Rebirth of Reason

Ayn Rand, in Spades
Posted by Michael E. Marotta on 2/17, 8:20am
The New York Times
By John Hodgman
Published: June 29, 2003
''Kumar wants to know the secret to being a better bridge player,'' Wildavsky explains. His eyes gleam briefly, mischievously. ''Of course, you know what I told him.''
''Money is the root of all good.''
Attentive readers will recognize the quote: it's the keystone of Francisco D'Anconia's defense of capitalism in Ayn Rand's very long novel ''Atlas Shrugged.''
''One of Rand's basic premises is that man has free will,'' Wildavsky is saying, ''which is expressed primarily through a single choice: to think or not to think.''
''I know, I know,'' Kumar says. ''That is my problem. I think too much.''
''No!'' Wildavsky corrects him. You should always think, he says. Weak players, he says, follow ''bridge nursery rhymes'' -- and here he waggles his head, reciting, ''Second hand low, third hand high, fourth takes if he can'' -- instead of looking objectively at what the situation requires.
He used to be a ''terror'' at the table, he tells me. Then he stopped looking at the game emotionally and started looking at it Objectively. ''Selfishiness is what led me to the idea that it would be profitable to be nice to my partner,'' he says.
It most likely helps that his partner in the Vanderbilt, Doug Doub, is also an Objectivist. Counting himself, Wildavsky estimates there are three Objectivists among the 100 top players in the United States.
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