Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

December 29, 2010

THE AYN RAND DISCIPLE LEADING THE HOUSE BUDGET COMMITTEE.... In my circle of friends growing up, I can think of quite a few folks who, between the ages of 16 and 22, briefly fell under the spell of Ayn Rand. Someone loaned them a copy of Atlas Shrugged; they were convinced it was brilliant; and for a while, they were evangelists for the Randian cause.

Fortunately, this is just a phase some folks go through, and most of them feel embarrassed later.

Some, however, never really grow out of it. Take Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), for example, who'll become chairman of the House Budget Committee next month. Ryan, Christopher Beam notes in an interesting new article, "requires staffers to read Atlas Shrugged, describes Obama's economic policies as 'something right out of an Ayn Rand novel,' and calls Rand 'the reason I got involved in public service.'"

It prompted Jon Chait to flag a piece he wrote in March about Ryan and his borderline-creepy devotion to the philosophy of Rand.

Ryan would retain some bare-bones subsidies for the poorest, but the overwhelming thrust in every way is to liberate the lucky and successful to enjoy their good fortune without burdening them with any responsibility for the welfare of their fellow citizens. This is the core of Ryan's moral philosophy:

"The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand," Ryan said at a D.C. gathering four years ago honoring the author of "Atlas Shrugged" and "The Fountainhead." ...

At the Rand celebration he spoke at in 2005, Ryan invoked the central theme of Rand's writings when he told his audience that, "Almost every fight we are involved in here on Capitol Hill ... is a fight that usually comes down to one conflict -- individualism versus collectivism."

The core of the Randian worldview, as absorbed by the modern GOP, is a belief that the natural market distribution of income is inherently moral, and the central struggle of politics is to free the successful from having the fruits of their superiority redistributed by looters and moochers.

I mention this, not because I find it bizarre that the House Budget Committee chairman forces his aides to read bad fiction, but because there's a larger takeaway about how the parties will get along in the next Congress -- or in this case, won't.

Talking to various aides on the Hill, I get the sense that Democrats tend to look at Paul Ryan as the kind of Republican they can at least talk to. Unlike so many GOP leaders, the far-right Wisconsinite appears to have read a book and learned how to use a calculator. When he speaks, Ryan tends to use complete sentences, and tends to resist at least some partisan bomb-throwing.

But there's a catch: the guy is a crackpot. A polite crackpot who, by contemporary Republican standards, takes his beliefs seriously, but a crackpot nevertheless.

Ryan doesn't want to search for common ground with Democrats; he's hopelessly convinced that Democrats are radicals intent on destroying modern capitalism. He considers the very ideas of charity and sacrifice deeply offensive. His entire worldview is so bizarre, it has no meaningful place in the American mainstream.

Matt Yglesias recently noted that Ryan "is a dangerous madman," and the description doesn't seem especially hyperbolic.

Steve Benen 10:15 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (53)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

don't remember where or when i first saw this, but:
There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

Posted by: mellowjohn on December 29, 2010 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Interesting how the wealth masterminds behind the conservative con are trying to meld sarcastically anti-Christian, mal-humanist psychopath Rand and the nominally Christian sheeple of the flock. There were supposedly stirrings of resentment and awakening among the later (against Wall Street, in favor of the environment) but they remain rather compromised and bamboozled. BTY any kind of Randian assault on our civil community is worth fighting, I mean literally.

Posted by: neil b on December 29, 2010 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

I first became aware of Paul Ryan while watching Pres. Obama single-handedly eat the Republicans' lunch at the televised smack-down he gave to each and every one of them earlier this year.

Ryan certainly does use complete sentences-several hundred of them at a time - as a kind of "smoke-and-mirrors" device to distract the listener from the fact that Ryan doesn't know what he's talking about at any given moment! Surely, if he's able to go on and on and on about a subject - usually economics - he must know something about it - right? As usual with Republicans - wrong.

That this guy will be in charge of the nation's purse strings... is a sick joke the GOP is playing on the country.

Posted by: June on December 29, 2010 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

If there is an anti-Christ, wouldn't his / her teachings be similar to these:

"...the overwhelming thrust in every way is to liberate the lucky and successful to enjoy their good fortune without burdening them with any responsibility for the welfare of their fellow citizens...the natural market distribution of income is inherently moral...the central struggle of politics is to free the successful from having the fruits of their superiority redistributed by looters and moochers."

