Ayn Rand is definitely one of the more interesting thinkers of the 20th Century. Conservatives absolutely love her. She’s the jam to their jelly roll.
Ms. Rand pioneered a philosophy called Objectivism, which argues that reality exists as an independent absolute. There is no God, no spirituality, no insight, no intuition, and no instinct; there is only man–made heroic by self-determination–his perception, and the cold hard reason by which he can comprehend this reality. Since there are no higher powers, the crux of morality is rational self-interest. We have no intrinsic moral responsibility to our community. Self sacrifice is a fool’s endeavor. In other words, get yours.
It’s not warm and fuzzy, but it’s rational–after a fashion–and served as an interesting counterbalance to the existentialist malaise pervading 20th century Europe.
According to Ms. Rand, the highest form of government is 100% free-market capitalism: No regulations, no health or safety standards, no taxes, no labor laws, etc. This is the best environment for the self-determined individual to prosper and the cream to rise. As for the unlucky, well, they deserve whatever fate they receive. Life’s hard.
This is where her philosophy goes wonky. Ms. Rand believed that in an utterly laissez-faire environment people will somehow, for some inexplicable and–by her own rationale–unjustified reason, come together and engage in honest, fair, well-intentioned business with one another.
Liberals are always painted as dreamers and idealists with our heads in the clouds. Meanwhile, this free-market-heals-all-wounds Shangri-la bullshit is the biggest political fiction of the last century…except for maybe supply-side economics. (Ironically, Rand was a chain smoker and contracted lung cancer from cigarettes manufactured by an unregulated tobacco company that lied about the effects of its product.)
The fundamental flaw here is that objectivism holds the rights of the individual as the highest moral good. Yet it doesn’t take much thinking to come up with plenty of circumstances where the needs of the group would exceed the needs of the individual. We are not islands. Establishing and maintaining market standards, transportation, communication, and defense would ensure an overall better standard of living for more people. In objectivism, the rights of one individual supercede the rights of the group. The theory that unregulated markets will lead us to Utopia where there won’t be rampant lying, cheating, scamming, robbery, graft, racketeering, intimidation, violence, and murder is fantastical and was disproved by history long ago.
I could spend all day picking apart this cockamamie philosophy. But the truly repugnant aspect I take from it–and that Republicans embrace–is the disregard for their fellow man. Objectivists believe that we are not beholden to one another; that it’s a better world when we’re all just looking out for ourselves. There are no higher authorities, therefore the ultimate moral good is to get as filthy stinking rich as you can.
Decent, rational people cannot possibly believe this.
To Ms. Rand’s credit, she was at least consistent. She believed the government had no right to impose, either to help or to hinder.
Republicans however, use Rand’s philosophy to justify corporate cronyism. It is the ultimate goal of the Republican Party to eliminate all government-run social programs and give those proceeds to the top 1%. There is no level of success or amount of good that can be done that will change their minds about the social safety net. We could end illiteracy, end hunger, hell, we could wipe out cancer; if the government took a penny from a single citizen to do it, they consider it philosophically and morally wrong. And they will continue to actively undermine these programs to further their agenda…no matter who gets hurt by it.
This is grand-scale sociopathy. Republicans justify their cruelty by blaming the poor and infirm, stereotyping them as weak, lazy, and dumb. They admit that “something” should be done to help them; but proclaim that the government has no place imposing in such matters, even if it’s the will of the majority. Somebody has to die of disease or starvation or exposure–not because we can’t prevent it, but because we have no responsibility TO prevent it.
This is some sinister shit.
It’s Republican red meat.
And it’s yet another reason to hate what they represent.
P.S. A longer, more objective version of Ayn Rand’s interview (Mike Wallace still kinda steps all over her rather than just letting her speak her piece):