In the world of Ayn Rand, there is a handful of super-achieving capitalist heroes, and then there’s the rest of us – the moochers, looters and parasites (three of Rand’s favorite words).
In the world of Rep. Paul Ryan, there are the righteous money-making capitalists, and then there’s the rest of us – moochers, looters and parasites.
It’s no wonder Ryan has credited his enthusiasm for Rand’s philosophy for his decision to run for Congress. His budget reflects her value system – utterly unrestrained free-market forces, the “lone” capitalist hero as the pinnacle of a society, the evils of government and the folly of any social contracts (including any -ism but capitalism).
Ryan is not the only politician Rand has influenced. One of her “disciples” is Alan Greenspan, former Federal Reserve chairman. She has a legion of admirers, especially among the Far Right and some Tea Party folks. Since her influence is growing fast, people might want to make an effort to learn about Ayn Rand. Her first name rhymes with “pine,” for starters.
She was born in a Jewish family in Russia. After the Communist revolution, the Soviets confiscated her father’s pharmacy. She was keenly aware of the forced collectivization policies, as well as a vicious civil war and starvation. Her biographers note that Rand was a brilliant but very lonely child who lived largely within her own mind. Later, she was able to enter college, which is an irony because the Bolsheviks, whom she hated, made college possible for women, including Jewish women. She studied history and screenwriting.
When Rand emigrated to America, she saw the skyscrapers of Manhattan and it was love at first sight. She became a diehard defender of capitalism and wrote two blockbuster novels, “The Fountainhead” and
“Atlas Shrugged.” Both feature lone-wolf geniuses locked in a struggle to achieve great things, despite the mediocre, unvisionary parasites who try to hold them down. In those novels, Rand expounded her philosophy, which she called “Objectivism.”
The sole “good” in a society resides in its individual titans – men (and presumably women) who through supreme intelligence and enlightened egoism create great things – self-interest being the noblest goal in life. The hero of “The Fountainhead,” for instance, is a visionary architect.
Rand was an atheist, a defender of abortion rights, an enemy of anything altruistic, an opponent of all state controls and a champion of laissez-faire capitalism and individual rights above all. She won a lot of arguments because she controlled the terms and conditions, no matter who was playing. Through the years, some admirers defected from her camp, calling her a virtual cult leader.
To Rand, logic was everything. It explained everything, including emotions. She was like an iron-clad logic machine, often interviewed on talk shows. A short woman with large piercing black eyes, she sometimes wore a kooky pointed hat on top of her close-cropped wavy hair. A chain-smoker, she claimed tobacco warnings were a bunch of hooey. Later, she required a lung-cancer operation. She died in 1983 of heart failure.
Toward the end, she decided – much to the disappointment of her adherents – to apply for Social Security and Medicare, even though she had often blasted them as programs for moochers.
Like her or hate her, Rand was an interesting cultural icon – a kind of wacky seer. Her philosophy is interesting – on paper. In the real world? Silly. OK, so we have a handful of visionary geniuses. What about the rest of us? Do we become the wage slaves of those titans? If we can’t make it as entrepreneurs, do we steal and plunder to survive?
Ryan’s budget plan is interesting, too – on paper. Slash spending, axe social programs and be sure – above all – to give those great visionary achievers – the super-rich – more tax breaks. What about the rest of us in the real world?