Posted by: delNorte on December 29, 2010 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

Any elected official who is a fan of Atlas Shrugged (and I suppose any other writings of Ayn Rand) is DANGEROUS. You have to be crazy to believe in Rand's libertarian dream world.

Posted by: MuddyLee on December 29, 2010 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

Also, many in the plutocratic movement make money by gaming the government controlled fiat/debt-monetizing currency system, and aren't real "wealth producers" after all (not even counting the issue of supporting employees for the ones that do make real new value.) Furthermore, we can consider the support for society as a whole, as the rent the successful pay for society giving up the intrinsically collective "commons" to let them succeed. And maybe the best rebuttal is that no one could even talk or do math without the combined effort of all civilization before them. For more and similar rebuttals to "libertarianism" see http://world.std.com/~mhuben/libindex.html

Posted by: neil b on December 29, 2010 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

@mellowjohn, I believe that first appeared on John Rogers' blog, Kung Fu Monkey.

Posted by: nolo on December 29, 2010 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

i slog through that book once a decade to remind myself of how awful it is. seriously, when i was a teenager reading it for the first time i knew there was something wrong with it.

Posted by: navarro on December 29, 2010 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

Dangerous oversimplifications are the hallmark of any ideologue. They're also deeply hypnotizing and resistant to any real-world critique. They are by their nature anti-empirical. That's why it's simply a good strategy to ask Randians where their utopia has been established so we can see it in action. They'll stammer about Hong Kong or Singapore but they can't name a single nation-state where Randian principles have ever been applied. There's a reason for this. These principles are fantasies.

Posted by: walt on December 29, 2010 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

Rand actually had a crush on a serial killer, and he may have been the role model for both Roarke and Galt.
http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=389x7799159


I was 22 when ai read both "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged." I couldn't stand either one.
She was an insipid and pedantic writer whose heroes are Ubermensch cartoons
Her love and sex scenes are both jejune and violent, a rare combo.

Atlas may have shrugged.
Me? I would have taken the bitch off my shoulders and stomped on her.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on December 29, 2010 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

"The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand," Ryan said at a D.C. gathering four years ago

That's ironic.

What, he wasn't inspired to start a steel mill?

Posted by: kc on December 29, 2010 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

rand's prose is even clumsier, uglier and more adolescent than her philosophy, if that's possible.

Posted by: benjoya on December 29, 2010 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

For a group of people who doubt the veracity of anything from Darwin they espouse a world view that would ultimately lead to a survival of the fittest armegeddon. Because based on their beleifs if i'm poor and downtrodden why shouldn't I do everything in my power to rectify that situation including tracking down evrey rich person and taking anything and everything from them. I personally don't espouse this but that's what ultimately the R$and philosophy leads to.

Posted by: Gandalf on December 29, 2010 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

I think we need to draw more attention to the cult-like aspects of Randians and the Federalist Society. The Randians are basically a secular religion and operate like a Marxist cell, with the same kind of magical thinking that went into classic Marxism. These aren't complicated connections to make.

Posted by: Rich on December 29, 2010 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

This is from Ryan's Wikipedia bio:

Ryan, born and raised in Janesville, Wisconsin, is a fifth-generation Wisconsin and Janesville native. He attended Joseph A. Craig High School in Janesville and went on to graduate from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio with a B.A. in economics and political science in 1992 and is a member of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity. He worked in the voluntary sector as an economic analyst for Empower America.

Early political career: Ryan worked as an aide to U.S. Senator Bob Kasten beginning in 1992 and as legislative director for Sam Brownback of Kansas from 1995 to 1997. He worked as a speechwriter to "drug czar" William Bennett and to Jack Kemp during his run for the vice presidency.


Doesn't sound like he's produced a whole lot of anything, does it? Other than bullshit.

Posted by: kc on December 29, 2010 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

It's been over a decade since I read "Atlas Shrugged." Someone refresh my memory: Was there a place in Galt's Gulch for career political hacks?

