There is ample evidence to suggest that leading Republican members of the House and Senate are a good deal more familiar with the fiction of Ayn Rand than with the self-evident truths of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison or Abraham Lincoln.
While the movers and shakers in the party’s congressional caucuses may struggle with the meaning of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution or the essential premises of the first Republican president, they can quote chapter and verse from the Russian-born writer who William F. Buckley once decried as a purveyor of “ideological fabulism” with a “scorn for charity.”
Rand’s books serve as an ideological touchstone for a new generation of Republican politicians who have built their politics around the writer’s cold delineation of distinctions between idealized “makers” and disdained “takers.”
Have you read Ayn Rand?
I spent a number of years as a devoted Randian but slowly I saw the many flaws in her theory. Her theory is beautifully crafted synthesis of individual, political and economic ethics. Yet the vital flaw in theory is the same as in the communist theories she attacks, that is human nature. People are not perfectly rational, people are not like Dagny, Rearden or Galt. Groups of people don’t deal with each other in the idealized manner that is so easy for her to write yet so impossible for anybody to follow. I am not longer a devotee of Rand, but I do know her writings inside and out. I still reread Atlas Shrugged every two or three years.
Now I find all the politicians use of Rand kinda disgusting. I doubt they know her ideas half as well as they claim on camera. According Rand much of what our current government has is ill-gotten goods. Immorally obtained money and power. If those politicians paid any attention they would know that removal of support for an immoral government is the ONLY course of action. She wholeheartedly rejects the idea of fixing a corrupt system from within. Also she is adamantly against receiving any compensation the is immorally obtained. Thus she would reject the idea of our government even by being an elected official and she would reject the idea that somebody could be moral while being paid as an elected official with immorally obtained money.
Simply put if they paid any attention to Ayn Rand then they would not be politicians working for our government. Of course that would assume a consistency between actions and words which does not exist in politicians.
Yes, I’ve read The Fountainhead and am familiar with her concept of Objectivism. As a philosophical construct, it fails – in my opinion – on several levels. Specifically:
The idea that self-interest should be the moral purpose of one’s life is – quite frankly – absurd. People do all sorts of bad things in pursuit of self-interest (greed, lust, malice, megalomania, etc.). Conversely, I believe altruism to be the correct moral stance.
Rand’s promotion of laissez-faire capitalism as a social system that respects individual rights is also way off the mark. Firstly, capitalism is an economic system, not a governmental system. Laissez-faire practices are only consistent with the absence or emasculation of effective government. In today’s complex and diverse world, such a concept is innately anarchist (see: Somalia). Secondly, individual rights come from the establishment of ethical principles (Magna Carta, U.S. Constitution, etc.), not from the presumed freedom to do whatever one wants whenever they want. The ideas of republicanism (rule of law) and democracy (rule by the people) that founded America best represent my point here.
Followers of Rand also have trouble explaining why corruption in government is immoral while corruption in the private sector is not. To me, corruption is bad wherever it exists. The executive level fraud that occurred in the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent Great Recession was not only bad, but extremely destructive.
It is also peculiar that many Randians today are devout Christians. Ayn Rand herself was a staunch atheist. I find this irony puzzling.
Anyway, these are just my personal opinions. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.
Have you ever read The National Review’s original review of Atlas Shrugged? Its an epic take down. The dislike from Buckey to Rand was well known. She also hated libertarians.
No, I’ll have to check that out. Buckley was must-see-tv, and I especially liked his old black & white appearances from the 60’s. Rand hated libertarians? Oh, the irony!
Just read The National Review of Atlas Shrugged by Whittaker Chambers. An epic take down it was! I really liked this quote:
“For, if Man’s ‘heroism’ (some will prefer to say: ‘human dignity’) no longer derives from God, or is not a function of that godless integrity which was a root of Nietzsche’s anguish, then Man becomes merely the most consuming of animals, with glut as the condition of his happiness and its replenishment his foremost activity. So Randian Man, at least in his ruling caste, has to be held ‘heroic’ in order not to be beastly. And this, of course, suits the author’s economics and the politics that must arise from them.”
Glad you liked it!