Skip to comments.Terence Corcoran: Ayn Rand — still the most dangerous woman in America
Posted on 09/22/2012 5:54:31 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
Veteran American libertarian author and activist Jerome Tuccille once wrote a book titled It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand. Not true in my case. For me it all began with Walt Whitman, the 19th-century mystic whose mesmerizing American poetry helped turn me into a free market individualist. I celebrate myself, and sing myself But thats another story.
These days, I find what began with Walt Whitman is usually fired up in me now by leftist economists who promote big government, Occupy activists who attack corporate greed and politicians who cravenly exploit class warfare over allegedly expanding inequality.
Which is how this piece began, last December, while I was driving home from the office, the radio tuned to a CBC interview with U.S. economist Jeffrey Sachs, prolific best-selling author, renowned statist, Columbia professor, United Nations sideman and an intellectual booster of Occupy Wall Street. For blood-boiling purposes, Mr. Sachs is perfect fuel, and during the CBC interview he delivered all the key words: U.S. politics is corrupt, Republicans and Democrats are complicit, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Wall Street, a veneer of democracy, a system run by greedy Wall Street thugs and the rich who dont follow the law and dont pay taxes.
It was pure Occupyism. But then, unprovoked, Mr. Sachs spontaneously veered off the road into an attack on somebody called Ayn Rand. The Tea Party, the leaders of it, follow Ayn Rand, he said. I dont know how many people here have read this awful woman [much laughter from audience]. Absolutely one of the most pathetic personalities. Really! If you read her biography, she was a sad, sad, lonely, nasty woman, because she preached antagonism to compassion.
Mr. Sachs, who was promoting his new book, The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity, said he had broken out into a cold sweat after reading a section of Rands novel, Atlas Shrugged, a notorious 100-page speech by one of her characters, John Galt.
Its so ugly. Ugly, Im telling you. It says if you as much as give a smile to a poor person, youre degrading yourself, youre making yourself a slave of this person. If you give them the pennies that they want, youre setting the road on the path of destruction.
Weird, I thought. Why would a world-famous economist, followed by millions, advisor to UN officials and presidents, launch into a personal attack on a novelist whos been dead more than 30 years by citing one of her novels and paraphrasing the words of one of her characters? How many people have even heard of Ayn Rand? And who the hell cares what one of her characters said in a novel published 60 years ago?
Lots of people, it appears. Ayn Rand may be long dead, but she seems to have been resurrected as the most dangerous woman in America. Judging by the barrage of attacks and references in the media, one can only conclude that Ayn Rand is a pervasive and increasingly powerful force in U.S. politics, possibly on the brink of toppling the prevailing orthodoxies of modern American liberalism.
Media references to Ayn Rand have skyrocketed over the last year, many of them elaborate putdowns. Her name is dropped like a hand grenade into articles and commentaries, as if readers will instantly recognize the menace. Her name has become an explosive device like Karl Marxs or Chairman Maos apparently enough to rankle and send shivers down spines.
Major U.S. columnists Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman, David Brooks, Peggy Noonan have all dabbled in Rand in the last few months, none favourably. Just last week, in The New Yorker, Steven Coll shoehorned Rand into the context of Barack Obamas speech to the Democratic National Convention. The president, said Coll, offered a powerful response to the dystopian individualism of the Ayn Rand-influenced Republicans and their leader, Paul Ryan, the Vice-Presidential nominee, by invoking citizenship, a word at the very heart of our founding, at the very essence of our democracy.
Im not going to spend any time reviewing Rands ideas. Whether fictional John Galt really said what Jeffrey Sachs describes isnt the point. It doesnt really matter when it comes to observing the phenomenon of Ayn Rand as leftist/liberal ideological nightmare.
