Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ayn Rand and Charity, Part 2

Following up my previous discussion, I will survey some additional Rand comments on charity here.

Rand’s 1964 Playboy Interview

“My views on charity are very simple. I do not consider it a major virtue and, above all, I do not consider it a moral duty. There is nothing wrong in helping other people, if and when they are worthy of the help and you can afford to help them. I regard charity as a marginal issue. What I am fighting is the idea that charity is a moral duty and a primary virtue.”

Of note is Rand’s statement that “[t]here is nothing wrong in helping other people, if and when they are worthy of help . . . . “ This leads to the question of how much I need to know about people in order to justify helping them. Contributing money to, say, an organization that helps poor people in India might turn on the moral status of the people receiving the help. Some of them might be moral, others not.

Allowing Poor People to Ride on Trains for Free

In one of Rand’s essays she contrasts a railroad’s allowing poor people to ride on a train in empty seats with a full blown altruist. This example approaches what I’ve called generic charity.

For some reason, I’m having a hard time finding the essay.

The Fountainhead: Austin Heller

Austin Heller is a positive minor figure in The Fountainhead. Rand says “he never donated to charity, but spent more money than he could afford, on defending political prisoners anywhere.” (P. 107.)

While this shouldn’t necessarily be taken as describing Rand’s views, it supports the idea that Rand did not support “generic charity,” but thought charity should be limited to specific kinds of people or causes.

I owe this reference to Roderick Long.


Nick said...

I thought Rand's comment about it being moral to allow poor people to ride on train was in The Virtue of Selfishness.

I know I've read it somewhere.

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