Some people, including some fans of Ayn Rand, have criticized the idea of celebrating Randsday (i.e., Rand’s birthday) by treating yourself to something special that you want but would not ordinarily buy or do for yourself. “If the idea is to do something special for yourself on Rand’s birthday,” people have asked, “doesn’t that negate the idea of selfishness as a fundamental virtue? If selfishness is truly a virtue, shouldn’t you be selfish every day?”
This misses the point and spirit of the holiday.
Indeed, you should be selfish every day; your life and happiness require it. The reason to do something special for yourself on Randsday is not to be selfish on this day as against some selfless norm of every other day. Nor is the point to demonstrate your selfishness to others through some form of egoistic “virtue signaling” (that would be bizarrely second-handed). Rather, the reason is to celebrate the birthday of the philosopher who showed that selfishness is a virtue—and to do so in a way symbolic of and uniquely warranted by her vital ideas.
Rand is one of the most important philosophers in history; and this is, in large part, because of her discovery of the principle that being truly selfish (i.e., rationally selfish) is the essence of being moral. This principle is one of the most controversial discoveries in history. It is also one of the most life serving. Giving yourself a gift on Rand’s birthday is a fitting way to celebrate the life, ideas, and accomplishments of the philosopher who gave the world this supreme value.
Just as we celebrate George Washington’s birthday—not to show that we are American, but to honor his revolutionary ideas and accomplishments; so too we celebrate Ayn Rand’s birthday—not to show that we are selfish, but to honor her revolutionary ideas and accomplishments. And, in each case, it makes sense to celebrate in a way that corresponds to those values.
In celebrating Washington’s birthday, we think of his bravery and leadership in the Revolutionary War, his crossing of the Delaware River, his refusal to be king, his general role in the founding of America. Accordingly, we might attend a reenactment of the crossing, visit Mount Vernon, enjoy some cherry pie or whiskey, or do something else symbolically tied to the man and his legacy.
Similarly, in celebrating Rand’s birthday, we think of her courage and willingness to challenge two thousand years of Judeo-Christian ethics; we recall that she stood against the entire world and argued for a moral code based not on revelation, faith, and selfless service to some alleged higher power—but on observation, logic, and the factual requirements of human life on Earth. Correspondingly, in celebration, we might do something symbolically tied to Rand and her legacy.
Buying a gift or doing something special for yourself on Rand’s birthday is symbolic of your reverence for her and her life-serving philosophy. It’s a way to celebrate her life and ideas in the spirit of her life and ideas. (It’s also a great way to begin conversations with others about her ideas.)
So, celebrate Rand’s birthday by doing something special for yourself—not to show that you are selfish, but to celebrate the fact that Rand had the philosophical fortitude and intellectual capacity to identify and demonstrate to the world that selfishness is, indeed, a virtue.