Posted by: kc on December 29, 2010 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

Ayn Rand: don't let being feeble minded stand in your way! You, too, can be a thoughtless egomaniac! Close your eyes, focus your heart and bowels on your inner snivelling infant and say 'I believe, I believe, I believe', and 'go fuck yourself, go fuck yourself, go fuck yourself1' and clap your hands.

And the world will cheer and sing songs for you!

Posted by: cld on December 29, 2010 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

I, personally, went through a Tennessee Williams phase..."People's lives are nothing but debris, debris, debris and more debris, but our lives were different. We carved each day like a piece of sculpture. We left behind us a trail of days like a gallery of sculpture...then suddenly, last summer my son died..."

Can you imagine if Paul Ryan had gone through a Tennessee Williams phase?! Well wait a minute...what's so bad about depending on the kindness of strangers?

Posted by: SaintZak on December 29, 2010 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

Well, the next couple of years are certainly going to be interesting!
-perhaps interesting enough to get the attention of the voters. . .

Posted by: DAY on December 29, 2010 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

"The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand," Ryan said at a D.C. gathering four years ago

How does 'involved in public service' fit in with being an Objectivist? Isn't the whole idea inherently self-less? Unless your purpose is to help the wealthy avoid their responsibilities --but isn't that inherently self-less, he's helping somebody, isn't he? Someone else is inevitably making more out of his work than he is, aren't they?

Isn't Paul Ryan an utter failure from every point of view, especially his own?

Posted by: cld on December 29, 2010 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

c u n d gulag pointed out a marvelous quote,

http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=389x7799159

What did Rand admire so much about Hickman? His sociopathic qualities: "Other people do not exist for him, and he does not see why they should," she wrote, gushing that Hickman had "no regard whatsoever for all that society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. He has the true, innate psychology of a Superman. He can never realize and feel 'other people.' "

That could have been written be deSade.

Posted by: cld on December 29, 2010 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

Another thing to remember about Randian disciples is that when they're in need, they abandon her. My father was a huge devotee of "Atlas Shrugged" and made me read it when I was in high school. Cut to years later: my brother and I, against all expectations (he was a late bloomer, my degree was in theatre studies) are very successful and my dad's stepchildren from his second marriage, not so much. My dad is drawing up his will. My stepmom (who extolled Ayn Rand as much as my dad did) then persuades him to leave the bulk of his estate to her children because my brother and I "don't need it." As graciously as we could, we agreed to this because we really didn't need the money. However, both parents were highly offended when we quoted Rand back to them: "You're punishing us for being successful!" My (long-winded) point here is that while misguided folks like Ryan and my parents spout this nonsense as gospel, they give it up rather quickly when their ox is gored.

Posted by: dalloway on December 29, 2010 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

Randism is an achilles' heel for conservatives. Rand was a radical anti-Christian, something that is impossible to explain away; it was a crucial part of her 'ideology'. If Paul Ryan, Rand(!) Paul and other up-and-coming conservative leaders wish to venerate Ayn Rand, all we need to do is remind Jesus-lovin' good Murkans about the orgins of their philosophy.

Posted by: danimal on December 29, 2010 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

The tendency of the rich to think of those with less money as subhuman has a long tradition. Think of Seneca with his childhood pet slave. Think of Gilgamesh with the maidens in his kingdom.

As a species, we demonstrate a remarkably level learning curve.

Posted by: mlm on December 29, 2010 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

@mellowjohn
Thanks for posting this! For a little more extensive quote, and the citation, see Paul Krugman's blog today at krugman.blogs.nytimes.com.

(apparently, great minds think alike...)

Posted by: zandru on December 29, 2010 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

"[Ryan]requires staffers to read Atlas Shrugged,...'"

"Atlas Shrugged" and "The Fountainhead" shroud Any Rand's greed under a false guise of logic. Rand's true belief is encompassed in her lesser known book, "The Virtue of Selfishness". The four words in this book title tell us more about Paul Ryan's approach to governing than the hundreds of pages in Shrugged/Fountainhead combined.

http://www.amazon.com/Virtue-Selfishness-Signet-Ayn-Rand/dp/0451163931

Posted by: Chris on December 29, 2010 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

"...and calls Rand 'the reason I got involved in public service.'"

Isn't there something inherently wrong about this part of the sentence? Not grammatically, mind you. I am referring to the conept of being drawn to "public service" based on the writings of Ayn Rand.

