Libertarian delusions of grandeur are a recurring theme. The “liberty” in libertarian is only for the captains of industry. Everyone else is a blood-sucking leach. -PG
Libertarian delusions of grandeur are a recurring theme. The “liberty” in libertarian is only for the captains of industry. Everyone else is a blood-sucking leach. -PG
Ayn Rand’s followers find themselves sharing a lot of common ground with the Christian Right these days. The Tea Party, with its stress on righteous liberty and a robust form of capitalism, has been a rallying point for both groups. Still, the philosophical disharmony between Christianity and Objectivism (Ayn Rand’s philosophy) has presented problems for anyone seeking to straddle the two worldviews. Just ask Paul Ryan.
Congressman Ryan, a Conservative Catholic, made no bones about his love for Ayn Rand’s signature novel, Atlas Shrugged, when he began his political career. The novel’s portrayal of heroic entrepreneurs fighting an evil government fits perfectly with Ryans’s ideal of conservatism. But a few years ago, the congressman began to feel pushback from traditional Christians who weren’t so keen on Ayn Rand’s theological views. How, it was asked, could Ryan condone an atheist who dismissed religionists as ignorant and deluded? The upshot: Ryan began parsing his words in a hurry.
Judging from recent trends, however, the icy divide over the God issue shows clear signs of melt. Gradual movement toward accommodation is coming not just from Christians wishing to co-opt Ayn Rand’s capitalistic ethic, but from Randians seeking to expand their fan base…
The lionization of frauds like Tom Perkins has them believing their accomplishments are purely their own doing
Richard Eskow, Alternet
by Ian Millhiser
Herbert Spencer was a popular author during the nineteenth century who supported strict limits on the government and even opposed many forms of charity towards the poor. Nature, Spencer argued, “secures the growth” of the human race by “weeding out those of lowest development,” and he also believed that neither government nor private charity should interfere with this process of natural selection. Though Spencer was not a eugenicist — he actually argued that the poor should be treated much more harshly than nineteenth and twentieth century eugenicists did — he was both a social acquaintance of Sir Francis Galton, the father of the eugenics movement, and a significant influence on Galton’s thinking. Spencer also shaped many of the policies developed by some of the most powerful judges and lawmakers of his era.
Reading Spencer’s many works today is an uncomfortable experience — the man devotes hundreds of pages to establishing a philosophical justification for a kind of neglect that most Americans would now view as a moral atrocity. Yet Spencer is also one of the foundational thinkers in the development of the economically libertarian philosophy that drives politicians such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).
On Monday, ThinkProgress published a piece entitled “Rand Paul’s Favorite Philosophers Think Poor People Are ‘Parasites.’” The thrust of the piece is that, though Paul now claims that his policies would lift up poor people and minorities, the economic libertarianism that drives Paul is so inherently anti-poor and anti-civil rights that Paul’s efforts to offer himself up as the champion of the downtrodden are misguided at best and deeply cynical at worst. Over the course of the piece, we trace the intellectual roots of economic libertarianism through Paul’s father, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), as well as through thinkers such as Murray Rothbard, Ayn Rand and Spencer…
Posted on August 25, 2012 by Nicolas McGinnis
“I grew up reading Ayn Rand and it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value systems are, and what my beliefs are. It’s inspired me so much that it’s required reading in my office for all my interns and my staff.”
That’s Paul Ryan, Republican vice-presidential candidate, in a 2005 speech delivered at The Atlas Society–one of many lavishly funded organizations devoted to spreading the thought and philosophy of Ayn Rand (he’s since distanced himself).
There are so many of these organizations it is hard to keep track. Apart from the Atlas Society, there is the Ayn Rand Institute, the Nathaniel Branden Institute, the Anthem Foundation and the Institute for Objectivist Studies. Numerous libertarian think-tanks, like the Cato Institute, promote Rand. Campus groups–which receive funding from objectivist foundations–are everywhere, promoting Rand via slick newsletters (like The Undercurrent: “Obama wants to use Blakely’s earnings to cover the bill for thousands of less productive citizens’ flu shots and groceries,” a typical line reads–Blakely is the noble, visionary entrepreneur who created Spanx.)
fig. 2. To hell with your ‘flu shots,’ parasites.