Looking out over the economic and ideological landscape of America today a land of big government, massive debt, pervasive regulation, fiscal cliffs there is scant evidence that Ayn Rand has had much influence on the political life of the country. But today Randophobia appears to be reaching new highs. MSNBCs talk socialist Lawrence ODonnell recently devoted much of one show to Ayn Rands views as a greed worshipper. Thats right, said ODonnell, Ayn Rand worshipped greed!
Rand is everywhere, even the sports pages. Commenting on the NHL lockout, a Globe and Mail sports writer exposed the evil heart of the conflict. Some of the NHL owners, wrote Sean Gordon, subscribe to a stoutly capitalist and virulently anti-union philosophy. That is to say theyre Randians adherents to the beliefs of the late polemicist and novelist Ayn Rand or at very least have strong libertarian sympathies.
In Newsweek last week, the worldly novelist and stand-up intellectual Martin Amis, analyzing the Republican convention in Tampa, went after Ryan and fellow Republican Ron Paul as anti-abortion libertarians who have managed to distill a few predatory slogans from Ayn Rands unreadable novel, Atlas Shrugged (and if young Paul is blessed with another daughter, he will surely christen her Ayn Ryanto match Rons Rand Paul). Such wit. . Much of the recent Randophobia including the Sachs attack came even before Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney picked Ryan, a Catholic, as his vice-presidential running mate. Ryan claimed to be an avid Rand follower, or at least he apparently had been until he became the vice-presidential candidate and busily began distancing himself from the most dangerous woman in America. If somebody is going to try to paste a persons view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas. Dont give me Ayn Rand, he said shortly after his selection by Romney Thomas Aquinas being the 13th century Catholic philosopher who brought reason to the Churchs otherwise irrational worldview. Rand was an atheist, Ryan declared. She was also a hardline pro-choicer, which would not sit well with Ryan the Catholic. Various Catholic organizations also denounced Ryan for having put the teachings of ultra-capitalist Ayn Rand before the teachings of Jesus and the Church
Village Voice columnist Victoria Bekiempis immediately attacked Paul Ryans Randian apostasy and his quick retreat into the arms of Aquinas. Of course, this is complete bullsh*t. He hasnt abandoned his interpretation of Rands economic policies. More importantly, though, theres no way Ryan could read Aquinas and adhere to his beliefs without lying to himself and/or doing some serious mental gymnastics. And thats because Aquinas would have f hated Ryans capitalism.
Possibly, although its doubtful Aquinas would have put it that way. In any case, Rand (who was herself a fan of Aquinas up to a point) would also likely have hated Ryans version of capitalism. She certainly had no time for conservatism, whose unprincipled power seeking she saw as more dangerous than liberalism. At least liberals stood for something. Today conservatives are futile, impotent and, culturally, dead, she once wrote. They have nothing to offer and can achieve nothing. They can only help to destroy intellectual standards, to disintegrate thought, to discredit capitalism, and to accelerate this countrys uncontested collapse into despair and dictatorship.
Not all of Rands critics are categorical in their condemnation. Christopher Hitchens, by my reading, had a soft spot for Rand, a fellow atheist. He did call her novels transcendentally awful, and in a 2008 column, he said that Rand and Mary Baker Eddy, the Christian Science founder, were two of the battiest females every to have infested the American scene. But he also, in a 2009 lecture, said he has some respect for one of Rands non-fiction works, The Virtue of Selfishness, even though he said he doubted there was any need for essays advocating selfishness among human beings, since some things require no further reinforcement.
In New York magazines fall preview issue a few weeks ago, the back-of-the-book featurette called The Approval Matrix placed a reference to Rand in the highbrow despicable quadrant. Are we really going to spend the next three months talking about Ayn Rand?
