Can I buy new shoes? A couple bucks for the movies? Your mother is suing me.
Twenty dollars for a class field trip? Your mother is suing me.
From what I understood of his favorite capitalist champion, any form of altruism was evil. But how could that kind of blanket self-interest extend to his own children, the people he was legally and morally bound to take care of? What was I supposed to do, fend for myself?
The answer to my question came on an autumn weekend during my sophomore year in high school. I was hosting a Harry Potter-themed float party in our driveway, a normal ritual to prepare decorations for my high school quad the week of homecoming. As I was painting a cardboard owl, my father asked me to come inside the house. He and his new wife sat me down at the dinner table with grave faces.
“We were wondering if you would petition to be emancipated,” he said in his lawyer voice.
“What does that mean?” I asked, picking at the mauve paint on my hands. I later discovered that for most kids, declaring emancipation is an extreme measure — something you do if your parents are crack addicts or deadbeats.
“You would need to become financially independent,” he said. “You could work for me at my law firm and pay rent to live here.”
This was my moment of truth as an objectivist. If I believed in the glory of the individual, I would’ve signed the petition papers then and there. But as much as Rand’s novels had taught me to believe in meritocracy, they had not prepared me to go it alone financially and emotionally. I began to cry and refused.
Hardcore objectivists often criticize liberals for basing decisions on emotion, rather than reason. My father saw our family politics no differently. In his mind, it was reasonable to ask that I emancipate myself and work for a living. To me, it felt like he was asking me to sacrifice my childhood so he didn’t have to pay child support. To me, it felt like abandonment.
“How Ayn Rand ruined my childhood,” by Alyssa Bereznak, salon.com (via splatterdick)
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