Posted by: Perspecticus on December 29, 2010 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

Tyler Cowen is a Libertarian; even he is forced to argue that much of today's riches originate in the financial sector, and are unjustified by any yardstick:

http://www.the-american-interest.com/article.cfm?piece=907

"It’s as if the major banks have tapped a hole in the social till and they are drinking from it with a straw. In any given year, this practice may seem tolerable—didn’t the bank earn the money fair and square by a series of fairly normal looking trades? Yet over time this situation will corrode productivity, because what the banks do bears almost no resemblance to a process of getting capital into the hands of those who can make most efficient use of it. And it leads to periodic financial explosions. That, in short, is the real problem of income inequality we face today. It’s what causes the inequality at the very top of the earning pyramid that has dangerous implications for the economy as a whole...Is the overall picture a shame? Yes. Is it distorting resource distribution and productivity in the meantime? Yes. Will it again bring our economy to its knees? Probably."

Posted by: Jim on December 29, 2010 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

@navarro: I had the same experience trying to slog through The Fountainhead. Even with no foreknowledge of Ayn Rand, I knew there was something wrong going on there.

Posted by: Perspecticus on December 29, 2010 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

paraphrasing G.B. Shaw about communists, being a Randian at 20 proves you're enthusiastic and a diligent reader. Being a Randian at 25 proves you have no brain.

Posted by: TCinLA on December 29, 2010 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

One thing the bio's tend to omit about Ryan is his dependence, while growing up, on Social Security Survivor benefits after his father died. The same Social Security he'd like to eliminate in its present form. Paul Ryan is the poster child for "I got mine, screw you." If he has his way, though, at least we won't be seeing him in a Hover-round holding a sign demanding "Gummint Hands off my Medicare!!11!!" Also. Too.

Posted by: noc on December 29, 2010 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

I went through my Rand phase in Architecture school, much to the annoyance of my professors. The Senator should be wary of inflicting Rand on his staff... If they are Professonals they will think the Senator silly and stupid although they may keep their mouths shut to gain the cash - like that gay guy who worked for Rick Santorum. If not, they will grow out of it and develop a strong distrust of people who profess to follow Rand. Either way, the Senator loses.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on December 29, 2010 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

I recall my parents walking out on "The Fountainhead" with us in tow. I didn't understand the film at the time. When I tried to watch it recently I was so appalled at the sexual depravity of the rich lady and the pathological narcissism and egotism of the architect, that I turned it off 2/3 way through.

How such thoroughly rotten ideas are supposedly ascendant these days is beyond belief.

Posted by: jjm on December 29, 2010 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

The very idea of radical predatory individualism being enforced by government action seems to conflict with itself.

Let's remember that the current Great Recession was brought to all of us in large part through the failure by the Ayn Rand disciple Alan Greenspan to use the regulatory powers of the Federal Reserve after he had lowered interest rates unrealistically just in time to reelect Bush in 2004. Strangely, he had raised interest rates to the highest rate in decades just prior to the 2000 Presidential election. The single most certain predictor of whether the party of the incumbent President will win or lose the next Presidential election is the condition of the economy the year before the election. Bad economy (as caused by high interest rates) means replace the party with the Presidency. Good economy (as caused by low interest rates) and the party in power of the White House retains it. Greenspan's interest rate manipulations were timed perfectly to aid Bush's election and reelection, but the also created the housing bubble. Then, after the 2004 election Greenspan sharply raised interest rates and caused the collapse of the bubble in 2007 - 2008. Ayn Rand at work through a disciple.

Ayn Rand is one of two radical anti-American gurus loved by the Republicans. The other is the radical dominionist preacher R. J. Rushdoony who proposed replacing the Constitution as the basic law of the land with the old testament Jewish law to include stoning people who commit adultery, wives belonging to and subordinate to their husbands, etc. Pat Robertson and Jerry Fallwell were both followers of Rushdoony's teachings.

Posted by: Rick B on December 29, 2010 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

I read the Cliff's Notes to Atlas Shrugged and the book has two important features that conservatives fail to mention:

1) The heroes of the story are industrious capitalists that mine metals, build railways, design engines, and engage in metallurgy; they DO stuff to earn their fabulous wealth. The ultra wealthy today push paper around and soak suckers by the millions with pump and dump schemes and commodity speculation-based price gouging. I'm unsure Rand would have been so sympathetic to today's successful capitalists.

