More on Ayn Rand’s Influence on me, and why I work so hard.

Over at Volokh, it is Ayn Rand Day, as David Bernstein discusses the influence of Ayn Rand on his life. He writes:

Second, Rand, with her celebration of man’s potential and achievement, has inspired many people to strive to fulfill their potential, including me.  Rand didn’t influence my political views very much; I was already a libertarian when I read her work, and had already read Friedman, Hayek, Nozick, Rothbard, Sowell, and many others.  But she did help change my outlook on life.

I was always a very successful student, but always a very lazy one.  When I arrived in college, my basic career goal was to find an easy but reasonably well-paying job, and do the minimum necessary to maintain it.  I indeed wound up finding a job, in academia, that allows many people to do this.  But in the meantime, reading Rand, along I’m sure with less obvious influences that I can’t identify easily, led me to want to be an achiever, not just a time-server. The glow of Rand’s writing eventually wore off, but I found that I really enjoyed being a scholar, working hard at it, and being good at it.  As a result, I’ve worked much harder in my career than I ever did in high school or college.  And the feeling of satisfaction I get when I work hard and publish something I think worthwhile is far great than I ever got from my effortless A average in college.

I had a very similar experience, but slightly different. I always worked hard. As long as I can remember I studied more than most, I engaged in sundry entrepreneurial endeavours, and I always sought to separate myself from others based on sweat on the brow and mental exertions.

My first year of Law School, I worked 40 hours a week and attended evening classes. My second year of Law School I worked about 30 hours a week (don’t tell the ABA), maxed out at 17 credits, was on Law Review and VP of Mason’s Federalist Society.  My third year I cut back to 25 hours a week, maxed out at 17 credits, Articles Editor on Law Review, published an article in the Santa Clara Law Review, and VP of Fed Soc. As a law clerk, I work more hours than most of my fellow clerk friends, and spend many hours every night working on my scholarship and writing.

But why work so hard? After reading Rand, I realized that hard work was an essential aspect of who I am.

One of my favorite quotes in Atlas Shrugged turns Descartes on his head. It is not, “I think therefore I am.” It is, “I am therefore, I think.”

An essential aspect of who I am is my ability to think and reason. And the natural extension of my thoughts and reasoning, are my work. I love what I do, and I do what I love. For me, working hard is not toil or work in the colloquial sense. I loathe watching television, or other mind-numbing activities. Wasting time is an anathema to my life. I enjoy pushing my mind to its limits, and working as hard as I can at all times.

For this reason, I owe Rand a great debt.  And I suspect many other hard workers and minds of our society owe Rand a thank you as well.

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How Ayn Rand Influenced Me, and Reconciling Objectivism with Religion

At Volokh, Ilya Somin writes an interesting post about Ayn Rand, titled “Assessing Ayn Rand: “An Utterly Intolerant and Dogmatic Person Who Did a Great Deal of Good”. Ilya discusses how his libertarianism was never influenced by Rand, despite her prominence to spread the cause of libertarianism in the 20th Century.

I was never much influenced by Rand or impressed by her writings. I became a libertarian in high school primarily as a result of reading Friedman, Hayek, Nozick, and Thomas Sowell – and because being a refugee from communism prevented me from becoming a left-liberal, as would otherwise have been likely. I also read some of Rand’s books at that time. But I wasn’t impressed with her effort to defend free markets based on her theory of the “virtue of selfishness.” or her “Objectivist” philosophy. Many of her ideas seemed poorly developed or superficial. I was also turned off by her intolerance for disagreement and her lack of serious effort to engage with opposing points of view.

Frequent readers of my blog will know that I am a fan of Rand. Just check out all of my John Galt posts.

I had a much different experience than Ilya. My libertarianism was largely informed, if not guided by my experiences with Rand. While in College, I considered myself strictly a conservative. I favored limited government and individual rights, but I didn’t really know why.

My 1L Semester at Mason, in our Law & Economics Seminar, Professor Rustici (one of the best Professors I have ever had) asked us to read Capitalism, the Unknown Ideal. Let’s just say it rocked my world. Rand systematically explained why capitalism is the economic system of government most compatible with individual liberty and freedom.

After reading Capitalism, I ventured to conquer Atlas Shrugged. As I was working 40 hours a week and attending law school as an evening student, I could only manage 20 pages a day. It took me nearly 6 months to read, but I was enraptured by every minute of reading that amazing book. I began seeing parallels between the stories Rand told, and our society sliding towards statism. I subsequently read the Fountainhead, the Virtue of Selfishness, and other Rand works. And I was hooked.

These works helped me understand why I favored limited government, and why individual liberty is essential to a persons being. Every day, I strive to make all my actions rational, and try to do nothing that will hurt another.

More after the jump, and reconciling obejctivism and religion.

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Mark Levy: The Perils of Big Law Life and the Consequences of Careerism

The ABA Journal has a tragic, yet touching story, about the life and death of Mark Levy, a high-powered attorney with a stellar career who took his life last Summer. H/T Professor K on Facebook, who provided an apt caption: “A well-written description of the consequences of careerism.”

Levy, 59, was one of the most skilled appellate lawyers in the country. He was of counsel at the firm and chair of its Supreme Court and appellate advocacy practice. He had argued 16 times before the court and in January had posted a 9-0 victory in an em­ployee-benefits case for DuPont.

Relentlessly upbeat, if a little uptight, he was passionate and enthusiastic about even the most arcane aspects of the practice of law. An impeccable dresser, he always looked like he was ready to go to court.

If he was distressed with the arc of his career, even his closest professional colleagues had no inkling—and they certainly had no idea that he would sit down in his office chair the morning of April 30 and, with a .38-caliber handgun, fire a bullet into the right side of his head.

Mark Levy had a loving family. He seemed financially secure. He had earned the admiration and respect of his peers.

What Levy did not have, however, was a job.

Just days before he killed himself, he found out that he was being let go by Kilpatrick in a round of cost-cutting driven by the unraveling economy. He had been one of 24 lawyers nationwide laid off by the 500-lawyer firm.

This attorney seemingly had everything. Money. Power. Prestige. A loving family. But what could drive a person to such ends?

More after the jump

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