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David A. Schwinghammer

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Ayn Rand, poor role model
By David A. Schwinghammer
Last edited: Friday, April 29, 2011
Posted: Wednesday, April 27, 2011



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Recent articles by
David A. Schwinghammer

• The God Particle
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Congressman Paul Ryan espouses Ayn Rand's capitalist disdain for the poor.



The Republican party has tagged Congressmen Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as its front man in the battle over how to cut the unsustainable budget and national debt. Ryan would do it without raising taxes, despite the fact that Bush‘s tax cuts are one of the reasons we have such a high national debt in the first place; he even suggests cutting the corporate tax rate and making Medicare and Medicaid a voucher system with no assurance medical costs would not go over the moon, leaving the elderly up creek without a paddle.

More bothersome than the above is Ryan’s inspiration, Ayn Rand. That’s Ayn Rand, the novelist, not economists Milton Friedman or Adam Smith. Ayn Rand. Kind of like when we were all in college and were first exposed to J.D. Salinger or Jack Kerouac, and we all wanted to march to our own drummer. Young Republican are different I guess; for some reason they have this superiority complex, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Let’s take a look at good old Ayn. She was a Russian immigrant who early on snagged a job as a screenwriter in Hollywood. By the way, she testified for the prosecution in front of the Committee on Unamerican Activities, selling her colleagues down the river. She also worked for the Wendell Wilkie campaign; Wilkie sounded a lot like Ryan, which shows how totally bereft of any sensible solutions these people are. You’d think that a political ideology that sees a communist behind every bush would have a little trouble with a Russian émigré in their midst, but if they can borrow trillions from the communist Chinese to fight a war we didn’t have to fight, I guess it’s not that surprising.

Although Ayn was a novelist by profession she had this economic theory called objectivism which extolled individuality and capitalist enterprise above all else. In other words the rich deserve to be at the top because they’re innovative and create jobs for the hoi polloi. I wonder what she’d say about Paris Hilton. Those who espouse objectivism refer to progressive concern for the poor as “false altruism.” You don’t want to spoil them; they’ll never be able to make it on their own. Those who are on unemployment compensation, social security, or Medicare in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression would obviously disagree.

The critical reader should catch a whiff of an ulterior motive coming from Rand, Ryan and the GOP. Objectivism sounds a whole lot like a rationalization. Rationalization is a defense mechanism conceived by Freud where the individual devises all sorts of excuses for his bad behavior. Bernie Madoff investors deserved to be bilked because they were greedy. Enron had multiple sets of books because all the pipeline corporations did. A few oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico are a trade off for all the “cheap” energy they provide and all those jobs on the oil rigs. The rich deserve what they have because they’re entrepreneurs who create jobs for the rest of us. They should be able to dodge taxes because the federal government doesn’t have the authority to tax them in the first place. With human beings, excessive rationalization is a form of neurosis; in corporate boardrooms it’s standard practice.

Another unusual conservative mentor is Oral Roberts, the carnival barker turned preacher who insisted that Christian businessmen, all Christians for that matter, deserved to be rich because they tithed to the church. Texas oilmen loved this and fell all over themselves forming Bible study groups. This despite the Biblical admonition, “It’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter Heaven.” Did anybody ever check out where Oral Roberts lived and how much of that money he skimmed off the top? You’d think they would’ve been a little bit suspicious. Anyway, these days the religious right and the political right have joined forces, so they both love Ayn Rand, even though she was an atheist. Glenn Beck would probably try to convince you that she was really a Christian at heart. Anyway, John D. Rockefeller, a very religious man, gave away dimes to every poor person he saw because he believed he’d have a tough time getting through the Pearly Gates; his son set up a foundation that’s going strong today; Bill Gates is giving away half of his fortune; so is Warren Buffett; Andrew Carnegie gave away all of his. Are all of these capitalists contributing to the delinquency of the poor?

Rand referred to the capitalist elite as “men of the minds.” Sounds a whole lot like Friedrich Nietzsche‘s Superman theory, don’t you think? Rand freely admitted that Fred beat her to it. She even used a quote from Nietzsche for FOUNTAINHEAD, eventually discarding it before publication. Nietzsche might be one of the most misunderstood thinkers in history. Hitler formed his concept of the superior race using Nietzsche’s ideas. But Nietzsche’s superman was really an “overman” or “ubermensch” whose existence and power would live on even after he died.
According to Nietzsche, Napoleon was an overman whose impact affects Europe to this day. Nietzsche was also a humanist whose ideas were about the enhancement of humanity. Nietzsche may have been down on the poor because they accepted their plight instead of fighting their way through the prejudices of the church and the aristocratic classes. Very often the overman was an artist with his own set of values, unrelated to any established religion. About the only modern capitalists one would confuse with an overman might be Steve Jobs or Bill Gates who have both definitely made an impact on society for generations to come. Nietzsche’s emphasis on artists may have been why Rand glommed onto the idea. She obviously saw herself as an overman.

Rand’s theory also sounds quite a bit like evolutionary theory and Darwinism. That’s where the biggest, strongest, best-looking, and most intelligent get all the good jobs and bully and outsmart the weak among us. In the evolutionary scheme of things that should make us better, except that some of these corporate geniuses are of the H.L. Hunt variety, just smart enough to hire good people to run their empires for them, but otherwise not the brightest bulb in the chandelier. They tend to leave their empires to their inbred sons and daughters. A Wal-Mart heir was caught paying another girl to write her papers for her in college. History is replete with all sorts of second generation failures who had no incentive to do anything productive with their lives. All of this is rather ironic in that conservatives generally think of Charles Darwin as the anti-Christ, at least the evangelicals among them do. Others, whether they believe it or not, support teaching mythological Intelligent Design in the science classrooms, a sure way to set us behind in the battle for technological superiority.