2) The setting of Rand's book is one in which confiscatory tax rates bankroll a luxurious welfare state and absolute equality is the goal while wealthy people are truly put upon. In our world today, the rich are able to push off popular attempts to increase income above 1 million dollars by 3%.

Conservatives' evaluation of Atlas Shrugged also overlooks the relative lack of unrest from the proletariat until everyone "goes Galt".

The generous welfare appears to have the effect of keeping the riffraff calm.

Today's conservatives seem to ignore the capability of the masses to confiscate wealth by force rather than by the civilized means of taxation. Poor people who cannot afford to feed their families often lack the common courtesy of dying quietly if violence remains a means by which they can obtain resources.

Rand's book does not depict a world sufficiently similar to our own where we can implement safeguards against Socialism in a logical fashion. Instead, we are closer to that of Galt's little mountain hideaway where the talented don't insult their eyes with the sight of the underemployed.

In the real world, squeezing the poor hard enough results in a very dangerous world for the wealthy. Private security forces may become a necessary perk of uber-wealth and these troops had better be provided for well. $10/hr rent a cops are not to be trusted around Scrooge McDuck's money vaults. These private armies strike me as likely to be more costly than the welfare doled out to the impoverished forces they would otherwise have to shield themselves from.

The price of protection from the have-nots never seems to be factored into conservative fantasies about how swell it would be to enjoy every penny of their wealth and let everyone else fend for themselves.

As Mr. Benen observes, teenagers are most attracted to such fantasies and most people outgrow them by pondering the consequences of attempting to make our world mirror Rand's.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on December 29, 2010 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder if it's too late to convert him to a fixation on heroic men of honor allied with elven magic and replace his dream of Galt's Gulch with sailing toward the Uttermost West? It would be a step closer to reality.

Posted by: biggerbox on December 29, 2010 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

I have watched Ryan's career from its beginnings with a certain degree of fascination. He represents the district in which I work (my rep is Tammy Baldwin, who basically cancels out each of Ryan's votes.) He is a Young Republican, growing up during the Reagan administration, who became a staffer for a couple influential Republican legislators, kissing ass with the Wisconsin Republican establishment along the way, until he was able to run for the House at the age of 28. As someone else pointed out, this guy has never held an actual job in his entire life; he has been in politics or worked for politicians since he finished high school-- and nothing else.

These are the sort of folks to which the Teabaggers have glommed on. Ironic, hey?

Posted by: wihntr on December 29, 2010 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

It amazes me that anyone who follows Ayn Rand can even pretend to be Christian.

Posted by: Objective Dem on December 29, 2010 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

I didn't read Atlas Shrugged till my 30s. My first impression was that she needed a good editor. There were at least 500 extra pages in that book.

My other thought that this was completely a fantasy world having little to do with real life. I've never understood the fascination some people have with this idea of objectivism. It is like they want to cling as tightly as possible to life's illusions and thereby make them safe or more real. Shades of grey are to be banished. In fact, the more closely you look at physical reality the less substantial it appears.

I too have come across people totally enamored of Rand's writing. One guy I knew heard something about one of her books and immediately ordered the whole set.

Posted by: JohnK on December 29, 2010 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

This guy Ryan is dangerous ... because he wants to be President; he is glib and good-looking (to some, I guess); and the hopeless media is already wondering what kind of flowers and donuts he likes.

An aside to JJM: 'The Fountainhead' was funny as hell, if you put aside the horror of knowing it was supposed to be serious. Best moment: when dumpy Italian laborer comes to Patricia Neal's room to 'fix her fireplace' and she was expecting Gary Cooper for an altogether diferent reason. Her angry disappointment at the poor guy is a howler.

Posted by: Nick in PA on December 29, 2010 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

I love the irony: Right-wingers who question President Obama's birthplace might be interested to know that Rand was born and educated in Russia. Her birth name was Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum, which doesn't sound like the name of anyone from Sarah Palin's "real America."

