Wednesday, August 15, 2012

More on the Ryan & Ayn Connection


Yesterday, I wrote a long essay on the influence of Ayn Rand on far-right politics ~ Read it Here: Ayn Rand and the Politics of Egomania

My husband thought I should point out that what I called "Randian" philosophy is actually known as "Objectivism." That's not very important to me because the name of the movement just confuses people: it sounds very intellectual and fair-minded when it isn't. Followers of Ayn Rand are not really objective, as I pointed out in my essay - their goal in life is to celebrate themselves as wiser and more creative than lesser mortals. Since they create their own reality, then of course they believe they are more objective than anyone else. It's actually just about the egotistical "me me me." While Rand's characters are free spirits, they very much want to influence society by keeping other people in their places economically, those who don't "deserve rewards." As I wrote yesterday, it's a bizarre philosophy that resembles a credit card commercial, with the elite having gold cards and the "parasites" getting nothing. Equality doesn't enter the picture, even for women. The point of Rand's books is very much like the "Greed is Good" speech from Gordon Gecko in the movie "Wall Street" in which he sets the very wealthy people on a different plane from the rest of society.

If you believe the old adage "politics ain't bean-bag," then let's say that Ayn Rand's philosophy is like "dodge-ball on steroids." Not for the faint of heart, or for the humanistically-minded. It's quite hard to balance Ayn Rand with a belief in Jesus, or admiration for Gandhi or Mother Theresa or Buddha or any great soul who preached self-sacrifice and lack of materialism. Ayn Rand would probably say all of them were losers who should have tried to find happiness through earning money instead.


More essays and exposes are popping up all over the internet, and tonight on MSNBC both Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O'Donnell did lengthy segments on Ayn Rand. We should all learn as much as we can about this topic because it is going to be around till November, count on that.  This election is going to pivot around big ideas, and I think that is good.

The New York Times: Atlas Spurned
Mr. Ryan’s rise is a telling index of how far conservatism has evolved from its founding principles. The creators of the movement embraced the free market, but shied from Rand’s promotion of capitalism as a moral system. They emphasized the practical benefits of capitalism, not its ethics. Their fidelity to Christianity grew into a staunch social conservatism that Rand fought against in vain.

Mr. Ryan has attempted a similar pirouette, but it is too late: driven by the fever of the Tea Party and drawing upon a wellspring of enthusiasm for Rand, politicians like Mr. Ryan have set the philosophy of “Atlas Shrugged” at the core of modern Republicanism.

U.S. News: Paul Ryan's Dangerous Ayn Rand Obsession
The late Rand's entrance into this presidential election, thanks to Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, is more serious than it seems. Sweet reason has a hard time with Rand glorifying selfishness as political doctrine. Now that "selfishness ethic" happens all the time, accompanied by vicious attacks on the federal government and people who work for it, in the Republican-run House. It's not all the author's fault, but Ryan's devotion to Rand is yet another Republican insult and injury to classic American ideas of fairness, squareness, and civic-mindedness.

New Republic: Ayn Rand's Long Journey to the Mainstream
Before the Tea Party, Paul Ryan had been one of the few conservatives willing to openly embrace Rand as a formative influence. Most conservative politicians preferred to cite thinkers like F.A. Hayek or Milton Friedman, who were both more high-brow than Rand and neutral on the topic of religion. But the very aspects of Rand that made journalists shudder in the 1960s—her angry division of the world into “producers” and “looters,” her cheesy novels—made her into a Tea Party favorite. Protestors at Tea Party rallies waved signs asking “Who is John Galt?” (a reference to the hero of Atlas Shrugged) and used Randian logic to argue that health care reform was immoral.

It may seem incredible that fictional plotlines are being used to critique policy, but it’s important to recognize that Rand has remained popular precisely because she was a bestselling novelist rather than a dry theorist. Rand waved off specific questions about how her policy proposals—like the abolition of taxation—would work, emphasizing her role was to inspire her readers to high moral purpose. With Galt’s Gulch, the capitalist Shangri-la of Atlas Shrugged, she brought to life the dream world of the successful striver surrounded by equals and unencumbered by the poor, the weak, or the unlucky. Only in this fictional world could her heroes duck the hard questions of fate and chance, for in Rand’s novels, everyone gets what they deserve.

Ayn Rand Versus the Pope
. . . this is the same man who gives copies of “Atlas Shrugged” as Christmas presents and once told the Atlas Society in 2005:
But if we’re going to actually win [the fight between individualism and collectivism] we need to make sure that we’re solid on premises, that our principles are well-defended, and if we want to go and articulately defend these principles and what they mean to our society, what they mean for the trends that we set internationally, we have to go back to Ayn Rand. Because there is no better place to find the moral case for capitalism and individualism than through Ayn Rand’s writings and works.
Four years later, Ryan’s brother said, “Paul can still quote every verse out of Ayn Rand.”
. . . Everyone has ideological idiosyncrasies, but some people hold beliefs so diametrically opposed to each other that you have to question their sincerity or their intellectual integrity. To tweak Lincoln’s famous line, a mind divided against itself cannot stand. And Paul Ryan is nothing if not divided against himself.

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