Despite my blog title, I regard myself as ex-Randian. I still have (mostly) warm memories of my Randian adolescence -- or, well, as nearly warm as are possible, given that I'm reminiscing about an unfortunate stage of life defined by acne, near-sightedness, and inability to talk to boys. So I was intrigued to read this attempt to denounce Rand for inculcating incuriosity in her followers.
With all due respect for Mr. DeBoer, I don't think his former college classmate's case is typical. I won't attempt to defend myself from allegations of incuriosity. I'm all too aware of the limitations of my own meager mind. But I would point to friends of mine, including Josh Blackman (who rejects Rand's dogmatic anti-religion views in the linked post) and David Bernstein, who in the linked post describes how Rand spurred his academic career and has served to inspire others to be their best. I know, I'm just offering anecdotes -- but so too is Mr. DeBoer, and I'm not aware of any more systematic attempt to study Rand's influence on her adherents' curiosity.
Second, Mr. DeBoer's paragraph on the substantive content of his friend's views is odd:
And, you know, if you peruse Mr. Cropper's videos for awhile you'll learn that he thinks poor people choose to be in poverty and deserve it, that we should not feed the starving, that the American Indians were a collection of idiots who were rightly colonized by a superior power, that war is often preferable to peace, that religion is a mental disease, that modern cosmology and particle theory are a scientific conspiracy, that we won the Vietnam war, that we are and should be at war with Islam (because Muslims are inherently irrational and hateful), that nuclear armed nations should enforce their advantage in the capacity for physical violence against other nations without conscience, that global warming is a myth, that child labor should be reinstated as it is a moral and rational edifice, that poetry always must rhyme or is not poetry, and his most cherished and frequently expressed idea, that the edifice of modern higher education is in total a conspiracy against the people, perpetrated by educators who knowingly disseminate nonsense, and that this is the reason for his failure to ascend to the pinnacle of intellectual achievement.
Let's break some of these down:
1)"That poor people choose to be in poverty and deserve it" -- Rand certainly thought that of some poor people, yes. But I suspect that even the most bleeding hearted libs concede that there are some poor people who are in their current situation due to their own shiftlessness and laziness. Rand did show plenty of characters in Atlas Shrugged who are poor because of failed government economic policies. Others are poor due to others' inability to recognize their talents -- the formerly successful Henry Cameron in The Fountainhead, and also the struggling Steven Mallory in the same novel. It's notable that hero Howard Roark gave Mallory financial aid while he was struggling to launch his sculpting career, and that Rand was perfectly fine with such aid given to a poor person.
2)"That we should not feed the starving" -- See above about Mallory. Rand was against charity that enables shiftlessness, as I think even many left of center types are. But she was okay with financial support given to the poor in circumstances where such wouldn't be counterproductive.
3)"That American Indians were a collection of idiots who were rightly colonized by a superior power" -- Again, I'd be careful. I can't recall anything that Rand ever wrote specifically about American colonization. But she was a firm believer in property rights and in non-initiation of the use of physical force. Adherence to the latter principles would indicate that Randians shouldn't see the American colonization as unambiguously good.
4)That war is often preferable to peace -- See above.
5)That religion is a mental disease -- Yes, it's true Rand was fervently anti-religion. She wouldn't have used the disease formulation, though. And many of her followers have also found ways of synthesizing pro-religious and objective views -- see Mr. Blackman's post above.
6)That modern cosmology and particle theory are a scientific conspiracy -- I will defer to others on this, but I can't recall anything in Rand that questioned the validity of modern cosmology or particle theory. Indeed, in general, Rand was all for scientific inquiry and technological advancement.
7)That we are and should be at war with Islam (because Muslims are inherently irrational and hateful), that nuclear armed nations should enforce their advantage in the capacity for physical violence against other nations without conscience -- See #3, above.
8)That global warming is a myth -- Yes, Rand was skeptical of much of 1960s and 1970s environmentalism. She didn't write on global warming specifically to my knowledge because it was simply less of a hot issue among environmentalists then.
9) That child labor should be reinstated as it is a moral and rational edifice -- Rand did favor abolishing bans on child labor. She claimed that, as post-Industrial Revolution societies grow richer, individual families were more likely to send their children to school instead of having them work in unpleasant conditions. All things being equal, Rand would have preferred to live in a wealth, modern society where few or no families found it economically exigent to make their children work.
To Mr. DeBoer's credit, he concedes that "Some of these [ideas] can be directly attributed to Rand's philosophy; many can't." Still, I do think it's worth highlighting how far astray some of these go from Rand's actual ideas. The discrepancies suggest that much of Brandon's approach to Rand may reflect his own idiosyncrasies, rather than anything inherent in Rand's work.
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