in accordance with their judgment.

This is the essence of Rand’s philosophy: Go by reason, pursue your life-serving values, respect the rights of others to do the same, and advocate a social system that makes all of this possible. And this is why Randsday is a worthy holiday. It celebrates the birthday of the philosopher who codified the virtue of selfishness and made the moral argument for a rights-respecting society.

How to celebrate Randsday? As Binswanger puts it: “You do something not done on any other holiday: you give yourself a present.” The idea is to treat yourself to something that you really want and will greatly enjoy but that you ordinarily would not buy for yourself now: that MacBook Pro or that beautiful dress you’ve been eying, that snowboard you know will improve your turns, reservations at that picturesque hotel in the Caymans, tickets to that Broadway show, a Lexus, a puppy—whatever you’ll love and can non-sacrificially afford. Buy it for Randsday and enjoy it.

What will it be?

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Image: Gary L. Friedman www.FriedmanArchives.com; Copyright © Sandra J. Shaw Studio 2011.

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Craig Biddle

Craig Biddle is the editor of The Objective Standard and the author of Loving Life: The Morality of Self-Interest and the Facts that Support It, a highly concretized, systematic introduction to Ayn Rand’s ethics. His forthcoming book, Thinking in Principles: The Science of Selfishness, is about how most effectively to use one’s mind in the service of one’s life, liberty, and happiness. In addition to writing, he lectures and teaches seminars on ethical and epistemological issues from an Objectivist perspective. Mr. Biddle has lectured and taught seminars at universities across the country, including Stanford, Duke, Tufts, UVA, UCLA, and NYU. His website is www.CraigBiddle.com.


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