Could be. On Tuesday this week, the Ayn Rand Institute in Los Angeles launched a new book that could spell continuing election-year trouble for liberals and conservatives. Free Market Revolution: How Ayn Rands Ideas Can End Big Government, written by Institute executive Yaron Brook and associate Don Watkins, is a smooth, readable and easy-to-digest summary of Randian theory plugged into current political and economic developments. This is no John Galt marathon of dense theory in a fictional setting. Section headings alone will cause heads to explode left and right: The Rights Crusade for Big Government; The 2008 Housing Meltdown: The Crisis That Government Built; Rethinking Selfishness; The Immoral Entitlement State; Why Only Rational Selfishness Will Do; You Are Not Your Brothers Health Care Provider.
Steve Forbes, in a blurb for the new book, said Free Market Revolution will raise the ire of every statist, socialist and crony capitalist. Rand understood as do the authors of this too timely book that free markets are, indeed, moral while Big Government is manifestly not.
On Thursday, in New York, the Ayn Rand Institute held a fundraiser at the St. Regis Hotel under the banner: The Atlas Shrugged Revolution. Speakers included Brook, Wall Street Journal editorial board member Stephen Moore, and John Allison, a member of the board of the Rand Institute.
Rands supporters appear to be moving in on Washingtons Cato Institute, a libertarian bastion long headed by Ed Crane but now presided over by John Allison, the Ayn Rand Institute board member. Allison, a former banker from North Carolina, with funding from the billionaire Koch brothers, themselves characters out of Occupy/liberal nightmares, has said he aims to reshape Cato along Randian lines.
This is war. Rand condemned liberals and conservatives, but had even stronger views about libertarians. In a 2009 biography of Rand, author Jennifer Burns records that during Rands public speeches, she called libertarians scum, intellectual cranks and plagiarists.
Its hard to tell today who has more to gain or lose from the seeming resurrection of Ayn Rand as an ideological enemy of the statists. She had no time for most other worldviews, right, left or libertarian. She would have fought the Cato Institute, she would have rejected the Tea Party movement, and she would have sought to demolish the Jeffrey Sachs of the world.
Whether all the recent attacks are signs of a real surge in Ayn Rand and her radical outlook I cannot tell. Shes still in the news, particularly in the wake of Mitt Romneys video reference to the 47% of Americans who pay no tax and receive government funds. Critics quickly pounced, accusing Romney of talking about moochers, a Randian phrase. On Wednesday, Open Salon blogger and former Republican speechwriter Ted Frier said he thought Romney had exposed his inner Ayn Rand and that she was enjoying a comeback in plutocratic circles.
If Ayn Rand were really making a comeback, nobody would be safe. And everybody seems to know it.
I found Rand’s novel “The Fountainhead” to be one of the most readable novels I’ve ever read and of course it had a Randian message. So what if Rand was a thoroughly disagreeable person. Her critics miss her main message: big, huge government is a terrible evil. Apparently, all her critics couldn’t see the forest for the trees.
To statists and collectivists she IS the most dangerous person in the world and the most evil but maybe that is the best reason to consider what she had to say seriously.
Ayn Rand the most dangerous woman in the world? To statists and marxists, most assuredly.
Critics of her style are not incorrect... she wrote like a Russian; subtle as a pickax, and one reading was enough. Few people read her for fun. But her ideas were as new to me as the sky splitting open. I was never the same again, and I mean that in a good way.
The same people that howl and scream that Ayn Rand is a monster, look calmly at a pile of 200 million murdered bodies that socialism created of its own peoples in the 20th Century and say “let’s keep trying - in the name of helping people.”
Madness is, as madness does.
Oh goody. Another idiot who’s never actually read Rand calling her ideas dangerous.
There are also many YouTube clips of Ayn Rand available.
But that's the makeup of a liberal: They already know everything so don't have to bother checking anything out. They know so much they have no idea how much they don't know. I first read "Fountainhead" in the early '50's and got "Atlas Shrugged" the minute it hit the shelves. BTW, "Fountainhead", the movie, is online. The best part Gary Cooper and Patricia O'Neal ever did.
“If Ayn Rand were really making a comeback, nobody would be safe. And everybody seems to know it.”
Nobody is safe. That’s a fact.