It's also hilarious to note that "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged" are 720 pages and 1,200 pages long, respectively. Republicans who never seem to have time to read even an executive summary of pending legislation could not possibly have read these books. And by the way, Ayn Rand was a complete crackpot.

Posted by: max on December 29, 2010 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

I find it fascinating that the idea that the people that produce wealth and would just as soon the government left them alone so they can produce more wealth, is so foreign in these comments. They, to paraphrase a comment here, want the government to enforce their radical predatory individualism. Is it really radical to want to be left alone to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Please read some Adam Smith. Learn that the government does not produce wealth. It can however produce poverty by taking away the incentive to produce wealth.

At least figure out where employment comes from.

Posted by: MIckeyRat on December 29, 2010 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

I find it fascinating that the idea that the people that produce wealth and would just as soon the government left them alone so they can produce more wealth, is so foreign in these comments. They, to paraphrase a comment here, want the government to enforce their radical predatory individualism. Is it really radical to want to be left alone to enjoy the fruits of your labor?

Please read some Adam Smith. Learn that the government does not produce wealth. It can however produce poverty by taking away the incentive to produce wealth.

At least figure out where employment comes from. I'll give you a clue. It's not from an act of congress.

Posted by: MIckeyRat on December 29, 2010 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, Mickey,

you mean the Adam Smith who said,

As soon as the land of any country has all become private property, the landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed, and demand a rent even for its natural produce.

or the Adam Smith who said,

To feel much for others and little for ourselves; to restrain our selfishness and exercise our benevolent affections, constitute the perfection of human nature.

or the Adam Smith who said,

Happiness never lays its finger on its pulse.

Posted by: cld on December 29, 2010 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK

Seems to me the "successful and lucky" would be a lot less lucky if it weren't for all the government protections and subsidies they enjoy. Fortune 500 corporations are like turtles on fenceposts, bragging about how they got up there by being such good climbers. If you want to put this in Randroid terms, most of the folks out there who think they're John Galt are really James Taggart.

Posted by: Kevin Carson on December 29, 2010 at 7:07 PM | PERMALINK

What does it say about an adult if he bases his life's philosophy on a work of fiction?

Posted by: Marnie on December 29, 2010 at 9:30 PM | PERMALINK

My perspective on this subject is a bit unusual, as I have just turned 70, and remember that when I read "Atlas Shrugged", and "The Fountainhead", I was only 23, the earth shook under my feet! I met Miss Rand, and attended lectures on Objectivism in NYC conducted by Miss Rand and Nathaniel Brandon.
In the intervening 50 years, I have observed that the fundamental thrust of Objectivism which subsequently became Libertarianism became more prominent insidiously until now, when we all have heard of it, and see its threads in the fabric of our current political daily life. Miss Rand, herself, did not like the Objectivist/Libertarian title or concept, and she died before she could see the movement take serious root in the political movements of the 21st century.
Because of my life-long co-existence with the Rand novels and philosophy, and seen the fruits of the seeds sown many years ago, I accept it with equinimity, and do not take myself or it so seriously! It will only get larger---of that I am convinced. It represents a new world view previously not created by anyone else.

Posted by: margie cherry on December 29, 2010 at 9:54 PM | PERMALINK

margie up there is right about libertarianism getting "larger". things are going to get worse and worse for the poor in this country and a lot of people will happily adopt a political/social creed which practically demands that they not give a shit.

Posted by: teadoust on December 29, 2010 at 11:30 PM | PERMALINK

All you really need to know about Ayn Rand is in her speech to the West Point cadets in 1974. This is the essence of how her philosophy is applied:

She's speaking to the cadets at West Point, on March 6, 1974:

I don't care to discuss the alleged complaints American Indians have against this country.

I believe, with good reason, the most unsympathetic Hollywood portrayal of Indians and what they did to the white man. They had no right to a country merely because they were born here and then acted like savages. The white man did not conquer this country. And you are a racist if you object, because it means you believe that certain men are entitled to something because of their race. You believe that if someone is born in a magnificent country and doesn't know what to do with it, he still has a property right to it. He does not.

Since the Indians did not have the concept of property or property rights - they didn't have a settled society, they had predominantly nomadic tribal 'cultures' - they didn't have rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights that they had not conceived of and were not using. It's wrong to attack a country that respects (or even tries to respect) individual rights. If you do, you're an aggressor and are morally wrong. But if a 'country' does not protect rights - if a group of tribesmen are the slaves of their tribal chief - why should you respect the 'rights' that they don't have or respect?