Certainly we’ve been down Ayn’s (Ryan’s) road before. It happened during the Middle Ages where the biggest and strongest were soldiers for the king. In return they got land and hired serfs to farm it for them. The serfs were tied to the land for life; serfdom existed in Russia until late in the 19th Century. When the knight’s land was passed on it went to the oldest son, leaving the others out in the cold, except that most of them either entered the military or the church. So, what you had was many church officials who were out for themselves. They weren’t celibate and they often lived better than their aristocratic brothers. Protestants pointed at them when they revolted against the church.

During the 19th century and early 20th century American experienced another kind of feudalism with robber barons doing basically whatever the hell they wanted: railroads screwing the farmer, meat packers and steel magnates abusing their workers. We just recognized the hundredth anniversary of the Triangle Fire, where over a hundred and forty seamstresses died in the fire, many of them because the owners locked the doors to prevent theft. Ford and Carnegie hired thugs to beat up strikers.

If you don’t think this can happen again, check out J.T. Rodgers, CEO of Cypress Semiconductor, who told President Obama that his moral responsibility was protecting the profits of his stockholders. “Moral” is a strange word for a corporate mogul to use. Corporations are also whittling away at collective bargaining, as we’ve seen in Wisconsin with Governor Scott Walker. There are 100,000 teachers in Wisconsin and about as many firemen and police officers (they supported Walker in the election and maintained their negotiation rights, but they’re next and some of them know it). That’s a whole lot of people in limbo economically; they also shop at some of the small businesses that support Walker. It’s a mystery why small businessmen support a political party that would run them out of business through franchising.

So then the hero of conservative financial reform (Ryan makes his staffers read her works) is guilty of rationalization, sounds a whole lot like a misunderstood Nietzsche, and seems to endorse Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest. Nietzsche also seemed to have little sympathy for the poor, seeing them as dragging down the Superman or Overman. Rand was almost kicked out of school in Russia; she bore a grudge against any form of socialism; she obviously identified with and probably socialized with industry captains who published her books. She saw herself as a self-made woman. Writers tend to write about themselves in their works. Was John Galt really Ayn Rand?

Voters should be suspicious of politicians kissing up to rich oil men like the Charles and David Koch, Governor Scott Walker benefactors.
Ryan recommends doing what Calvin Coolidge did in the 20’s. You can‘t really blame the Great Depression on Harding, who admitted he wasn‘t qualified to be president (See that Teapot Dome scandal). Coolidge was unapologetically against any kind of regulation. Poor old Hobert Heever was actually qualified to do the job, but he never knew what hit him. Yet conservatives love Calvin Coolidge. The same thing happened in 2000-2008 when the Bush administration deregulated everything they could find, including offshore drilling and Wall Street. They just never learn. Laissez faire capitalism is a cycle of prosperity, recession, prosperity and near depression, if the bubble that bursts is too big, as it was with the mortgage debacle. Worse yet Wall Street financiers sold derivatives to European banks, dragging them down with us. Some Supermen. Of course conservatives blame European financial problems on socialism.

Libertarianism, the force behind current right-wing conservatism, emphasizes liberty above all else. “Leave us alone” is their mantra. Let us take guns into churches, schools, and hospitals; let us pollute the atmosphere with carbon-based fuels; let us hire and fire people at will; let us privatize everything. I don’t think the average American would agree with this nonsense if he/she took a closer look instead of reacting instinctively to unemployment and high gas prices. According to a recent poll, sixty percent of Americans agree that the rich should pay higher taxes. They’ve got the money and the rest of us are too busy trying to scrape together enough to fill up the tank on our cars so we can get to work.

According to NEWSWEEK columnist Jonathan Chait, Ryan would get most of his cuts from Medicaid, Pell Grants, food stamps, and low-income housing. These programs constitute 21% of the federal budget. Ryan gets over two-thirds of his cuts from programs to help the poor. Not from defense, not from oil subsidies to Exxon, but on the backs of the poor, just like under feudalism.

I’m not all that thrilled with inspirational quotes whether from the Bible or anyplace else, but the following should be familiar to those who castigate the poor. “There but for the grace of God go I,” and “Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, that you do unto me.” The United States is the only industrialized country where you can find the rich (Tea Partiers) protesting against the poor. For shame.

Dave Schwinghammer's novel, SOLDIER'S GAP, is available on Amazon.com, new and used. Please check out the reviews.
 

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Reviewed by Jansen Estrup 4/29/2011
Well said.

As a teen I was a fervent fan of Ayn Rand. I needed her encouragement to overcome the bullying and ostracism of my peers and the fearful H-bomb times. She helped give me a sense of the individual and some fiber when going against the stream. But after I married and began maturing, I realized that her fan-base was devoted to immature fantasies, such as 'born' rulers (like her Tzar-and tell me again what Napoleon created) and noble champions (like those who worshiped/supported the Tzar by force) to promote the great pyramid scheme (all those 'freed' serfs who paid with their skill, taxes, toil and lives). Creating something out of nothing is a godlike delusion. Real capitalists create something out of something, unlike those fakes on Wall Street who manufacture imaginary dollars in order to plunder our real wealth (efforts, savings, property, natural resources and future).

John Galt is entitled to everything he makes with his brain and brawn, but the moment he involves anyone else to gather, make, manufacture, promote, transport, protect, sell, use, consume, study or invest, he is involved in socialism.

Aside from her personal illusions about her own 'entitlements' which included young lovers (among her student admirers) and unquestioned obedience, by the end of her life she enrolled in Medicare because she could no longer afford treatment for cancer.

By most standards she was not 'moral' in either an ethical or religious sense.

Reviewed by - - - - - TRASK 4/28/2011
Little Long Quite Informative...

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