Today on Blogcritics
Home » Culture and Society » Ayn Rand Lives

Ayn Rand Lives

Now that we have concluded the annual orgy of juvenile candy extortion manifested as Halloween, and are now into the much more pensive Day of the Dead, I'm prompted to look at the potential cause of the demise of the America in which I live. In our society today, there is an unchallenged belief held by some that private is always better than public. The health insurance fracas is just one issue which incorporates this belief. There are many others. This belief could result in the end of America

One has to wonder why the alleged fears of the government running things merits so much frightened attention while the blatant and abusive excesses of the private sector are deemed beneficial to society as a whole no matter how many get hurt by the perpetrators. It is becoming obvious to me that the difference has to do with whether or not a very vocal and self-centered minority with lots of time on their hands is materially benefiting from an enterprise which exposes the general public to some variety of hazard, especially physical or economic. The public is too busy maintaining their relatively meager existence by working to be able to defend themselves from these predators, and it has been government's role since the Great Depression to be their champion. The only problem with this scenario is that prior to the Great Recession, the predators have taken over the government and are using it to protect themselves from We, the People.

In one such instance, private mining companies want to cut costs by removing the tops of mountains to gain easy access to coal seams, yet the debris created by this process has in another instance already wreaked havoc on a public unprotected from private sector abuses. This lack of defense is due to major cuts in enforcement ability foisted upon the public by our elected representatives double dipping from the private dollar till while on the public dime. But wait! There's more! On the other side of that "clean" energy commodity's usage, further damage which could have been prevented by governmental oversight has also occurred. Oh, the humanity!

One can easily extend this metaphor to the banking sector via the real estate mortgage crisis. The next wave of foreclosures is about to hit, and many banks are already being warned that if they are in danger of going under, there will be no rescue from the Federal Reserve. Yet an amount of Your Money which roughly equals the entire annual economic activity of the American economy (broken down here) has been pledged to rescue the big Wall Street banks, whose foolish gambling once responsible oversight was ended brought about the latest crisis.

One has to wonder what would have happened if real regulation was restored after the Lincoln Savings scandal, or the Silverado Savings scandal, but that very vocal and self-centered minority with lots of time on their hands saw to it that they themselves were protected from legal retribution, and not the public for whom such protections meant that this very vocal and self-centered minority with lots of time on their hands could not do them harm. But that would be bad, for business couldn't make an easy profit at the public's expense!

Can our elite businessmen compete without resorting to illegal, immoral, or traitorous activities? One has to wonder.

Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens attempted to build a wind-powered generation facility, but was stymied by the credit crunch brought about by the big Wall Street bank collapse and the difficulty of getting a transmission line built to connect to the existing energy grid. He blames it all on tight money, but is there a hint that maybe Texas' regulatory power was brought to bear to pressure Pickens not to move so quickly and threaten existing oil fortunes? The clue lies within the news that Pickens is planning several smaller facilities in other states. Meanwhile, other Texans are making deals with Chinese wind power interests to create a much larger facility along the same lines Pickens pioneered. I guess being right doesn't protect you from retribution from those whose oxen got gored.

About pessimist

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    While I hate Ayn Rand as much as anyone, I think it’s a bit of a stretch to give her credit for the unholy alliance between government and big business which has created our current mess. Certainly the people on both sides who believe in state corporatism have nothing in common with Rand’s heroes and hold beliefs opposite to her philosophy.

    One trivial critique as well. If, as you state, healthcare cost increases 100% in the next 15 years, that’s only about 1% of increase over the general rate of inflation. Not exactly a hugely disproportionate rate of growth. Also, your figures for insurance cost are highly suspect. Rates vary so much from state to state that the extraordinarily high figure you give is atypical.

    Dave

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Dave, I still don’t understand why you hate Ayn Rand. From what I’ve read of her thinking, her views aren’t a million miles from your own.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Realist –

    Very good article! You and I are in nearly complete agreement concerning Ayn Rand. Her views are the polar opposite of communism…and every bit as impossible in the real world of humanity.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Dave -

    I find your ‘hatred’ of Ayn Rand strange since she so strongly influenced much of conservative thought. Here’s a few examples of her influence:

    “Rand envisioned shutting down entire government agencies, especially those that had to do with controlling the economy. Today, the oldest regulatory agency, the Interstate Commerce Commission, has ceased to exist, along with most government regulation of the airline and trucking industries. Or again: One of Rand’s first targets was the Federal Communications Commission and its Fairness Doctrine; today, the Doctrine is history and the FCC is under constant attack. Or yet again: Antitrust law was another of Rand’s early targets, and today, because of think tanks inspired by Rand, virtually every major antitrust lawsuit draws forth vocal opposition, and in-depth research at these organizations aims to eliminate antitrust laws altogether.”