The same is true for a dictatorship. The citizens in it have individual rights, but the country has no rights and so anyone has the right to invade it, because rights are not recognized in that country; and no individual or country can have its cake and eat it too - that is, you can't claim one should respect the 'rights' of Indians, when they had no concept of rights and no respect for rights.

But let's suppose they were all beautifully innocent savages - which they certainly were not. What were they fighting for, in opposing the white man on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence; for their 'right' to keep a part of the earth untouched - to keep everybody out so they could live like animals or cavemen?

Any European who brought with him an element of civilization had the right to take over this continent, and it's great that some of them did.

[...]

As a principle, one should respect the sanctity of a contract among individuals. But I oppose applying contract law to American Indians. When a group of people or a nation does not respect individual rights, it cannot claim any rights whatsoever. The Indians were savages, with ghastly tribal rules and rituals, including the famous “Indian Torture.” Such tribes have no rights. Anyone had the right to come here and take whatever they could, because they would be dealing with savages as Indians dealt with each other - that is, by force. We owe nothing to Indians, except the memory of monstrous evils done by them. (pp. 103-104)

~ Q & A after a speech given to the Corps of Cadets March 6, 1974, United States Military Academy, West Point, NY

(The question Ayn was answering was, “When you consider the cultural genocide of Native Americans, the enslavement of blacks, and the relocation of Japanese Americans during World War Two, how can you have such a positive view of America?”)

I seem to recall Neil Boortz getting to a bit of trouble in applying Randian principles to Katrina victims.

Posted by: Hart Williams on December 30, 2010 at 12:47 AM | PERMALINK

What Rand offers above all else is flattery of her adherents, and this is the source of much right wing-generated misery: You, my dear geniuses, are the Supermen that your lessers continually try to drag down. If you fail in business or your love lives, it's all because of them constricting your vision and prerogatives. Same thing with how Limbaugh, Hannity, O'Reilly et al constantly flatter their listeners' egos: You, my fans, are the Real Americans. You have every right to crush anyone who you think is keeping you from your perfect self-content.

Posted by: beejeez on December 30, 2010 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

What Rand offers above all else is flattery of her adherents, and this is the source of much right wing-generated misery: You, my dear geniuses, are the Supermen that your lessers continually try to drag down. If you fail in business or your love lives, it's all because of them constricting your vision and prerogatives. Same thing with how Limbaugh, Hannity, O'Reilly et al constantly flatter their listeners' egos: You, my fans, are the Real Americans. You have every right to crush anyone who you think is keeping you from your perfect self-content.

Posted by: beejeez on December 30, 2010 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

Don't you think it's ironic that you're attacking people for supposedly immature ideas and then you say, "He considers the very ideas of charity and sacrifice deeply offensive."

Taxes=/=charity.

I find your conflation "deeply offensive." Charity = sacrifice, not obligation. Last I checked, unless you're a Congressman or cabinet member, you'll go to jail for not paying your taxes. That's hardly charity.

Liberals don't understand that paying taxes is not giving to charity. That's why they give so little as a whole to actual charities and why they conflate people who oppose large, INEFFICIENT government to greedy people who don't want to help poor people. Only a liberal could think that government can spend money better than the people who earn it.

beejeez might have the most ironic post on here, talking about Rand "flatter[ing]" her adherents. That's the liberal game plan. Self righteous moral arguments are the only thing the left has. They're constantly using class warfare arguments. They seem to think that the government is Robin Hood, but as I recall it, he was opposing the government.

Posted by: Haimerej on December 30, 2010 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

" ... If you fail in business or your love lives, it's all because of them constricting your vision and prerogatives."

This and all the "Rand blames the collectivists and progressives" rants are so wrong. Quite the contrary: in Atlas Shrugged Rand holds her heroes responsible for the mess.

You won't like why, however: "A zero cannot hold a mortgage on a value." In other words, the Atlas heroes enabled the bad guys by subscribing to their morality. John Galt just suggested they stop doing that. They did. The zeroes went to zero.

Posted by: John Donohue on December 31, 2010 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly