These views are considered daring because they stand in opposition to Christian-inspired admonitions against the "sin" of pride. But fact is that such admonitions don't really exercise much influence on the attitudes and behavior of most people, whether they profess a theoretical attachment to Christian doctrine or not. Most people are proud of their accomplishments and proud of their country, regardless of theological attachments, just as most people abhor the false pride of pretension and hubris.
Objectivists begin to lose sight of reality on this issue when it comes to two main issues: (1) detecting hubris in themselves and (2) evaluating hubris in others.
One of the long standing problems in Objectivism is a tendency to frame issues in very simple, broad abstractions, to the detriment of any and all important details. It's all very well to say that pride should be based on real accomplishments. But how does one know that a specific instance of pride is or is not based on something genunine? Often, in the situations we confront in everyday life, we're not in a position to know such a thing. And what makes it even more difficult is most people are not very good at evaluating their own accomplishments or the accomplishments of other. Experimental psychology has found that most people engage, quite unwittingly, in spin about their personal accomplishments and their own moral worth, while being overly critical (or sometimes overly uncritical) toward other. Nor is such behavior necessarily at odds with self-interest, enlightened or otherwise. As Desteno and Valdesolo explain:
When we see someone who looks self-assured, we assume she is important; after all, why wouldn't we? There is no equivalent signal for hubris -- for if there were, it owuld have disappeared long ago, as it would only serve to solicit ridicule. So in a brief encounter with someone whom you know little, there is no way to tell if the pride and confidence he or she is expressing is justified. When a poser is strutting around looking important, we buy it. There is no way to know otherwise. And that's the point. By presenting the illusion of status and power, these people are positioning themselves to appear most attractive to potential colleagues and employers. Yes, it's an untenable tactic in the long run (like the emperor [with no clothes], they will eventually be found out), but in the short run it may provide an all-important advantage that helps them get back on their feet. The ... gamble may pay off.
Hubris, then, can function as a protective mechanism. It can help us preserve our social status and, to some extent, our self-worth. This is why we often overestimate our abilities, sometimes subconsciously, sometimes deliberately. It's why, for example, as work by Richard Gramzow has demonstrated, we tend to misremember how well we did on tests such as the SATs, but with the important caveat that our errors go in only one direction --- toward higher scores. Gramzow has also shown that ... people strategically present themselves in the workplace and other competitive settings to seem more accomplished and confident. What's most fascinating, however, is that this posing actually works to their benefit on many levels. Not only does it signal social value, as we've described above, but it has psychological and physiological benefits as well, such as helping people stay calm during potentially stressful interactions. In one study, Gramzow and his colleagues Greg Willard and Wendy Mendes had participants take part in an interview while a computer monitored their cardiac responses. Amazingly, the researchers found that those who exaggerated their abilities in the interview actually exhibited less physical stress and anxiety than those who didn't, and as a result, they had a more successful interaction with the interviewer. [Out of Character, 120-121]
Our inability to distinguish between pride and mere hubris has another side to it as well. Not only do we tend be poor at evaluating it in others because we don't have access to the necessary information, often we are blinded by egotistic biases. In a letter Peikoff briefly released justifying his behavior in the McCaskey scandal, Rand's self-appointed "intellectual heir" wrote: "I have, for years, long before Harriman’s book, condemned McCaskey morally: I regard him as an obnoxious braggart as a person, and a pretentious ignoramus as an intellectual." In other words, Peikoff is justified in evading rational discussion because his opponent is allegedly guilty of gross hubris. But on what basis does Peikoff judge McCaskey as a braggart and a prentious ignoramus? After all, Peikoff gives no evidence in support for his view. What is worse, Peikoff has a vested interest in regarding McCaskey in such a light, since, as is well known, McCaskey's objections to the Harriman book appear to be based on sound scholarship. In any case, Peikoff's behavior basically comes down to a desperate attempt to avoid any sort of peer review — the very sort of peer review that is essential for scientific advancement and empirical cleanliness. Keeping this in mind, it's difficult to credit Peikoff's accusations of hubris against McCaskey. In the light of everything that has been learned about pride and hubris from experimental psychology, the odds are that Peikoff's view of McCaskey is distorted by bias. If anyone is afflicted by hubris and a false estimate of his own abilities, it is Peikoff, who assumes he knows more about the history of science than an accredited scholar from Stanford.
Now if even Peikoff, the very paragon of Objectivist rationality, can be led down the primrose path of unwitting hubris, what hope is there for the rest of mankind? By evading important facts about human nature, Objectivists have difficulty lapsing into the very errors they preach against.