This is to continue the discussion of Objectivism from the front page. Some basic info:

Ayn Rand (1905-1982) (wikipedia) was a Russian immigrant, author, screenwriter and creator of the philosophy called "Objectivism", which advocates selfishness as a virtue and denounces altruism. 

Among her writings are The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, both of which have been turned into feature films.

Despite her atheism, Rand is popular among Tea Party conservatives because of her anti-tax stance.  

Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan was a personal friend of Rand.

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Actually, the concept of "enlightened self interest" comes from Albert Ellis and other cognitive theorists. 

For the record, I'm not a full-blown follower of Rand, but, like other philosophers, there are points she made (particularly about how government tends to get bigger and bigger until creativity is stifled) certainly ring true to me. 

That said, the mortgage meltdown certainly illustrates the need for oversight . . . .Rand's weakness is that she naively thought that the free market would correct all problems.

Dee - thanks, great short cut and time saver for me :)

Ullrich - I'm quite excited by your theory - you seem to be saying that if we could rid the world of psychopaths we wouldn't have all this instability - that their greed is at the root of the problems of war and economic crash...?  A genocide on psychopaths perhaps?

Also, what role do you think they have played in our society still be present at part of the fittest that have survived?  Or do you think them as more of a birth defect, having ill formed growth of the brain due to environmental factors such as nutritional deficiencies in utero?

I think they survived because psychopathy has survival benefits for the psychopath.  Probably they remain a fairly small fraction of the population because tribes or groups with too many psychopaths are at a disadvantage compared to tribes with fewer.    People who aren't bound by moral compunctions not to rape (for instance) will, in some cases (like in societies where rape isn't considered that big a deal and women aren't allowed access to abortion) possibly have more children than their better socialized brothers.   The other possibility is that psychopaths are more likely to rise to the top of authoritarian hierarchies (e.g. CEO positions in publicly traded corporations) and will have greater opportunities to reproduce because of their positions.   It's not what you know, it's how many people you're willing to trample underfoot on your journey to the top of the heap. :(

It is also possible that the same genetic variation that causes psychopathy also is responsible (when suitably regulated) for leadership abilities, so having just the right number of psychopathy related genes in your tribe might give it an advantage over those with higher or lower percentages of those traits.

Unfortunately, all this hardly qualifies as a theory yet, but it is IMHO a reasonable hypothesis which seems to account for some of recent and ancient history.  Hopefully there are groups of scientists full of folks much brighter than I out there looking into all this in more detail.

Until all this is sorted out in detail, genocide is probably not a good idea even against psychopaths because we can't know at this stage of our understanding what other positive traits might be linked to psychopathy related genes... or even how genes and socialization interact to produce psychopathy.  Maybe we will eventually learn how to control the obvious negative aspects and wind up with more brilliant leaders and fewer serial killers out of the same set of genes.

George got me onto this discussion - so I'm here to see what's going on.... :)

Ullrich - I also think that many just acquire psychopathic traits as an adaptive mechanism - I wish you well with your hypothesis and also hope that someone gets to follow this up with some science and study - it would be very interesting.... :)




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