    “The most famous [admirer of Rand], of course, is recently retired Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, an early associate and lifelong friend of Rand’s who wrote and lectured under her auspices during the 1960s. Today, the highest-ranking government official who has been influenced by Ayn Rand may be Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas. In a November 1987 Reason interview, he said that “I tend really be partial to Ayn Rand, and to The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.””

    And what do former Congressman Chris Cox, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Congressman Bob Barr, former Virginia governor James S. Gilmore III, Congressman Tom Feeney, and Colorado Governor Bill Owens have in common? They all strongly admire Ayn Rand and freely talk about how she influenced their political views. Oh, and they’re all Republicans.

    Yes, even though William F. Buckley disavowed Ayn Rand, her work still strongly influences conservative thought – and the more strongly the Republican party rallies around its base (and hangs signs saying “no moderate Republicans need apply”), the closer they get to Ayn Rand’s ideals.

    See, Dave? Go ahead – have another cup of conservative grape Kool-Aid! Just don’t pay too much attention to the little label on the bottom of the cup that says, “Manufactured by John Galt Enterprises”….

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Dave, I still don’t understand why you hate Ayn Rand. From what I’ve read of her thinking, her views aren’t a million miles from your own.

    Another reminder of how little you understand my views, Christopher.

    And Glenn, I do agree with some of Rand’s ideas, but not with Rand’s extremism or her self-centered philosophy. I diverge from the main body of libertarians in finding my inspiration in the enlightenment philosophers and our founding fathers ideas rather than the more recent post-liberal ideas of Rand and Rothbard.

    You still don’t get it, because you’re still calling me a conservative.

    Dave

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    It is interesting how the state is viewed as something which shouldn’t be too close to big business when the reason for its existence is to ensure the appropriate conditions for the accumulation of capital.

    It acts as a facilitator for the interests of capital and it does this by ameliorating the excesses caused by the process of accumulation. Left to its own devices, big business would create havoc, led as it is by the irresistable drive to expand or go bust. Capital accumulation has no morality, the spreadsheet ensures that.

    So the role of the state, although it presents itself as acting in the interests of the people in fact has always acted to preserve the conditions for the accumulation of capital – we are disingenuously told that that is in our interests. That’s very clear in the example of what has happened with the banking crisis.

    There is no doubt about who sparked off the crisis but governments throughout the world backed away from punishing those responsible (by taking the banks off them), preferring instead to push the cost onto ordinary people. It was seen as far more important to let the banks continue behaving as they want to (with some relatively minor restrictions) than to address their antisocial and potentially catastrophic behaviour.

    But it’s not just greedy businessmen to blame, because they have no choice in how they really behave. Competitive accumulation means they either grow or they go to the wall, take over other companies, or get eaten up. The coercive nature of competition means that ethics is always a costly (and unpopular) option.

    What I find really curious in Ayn Rand is how the notion of libertarianism, redolent of social progress and freedom, is actually interpreted as a justification for antisocial personal accumulation, regardless of the effect on other people and society as a whole. When individuals behave like driven capitalist businesses, as if we are all impelled to compete and accumulate, then the weaker and poorer people are cast adrift. Rand is an excellent example of how individual libertarianism is ultra-right, representing the individual against society.

    The recent crisis should make us all wake up to the fact that the state itself is there to represent the interests of capital accumulation, and only intervenes in the economy when the actions of business itself threatens to disrupt the process.

    If we want to change society, it’ll come from below, ordinary people collectively organising to make the changes. Governments will only react in the interests of ordinary people when they see they have no choice. I don’t think that’s cynicism, just realism.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Dave, I understand your views as you have articulated them, so maybe you need to work harder on that articulation.

    Based on what you have said, your stated views are NOT a million miles from hers…

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Not a million miles from Rand, but certainly not compatible with her views. Though I think we would agree that state corporatism is undesirable.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Dave, in summary, these are Rand’s political views, she would “emphasize individual rights (including property rights) and laissez-faire capitalism, enforced by a constitutionally-limited government. She was a fierce opponent of all forms of collectivism and statism, including fascism, communism, and the welfare state…

    She considered reason to be the only means of acquiring knowledge and the most important aspect of her philosophy stating, “I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism.”

    Let’s see, you are both libertarian, support individual rights, laissez-faire capitalism, constitutionally limited government and oppose statism, believe in reason and egoism. I’d call that a pretty close match.

