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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Promising, interesting and disappointing, 16 Jun. 2012
B. Van Langen (the Netherlands) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Why Businessmen Need Philosophy: The Capitalist's Guide to the Ideas Behind Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged (Paperback)
To be quite honest, I had a hard time determining how to rate this book. The papers were an interesting read for the most part, and I would say that I would have given the book 4 stars had I rated it halfway through. Towards the end of the book, I was leaning more towards 2 stars - I will say why in this review - so I decided on 3 stars, which reflects the overall feeling towards 'Why Businessmen Need Philosophy.'

Anyone who has read any of the writings by Ayn Rand knows exactly what to expect from this bundle of papers. Rand was the founder of the philosophy that she named 'objectivism,' a set of principles that basically revolve around capitalism and individualism. The idea of a laissez-faire economy appeals to me from a conceptual point of view and I in general interest myself in different philosophical points of view. Where most of the authors fail in my opinion, is in delivering their message. Indeed, the writing style and choice of words and examples makes me wonder what kind of audience this bundle of papers is aimed at. In their criticism of welfare and the sort of social system that most nations employ, the writers choose to polarize and to create a common enemy for "us real capitalists" to hate. Where one would expect a balanced analysis of the different philosophies and a reasoned explanation of why objectivism is the right ideology for businessmen and intellectuals, one encounters comparisons to communism and facism instead.

A perfect example of this apparent appeal to fear is one of the books that Rand suggests in one of the final papers of the book; 'The Ominous Parallels.' This book supposedly presents an account of similarities (from a philosophical point of view) between the state of America's culture in the eighties and the state of the German culture in the years preceding Nazism. In my opinion, those kind of comparisons are aimed at scaring the masses into a certain conviction, while the book accuses environmentalists of exactly that in one of the earlier papers. The frequent interpretations of what the Founding Fathers "would have wanted" or "would have said" or "would not have allowed to happen" are also examples of what feels like persuasive attempts using 'expert opinions' as arguments, while in this case the approval or disapproval of these experts can never be assessed.

What it comes down to, is that the cover of the book looked promising, and I was able to cope with the finger-pointing and 'us versus them' for a large part of the book. I wish and hope that the authors have stepped out of this Cold War mentality of creating enemies and calling opponents 'communists' and instead spend their time making a strong point for their philosophical convictions. Most of the authors are probably very intelligent people, with apparently many noteworthy accomplishments, but the bundled writings convey a feeling that feels more like frustration and anger than of full moral and philosophical conviction. I think that the philosophy would appeal to more people if it was presented in a way that invites rational and objective analysis, instead of telling the reader that he/she is evil to believe anything but what is propopsed by Rand. An interesting book nonetheless, but a bit of a deception to me.
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