Life is a gamble.
So could Galt’s gulch exist today without getting raided by the IRS, BAFT, FBI, and the EPA?
This appears to be a very rare, well conceived article assessing the elitist dogma about Rand as compared with the reality of her brilliant insightful and incredibly timely works, in light of the issues facing America today.
We came to the present corrupt and delusional idiocy precisely and expressly under the banner of government coerced altruism. $16 Trillion in on the books debt; new debt as far as the eye can see at over $1Trillion per year; and unfunded liabilities in excess of 100 Trillion; GDP diving southward; and employment stalled, but the dollar plummeting. American power compromised by budget cuts and whats left squandered in hopeless tactics that omit consideration of victory.
We have second rate leaders with third rate minds, devoted to either corruption or psychic payoffs associated with raw power. One senator is famous for wearing tennis shoes, another for being homosexual, one former senator also a former governor most certainly should be in jail for his massive fraud and breach of fiduciary duty, though political connections keep him in freedom months after the cookies were found missing. Harry Reid is a corrupt Las Vegas licensing board hack who played footsie with mobsters, yet some people declare Rand’s characters to be unrealistically drafted, too ‘one dimensional’. The solution to every problem is more collectivism with threat of government force behind it according to our leaders.
Even Mr. Romney, clearly more qualified to hold office than Obama, is mealy mouthed and talks about “reforming” Obamacare...as if Hell might be improved by new street lights and some air conditioning.
Rand has a great deal to teach the world, but many spend tireless hours trying to smear and mischaracterize her work, and to discourage the curious from considering her ideas.
Jeffrey Sachs is a moron with a Doctorate. A closet communist. and a big time government interventionist apologist. An intellectual descendant of Marx and Keynes “magic money” and social reform ideologies. The kind that kill people in bulk. Listen to him when disaster strikes and you will be in the vangard of those crushed burned shot or starved before the end of the first reel.
What Rand teaches among other things is the moral meaning of the marketplace. You can ignore her works, but the moral judgment of the market place will catch up with you inevitably. When it does the spokesmen for the moochers will again in chorus claim it was because you would not agree to tax the rich enough. Ignoring as always that raising tax rates does not increase tax revenues per se and that a government that occupies 25 to 40% or more of the economy is crowding out the ability to produce wealth and pissing away what wealth remains at appalling rates through political payoffs and crony corruption.
This nation and our civilisation are rapidly falling away. If you want to know the cause start reading or re - read Ayn Rand. Short term financial gimmicks might stave off flagrant catastrophe for a bit. The parasites are consuming the host and the scavangers are already feeding on Europe, and little is left in the world that looks like enduring civilisation. We are Rome before the vandals. It is night in America and the hyenas are in charge. Be smug as long as you can, eletists, enjoy your privileges and speak dismissively of a genius who called you what you really are. Scoff at her personal failings in order to distract from her ideas, of free men, of a free society, of the nature of value of human acheivement. Raise your flags and make great speeches in honor of everything pointless and continue your headlong rush toward the politically correct society where sodomites, union thugs and the John Edwards of the world are just as or more important than Ford Carnegie and Edison, more important because Jersey Shore and Oprah have become the heart of America’s culture and Jeffrey Sachs an economic guiding light to those in power.
FRankly, IMHO, the world would have been a better place if more people had paid attention to Ayn Rand’s writings.
Have you ever seen this?
What Good Can a Handgun Do Against An Army?
I guess he didn't keep reading - in the book, villain liberal banker Eugene Lawson's reaction to Galt's speech was virtually identical. :)
Leave it to the Left to omit the context of anything they don’t like!
I agree. Thanks for the ping. I’ve read all of her books and find most critics don’t seem to understand what she’s writing about or the theory she proffers. That makes reading or hearing them enjoyable for their ignorance.
What an outstanding rant. Thank you.
It would have to hidden in plain sight - like downtown Hong Kong.