  • Leroy

    For all her talk about individualism, Rand was a dictator among associates and intolerant of adverse views.

    Hypocrite.

  • Earl

    #10:

    Part of the difference might be that Ayn Rand called Libertarians “a monstrous, disgusting bunch of people” who were worse than anything that either the American Right or Left movements had ever manufactured.

    She was also a complete sociopath. Whether that’s a similarity or a difference with Mr. Nalle, draw your own conclusions.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    1 – Corporatism, capitalism, profit markets–it all works out the same way, Dave. It all ends up the same. Power = money, money = power; it all equals getting it your way at the take out window of life. There are no distinctions between these things at the end of the story, Dave. Even if you thought that your floundering fathers were on to a great thing in the constitution–look how it turns out. Even if I went along with you on that, even if, it’s a failure. It cannot ever, ever work. It’s like deciding what hurts less a knife wound or a bullet or a rope around the neck.

    And even on other scores it doesn’t work. Capitalism has resulted in cheaply made junk and ugliness. If competition is supposed to work the way you believe then where is the craftmanship of yesterday? When I can choose from 100 hotels where no one cares if they make a nice place for me to sleep or if my breakfast is delicious, how much will I have to pay to get to the competition who win out by providing me better service? What ends up happening is not that you get something better, but that things become so expensive you have to settle for the best of the cheapest junk capitalists offer and can still get away with. Oh, I’m not complaining, after all I get more than most people on the earth. I’m just pointing out that it’s a lie.

    Wouldn’t you rather live in a world where people made a nice place to sleep for you because they cared about you as a fellow human? Or beautiful furniture that lasted 100 years because they loved making it? Or happy people because they loved being alive? If you made a breakfast for your children, would you not want it to be pleasing because you cared or would you just hand them some slop because you wouldn’t be making a profit? The best way for a family to functiuon is the best way for a society.

    A system based on greed promotes the basest in human nature–when you do that you can expect just what you have now. Capitalism is a complete and utter failure on every score.

    Humans are capable of being caring, creative, generous, and beautiful. Why settle for a system that has to warp their nature into something small and greedy? We can do better than this. We only have to decide to. The more who decide to the more the world changes.

    So what if we are mortal. We all hold some immortality in our hands. –Paladin Heart

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Oh, and I agree with Earl. Ayn Rand was a sociopath. And her views and those like her infuse the culture with sociopathy (psychopathy). I think that is why it is revered (as in the rock starrish admiration Realist pointed out).

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    She was also a complete sociopath.

    I knew there was a reason I couldn’t stand the woman’s views. You put your finger on it, Earl.

  • http://www.leavingthelandofwoo.com Bob Lloyd

    “Capitalism is a complete and utter failure on every score.”

    Cindy, that’s it in a nutshell and all the apologists won’t change the fact. But while capitalism lurches on in it’s crisis-ridden sociopathic course, way too many people seem to accept that it’s the only possible system. Even suggesting that the profit-motive might not be the best way to organise production, brings out an often histrionic reaction.

    They look at state capitalist countries like Cuba and China, and assume they are socialist countries and thereby discredit the ideas. Come to think of it, doesn’t China now own America on paper?

  • Doug Hunter

    A sorry lot of cackling hens you leftists are. Freedom doesn’t stop you from doing anything you claim to desire, only your own pathetic human nature. You want to work for the common good? Go right ahead, I’ll fight for your right. If Cindy wants to make furniture that lasts 100 years or open a bed and breakfast that “cares” I’d say go right ahead, I’m all for it. If you want to pay for healthcare for the poor then get the hell off this site, get a job, and donate the proceeds. Maybe you guys could get together, cash in some retiremtn funds, and purchase a business you can run without profit. That sounds fun.

    The fact is you’re all living in self deceit and don’t actually want any of that (or else there’d be no need to use the government to enforce it), you want someone else to make the sacrifice, you want someone else to be enslaved to provide those benefits you feel entitled to. It’s just another form of greed and selfishness, the same thing you can so easily see in the capitalists.

    The whole world can convert into a one world leftist police state but human nature will always remain. Even your god Marx wasn’t foolish enough to actually desire big government, he viewed it (incorrectly) as a necessary step towards a society without state control. It is not the temporary step he imagined, it is a Pandora’s box that cannot be closed without bloodshed and massive social upheaval.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Deregulated capitalism is certainly a failure.

    Why? Many of the oh-so-evil ‘socialist’ countries – which most of us know as the rest of the industrialized democracies of the world – have a higher standard of living, a longer life expectancy, a higher average education, and less crime than America.

