Posted by: David Offutt | August 31, 2017

Plutocracy: Ayn Rand and the G.O.P.

Ayn Rand, author and founder the Objectivism philosophy, probably articulates the plutocracy’s agenda better than anyone else.

 

There are three characteristics that are continually demonstrated by the Republican majority in the U.S. Congress and the quasi-Republican administration in the White House: incompetence, irresponsibility, and maliciousness.  To understand why Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, President Donald J. Trump, and their accomplices consider these traits to be positive, it is important to be familiar with the philosophy of one of their patron saints: Ayn Rand.

 

This is the book that contain’s the speech by the fictitious John Galt who epitomizes the positions of the billionaire Koch brothers and much of the other upper 1%.

Two of Ms. Rand’s novels are practically required reading for any true believer in the Republican-plutocratic agenda: “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead.” They will even argue over which one should be read first.  “Atlas…” usually wins out because it contains the long speech delivered by its fictitious hero, John Galt, who defines modern-day Republicanism and its emphasis on establishing a true plutocracy – rule by the very wealthy.

 

If you really want to understand today’s G.O.P., I suggest that you skip both novels. My copy of “The Fountainhead” – donated by The Ayn Rand Institute to high schools – is 694 pages! “Atlas…” is lengthy, too, and you would be hard pressed to find any book reviewer or scholar who would consider either to be great literature. It might be best to just Google “John Galt’s speech” and fight your way through that. It’s the G.O.P.’s alternative to Jesus’s  “The Sermon on the Mount,” which they soundly reject.

 

This is the other contender as a must-read book by extreme right-wingers. It was turned into a rather mediocre movie which, unfortunately, had two great stars: Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal.

House speaker Paul Ryan used to admit that he was primarily influenced by Ayn Rand, but somebody pointed out to him that Ms. Rand was a devout atheist. That doesn’t set well with the G.O.P.’s evangelical base. He doesn’t mention her name anymore, but his take-from-the-poor and give-to-the-rich annual proposed “budgets,” his opposition to spending on infrastructure, and his reflexive opposition to health care for 20 million American citizens are all pure Ayn Rand.

 

Even Mr. Trump claims to admire Rand’s ideas. Someone probably briefed him on her ideas, which he could easily relate to. (According to Jane Mayer of the “New Yorker,” Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter for Trump’s “Art of the Deal,” believes the Donald has never read a book in his life and thinks a better title for his book would have been “The Sociopath.”)

 

Instead of those two novels, I strongly recommend a collection of essays that articulate the ethics of objectivism, which is the name Ms. Rand gave to her philosophy. It is in book form of only 144 pages. It’s written mostly by her with additional essays by Nathaniel Brandon, who collaborated with her on “The Objectivist Newsletter.” She and Mr. Brandon frequently use the John Galt’s speech as a reference in defense of their positions. The 1961 book’s title is, appropriately, “The Virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism.”

 

This is a series of essays that, essentially, explains why greed is good and altruism is bad.

Ms. Rand defended the title of her book by declaring that “the exact meaning and dictionary definition of the word ‘selfishness’ is: ‘concern with one’s own interests.’” She had total contempt for altruism. The idea that one should live one’s life by doing good things for others was absolute anathema to her.  She blamed people’s belief in altruism on mysticism, which was her word for “religion.” She insists, “Altruism is incompatible with freedom, with capitalism, and with individual rights.”

 

Ms. Rand explained, “The basic social principle of the Objectivist ethics is that just as life is an end in itself, so every living human being is an end in himself, not the means to the ends or the welfare of others – and, therefore, that man must live for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. To live for his own sake means that the achievement of his own happiness is man’s highest moral purpose.”

 

She also explains: “The only proper moral purpose of a government is to protect man’s rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence – to protect his right to his own life, to his own liberty, to his own property and to the pursuit to his own happiness.”  According to Ms. Rand, the only three things that government should provide are (1) a military to prevent invasion (she is correct in the fact that war is initiated as organized theft), (2) a court system to protect property rights, and (3) a police force to protect one’s person and property.

 

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Ayn Rand in a composite photo illustration showing how closely connected they are in political and economic philosophy. Ryan didn’t realize she was an atheist when he bragged about how influential she was to him. (Photos by Charlie Neibergall/AP and Oscar White/Corbis)

Therefore, all public works by government are pure “evil.” Social Security, health care, minimum wages, worker’s compensations, schools, and infrastructure (highways, bridges, et al.) should not be the role of government. Why? Because, as Ms. Rand writes, “Who would pay for it?” The answer, of course, is those with the most money, and it will be done without each one’s personal, individual consent.

 

Who benefits from public works initiatives? “Parasites, moochers, looters, brutes and thugs,” those who are “incapable of survival, who exist by destroying those who ARE capable….” Those who earned their wealth would be forced to help those who didn’t. Mitt Romney was recorded saying essentially the same thing during the 2012 presidential campaign, and he still received 47 percent of the popular vote.

 

Once you understand the influence of Ann Rand’s “sermons” validating long-held beliefs of the party of big business, you can see why it’s so hard to get Republicans to do anything that benefits the majority of the people and the nation as a whole. All you get from them is incompetence, irresponsibility, and maliciousness. It doesn’t come from stupidity: it comes from the intent to protect the downtrodden, wealthy elite from being abused by the rest of us.

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Responses

  1. Good writing. I think a lot of believers don’t understand how a lot of their thoughts and action are contrary to Christ teachings as a believer i tell myself everyday to be sure I am true to what He says.

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    >

  2. Everything you say about Ayn Rand and Republicans is true — though I enjoyed most Ayn’s books and encourage everyone to read them. I think there is a grain of truth to Ayn’s message, the catch is that it’s not the whole truth. The individual is important, but individuals are part of society, and society is important, too.

    Rand is known for unapologetically defending capitalism, selfishness, and greed. Likewise Republicans openly embrace those things.

    Today’s Democrats also, in practice, defend capitalism, selfishness, and greed — as they killed FDR’s AFDC program, cut food stamps, deregulated Wall Street, bailed out banks, insisted on for-profit health care, place liens on the homes of Medicaid recipients, fail to raise the minimum wage, pass free trade deals, etc., etc., etc. — yet all the while they pretend to feel our pain.

    As Nancy Pelosi put it in a rare moment of candor “we’re capitalist and that’s just the way it is.”

    The only difference is that one party is honest and consistent about their belief in selfishness and greed, while the other party is dishonest and lacks a logically consistent philosophy.

    Rand is the logical conclusion of the philosophy of “just desserts,” the belief that we get what we deserve. According to “just desserts,” If someone gets a bad deal in life, that person must have done something to deserve the bad deal, while people who are rich must have done something to deserve to be rich. “Just desserts” is deeply embedded in American culture and embraced by both parties. To reject “just desserts” is to reject capitalism.

    When was the last time a Democrat rejected “just desserts” and unequivocally stated that the rich don’t deserve to be rich and the poor don’t deserve to be poor? You might have to go back to Huey Long, who was viewed as a pariah by his own party.

    If your essay had been about “Ayn Rand and Capitalism” it would have been truer and more useful.

    • To read Rand, which I did as a young man, you’ve got to suspend your disbelief and pretend her cartoon characters have some relation to reality. They don’t.

      • It’s fiction, of the “romantic” style, not the naturalist style. Ayn said she wrote as she thought the world ought to be, not as it really was.
        .
        To understand Ayn, first read “We The Living,” her semi-autobiographical novel about life in Soviet Russia. Like the book’s heroine, Rand rebelled against authoritarian communism. The opposite of authoritarian communism is libertarian individualism, and Rand took libertarian individualism to a comical extreme. It’s easy to make fun of Rand’s extremism, but we’re left with the question of how to find the right balance between individualism and concern for others. I don’t think we have found it yet.


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