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According to Ayn Rand's intellectual pyramid:

“The man at the top of the intellectual pyramid contributes the most to all those below him, but gets nothing except his material payment, receiving no intellectual bonus from others to add to the value of his time. The man at the bottom who, left to himself, would starve in his hopeless ineptitude, contributes nothing to those above him, but receives the bonus of all of their brains.”

Isn't this a faulty premise and/or a contradiction? I mean the people at the bottom go out and buy the rich people’s products, in teeming numbers can the tuna, weld the struts, mine the ores, plow the fields and even send their children to fight and die in oil rich nations to protect and defend our interests.

Don't you think it is an affront to say that the man at the bottom will starve without the benevolence of the rich man on top? If I remember right, when a labor strike is called, it’s not the rich who go in and operate the machines of the factory. In fact, they would sooner call in other laborers to avert going bankrupt.

Also isn't she forgetting the evolutionary instinct for survival that nature wired in all of us to prevent our starvation in the first place, nevermind the greatest evolutionary product in natural history called homo sapiens (or thinking man if you like – yes that means almost everybody) and that everyone has a brain to create ideas and therefore potential wealth.

asked Jan 29 '11 at 22:05

Fareed's gravatar image


edited Jan 30 '11 at 13:37

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

"..the people at the bottom go out and buy the rich people’s products.." - What products? How did these products become available? Where did the people at the bottom get the money to buy these products?

(Jan 29 '11 at 23:59) dreadrocksean dreadrocksean's gravatar image

Just a nit. Humans don't have instinctual knowledge; see the article "Instinct" in the Ayn Rand Lexicon (you can find it via Google).

(Jan 30 '11 at 15:39) javert ♦ javert's gravatar image

Did you miss the part "but gets nothing except his material payment"?

You also don't seem to understand how the system works. Let me break it down into the simplest terms: Some smart guy has an idea and then gets other smart guys with resources to make his idea possible. Let's say his idea involves a factory. Now these people use their resources to build a factory, trading with people to do the work. Those people would not have any work to do if it weren't for the people with good ideas needing a factory.

(May 22 '11 at 21:20) Marnee Dearman ♦ Marnee%20Dearman's gravatar image
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There's no argument that a person at the top of the intellectual pyramid benefits from everyone else; all men benefit when living in a rational society. The point Ms. Rand was making is that those at the top of the intellectual pyramid contribute in uniquely valuable ways which no one else can.

Consider a man who is working as a car mechanic. He may be good at his job, and quite admirably rational, productive, etc. However, he would not be able to have such a livelihood if not for the man who actually invented the car, the assembly line on which it was produced, and the various tools and machines he uses every day. The mechanic can offer his fellow men his talent and time to fix their cars. The inventors, engineers, and businessmen can make possible the mechanic's entire lifetime of profitable employment, which the mechanic, on his own, could not have produced.

Ayn Rand's idea of the intellectual pyramid identifies the fact that some men, by virtue of the things they invent or create, contribute much more to the well being of other men than those men could possibly return. That Henry Ford made a fortune is a small return for the vast benefit he provided to innumerable people: from being able to afford a car to being able to make a living as a garage mechanic now that everyone has one.

answered Jan 30 '11 at 02:41

Andrew%20Miner's gravatar image

Andrew Miner ♦

edited Mar 01 '13 at 18:02

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Asked: Jan 29 '11 at 22:05

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Last updated: Mar 01 '13 at 18:02