    Why?

    In every instance of a country that has a higher standard of living than America, there is MUCH more social support for the family i.e. universal health care, worker protection/compensation, etc.

    And why does this make the difference?

    Because a family that is healthy and well-educated makes a better living for itself…and more taxes for the government in order for that government to provide that support.

    Anyone who thinks that America has the best system is blinded by their own patriotism, and we are foolish to think that another country’s way of doing things can’t be good for America.

    Remember, most of Europe outlawed slavery long before America did…and even in WWI, the French had to explain to their own men why it was that so many white Americans didn’t want to fight alongside black men. It took America generations before we learned what Western Europe already knew…and many Americans STILL haven’t learned!

    That’s how one should approach learning throughout life – see what works and apply it to your own life, and see what doesn’t work and avoid it. Deregulated capitalism does NOT work, and socialized medicine DOES work (just ask 97% of those on Medicare and in the VA system).

    OH, and one more thing – the GOP just released their health care plan…and they would LEAVE IN PLACE the HMO’s option to DENY care based on ‘pre-existing conditions’ i.e. “We’re not going to pay for your cancer treatment because you once had an acne treatment that you didn’t tell us about!”

    Yeah, that’s REAL reform, ain’t it?

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Doug,

    Lest you forgot, I’m not for govt enforcement or govts at all or police or police states or welfare states. Actually, I hold that govt is designed to continue and proptect the system in place–private property and profit markets–the one you are speaking on behalf of. If you want to get rid of govt, you’ll need to have a look elsewhere. The reason we end up with what we have is because what was promised does not work. And some people recognize that it’s not because people are lazy or want someone else to live off.

    The system itself creates the very people you scorn. Human nature is designed to desire creative work, activity, and community.

    Do you understand why I support freeloaders? Neither you nor anyone else has the right to decide that some baby born in a ghetto should have to fight against all odds to have a place in this world.

    That the game works for you, that you got a head start, doesn’t give you the right to decide it’s okay for everyone. Fuck the Capitalist game. Take everyone who believes in it and go play it by yourselves.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    haha That would be great! I would love to say that. “Just take your mansions and your yachts and your piles of money and your police and armies and get the fuck out of here–go over there and leave the people who want out alone.”

  • Doug Hunter

    “In every instance of a country that has a higher standard of living than America, there is MUCH more social support for the family i.e. universal health care, worker protection/compensation, etc.”

    That’s because it’s a circular argument. You look at the criteria you want and call that ‘standard of living’. I consider freedom and low government burden through taxation to be a high standard of living and golly whata you know, we’re right there at the top.

    An extreme example is seen in the movie the Matrix. The people in the pods weren’t subject to crime and had all their needs taken care of by the machines ‘for their own good’. Was that a high standard of living to you? Physical comfort without freedom is not the ultimate measure of standard of living.

  • Doug Hunter

    Cindy, I knew better than to lump you into my comment but you have such a good point about the crap our consumerist culture is addicted to. I’m not arguing against anything you stand for only the means most people assume are neccessary to achieve such change, namely the government. Well, I take that back I am against freeloading because that forces the government to become more proactive in enslaving and redistributing to fill the need. You’re supporting another means to an end, a justification that has been used for the worst human actions.

    #20 The police and army are functions of the same government I despise. As for mansions, private jets, yachts, and big piles of gold who gives a crap? It doesn’t effect me in any measurable way. You may have a $multimillion jet but I can fly one way on Southwest for $99. Same with yachts.

  • Doug Hunter

    In short, my ideas of ‘capitalism’, freedom, and free exchange are in no way contrary to your ideas.

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    But they are very contrary Doug. I am only touching superficially here on a couple things. There are many more problems. I have been creating an unfinished outline that will be a work in progress. Maybe I will post it as an article some time.

  • Clavos

    I’m still waiting, my dear…

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Hey there Mr. Clav. Someone spelled their own name wrong last night. I was gonna correct them as your stand-in. As I recall, they called themselves some sort of finatic. :-)

  • Clavos

    Good for you, Cindy. We can’t let these slackers get away with it; the future of the Empire is at stake.

  • Once you go Galt…

    Rand should have tried nonfiction.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/scott-deitche/ Scott Deitche

    I find it funny that any church-going conservative who lives in a gated, uniform subdivision where conformity is the norm can in any way be shaped by Ayn Rand.

    I’ve read her stuff- some good, some I could not get through.

    I prefer her ideas filtered through the awesome lyrical power of Neil Peart.