The fantastically rich find in Rand’s celebration of individual achievement a kindred spirit, and support her work with pecuniary enthusiasm: in 1999, McGill University turned down a million-dollar endowment from wealthy businessman Gilles Tremblay, who had given the money in the hopes of creating a chair dedicated to the the study of her work. Then-president Bernard Shapiro commented that “we can’t just sell our souls just for the sake of being richer,” hopefully aware of the irony: what else is there but getting richer? Rand literally ends her most famous novel, Atlas Shrugged, with the dollar sign replacing the sign of the cross, traced in the air–indicating the dawn of a new, bold, daringly sophomoric era.
Rand’s books have sold in the millions, never quite losing steam in the half-century since publication. A now-infamous Library of Congress survey placed Atlas Shrugged as the second-most influential book in America, trailing only the Bible–a dubious pairing, perhaps, given Rand’s militant atheism, but one that indeed captures the uneasy tension of contemporary America: the celebrated Protestant ethic versus the spirit of capitalism.
Despite her popular appeal, perennially best-selling books, and the breathless testimonial of politicians, actors and businessmen–Ryan is scarcely alone in his praise–professional academics almost universally disdain Rand. An online poll by widely-read philosophy professor and blogger Brian Leiter had Ayn Rand elected the one thinker who “brings the most disrepute on to our discipline by being associated with it,” by a landslide. She is almost never taught in classrooms. Her name elicits jeers and funny, exasperated tales of fierce, bright undergraduates under her spell arguing her case for hours on end.
This near-unanimous rejection has led to some remarkably uncharitable, and bizarre, attempts to explain away the lack of academic interest: in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Rand, its authors write that “her advocacy of a minimal state with the sole function of protecting negative individual rights is contrary to the welfare statism of most academics,” claiming outright that the overwhelming majority of professional philosophers and political theorists have been simply unable to fairly evaluate her work because of the biasing factor of their prior political commitments.
Somehow the same ‘welfare statism’ of academics has not prevented the close study of Robert Nozick’s landmark Anarchy, State and Utopia, a sophisticated libertarian text that mounts an original, and far more effective, argument against redistributive policies. Apart from John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice, there is perhaps no more commonly-assigned book in undergraduate political philosophy classes.
Surely there must be some other reason for Rand’s academic neglect. The authors of the SEP entry do go on to suggest an additional number of largely psychological hypotheses having to do with Rand’s dogmatic tone, cult-like following, and emphasis on popular fiction–never entertaining the possibility that professional philosophers think her work is, quite simply, of poor quality. Objectively, ahem, speaking…
Ayn Rand’s books such as The Virtue of Selfishness and her philosophy that celebrates self-interest and disdains altruism may well be, as Vidal assessed, “nearly perfect in its immorality.” But is Vidal right about evil? Charles Manson, who himself did not kill anyone, is the personification of evil for many of us because of his psychological success at exploiting the vulnerabilities of young people and seducing them to murder. What should we call Ayn Rand’s psychological ability to exploit the vulnerabilities of millions of young people so as to influence them not to care about anyone besides themselves?
People better than I have analyzed the specific political moves that have created this modern day libertarian dystopia. Mike LaSusa recently wrote a detailed analysis of such, laying out how the bad ideas of libertarian politics have been pursued as government policy.
In America, libertarian ideas are attractive to mostly young, white men with high ideals and no life experience that live off of the previous generation’s investments and sacrifice. I know this because as a young, white idiot, I subscribed to this system of discredited ideas: Selfishness is good, government is bad. Take what you want, when you want and however you can. Poor people deserve what they get, and the smartest, hardworking people always win. So get yours before someone else does. I read the books by Charles Murray and have an autographed copy of Ron Paul’s “The Revolution.” The thread that links all the disparate books and ideas is that they fail in practice. Eliminate all taxes, privatize everything, load a country up with guns and oppose all public expenditures, you end up with Honduras.
