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Hicks — Egoism in Nietzsche and Rand


contributes nothing to those above him, but receives the bonus of all of their brains. Such is the nature of the ‘competi- tion’ between the strong and the weak of the intellect. Such is the pattern of ‘exploitation’ for which you have damned the strong.4 (AS III:7, 1065)

The janitor who hates his boss on principle or who sees the factory’s creators as his enemies has made an error—a self-destructive misjudgment about his own self-interest. In Atlas Shrugged, for example, Dagny Taggart is not the enemy of Eddie Willers; nor is Eddie Willers the enemy of Pop Harper, the chief clerk; nor is Pop Harper the enemy of an anonymous line worker far below in the underground terminal.

Nor are any of us the enemies of the geniuses who create in music, business, technology, art, athletics, or philosophy. The idea that those of us who have lesser abilities in any of those areas should want to control or destroy those who are superior is stupidly self- destructive to the highest degree.

Yet Nietzsche’s commitment to a fundamental adversarial zero- sum position does commit him to the view that altruism is to the self- interest of the weaker. It yields the implication that if one has less musical talent, then one’s self-interest is that the Beethovens and Rachmaninoffs be destroyed (recalling the fictional portrayal of Antonio Salieri in Peter Shaffer and Milos Forman’s Amadeus)—that if one has less athletic talent, that the Babe Ruths and Michael Jordans be handicapped (recalling the pathetically real-life example of Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan)—that if one is a so-so businessman, that the John D. Rockefellers and Bill Gateses be bridled (recalling the language invoked in most antitrust debates about the dangers of “unbridled” competition). This is a striking and fundamental difference between Nietzsche’s and Rand’s interpretations of altruism.5

Rand also believes that the egoism of the less-talented is to respect themselves—for their potential and for their committing to achieving it. Not everyone can be a Michael Jordan. But the measure of a good life is not primarily comparative—it is a matter of making one’s own independent choices, forming one’s own character and interests, making one’s own way in the world in whatever way suits

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