In Honduras, the police ride around in pickup trucks with machine guns, but they aren’t there to protect most people. They are scary to locals and travellers alike. For individual protection there’s an army of private, armed security guards who are found in front of not only banks, but also restaurants, ATM machines, grocery stores and at any building that holds anything of value whatsoever. Some guards have uniforms and long guns but just as many are dressed in street clothes with cheap pistols thrust into waistbands. The country has a handful of really rich people, a small group of middle-class, some security guards who seem to be getting by and a massive group of people who are starving to death and living in slums. You can see the evidence of previous decades of infrastructure investment in roads and bridges, but it’s all in slow-motion decay.
Sounds very much like where the U.S.A. is going to be in about a generation. Jon Stewart did a bit on America’s crumbling infrastructure last night. Nobody wants to pay for fixing it. Americans have been brainwashed by years of Libertarian Free Market Fundamentalism to believe government is evil and taxes are Satan’s ploy to destroy liberty. Fools. – Peter Guenther
Monopoly is back: Barry Lynn on the concentration of American economic power — and how we can restore fairness
by Thomas Frank
Barry C. Lynn is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and the author of two important books, “End of the Line” and ”Cornered,” the latter of which describes the dramatic return of monopoly to the American landscape. Both books had a big effect on me when they appeared, as did Lynn’s periodic articles in Harper’s Magazine describing the concentration of economic power in all sorts of different industries. One of the reasons his books startled me is the weird silence of virtually all our other popular economic writers on the subject. Monopoly is back, in a massive way, and yet it seems as though even liberals often have trouble talking about it. If we’re really going to do something about inequality, however, it’s time we looked this thing in the face.
Barry Lynn and I sat down and talked it over last week. What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation.
Monopoly: It sounds like a very old-fashioned problem. It sounds like an economic issue from the 19th century. Is it still a problem today?
Yes, absolutely, a huge problem. The American economy is more concentrated today than it’s been in more than a century, since the days of the plutocrats. Pretty much every sector of the economy is dominated by a few Goliaths, sometimes a single dominant corporation. And this poses immense economic and political dangers, to growth and the quality of our jobs, and to our democracy itself.
But to really understand what this means, let’s start at the very beginning. It was a huge problem a century ago. That was the plutocratic era. You had a guy named JP Morgan who pretty much ran Wall Street and pretty much determined who did what in this country and where they did it, who made steel and who didn’t make steel.
[Continue to source article here.]
Eleven questions that expose their contradictions and faulty logicR.J. Eskow, Alternet
Sorry, Ayn Rand. Your fiction has been exposed as, well, fiction.
April 27, 2014 |
Libertarians have always been flummoxed by inequality, tending either to deny that it’s a problem or pretend that the invisible hand of the market will wave a magic wand to cure it. Then everybody gets properly rewarded for what he or she does with brains and effort, and things are peachy keen.
Except that they aren’t, as exhaustively demonstrated by French economist Thomas Piketty, whose 700-page treatise on the long-term trends in inequality, Capital In the 21st Century, has blown up libertarian fantasies one by one.
To understand the libertarian view of inequality, let’s turn to Milton Friedman, one of America’s most famous and influential makers of free market mythology. Friedman decreed that economic policy should focus on freedom, and not equality.
If we could do that, he promised, we’d not only get freedom and efficiency, but more equality as a natural byproduct. Libertarians who took the lessons from his books, like Capitalism and Freedom (1962) and Free to Choose (1980), bought into the notion that capitalism naturally led to less inequality.
Basically, the lessons boiled down to this: Some degree of inequality is both unavoidable and desirable in a free market, and income inequality in the U.S. isn’t very pronounced, anyway. Libertarians starting with these ideas tend to reject any government intervention meant to decrease inequality, claiming that such plans make people lazy and that they don’t work, anyway. Things like progressive income taxes, minimum wage laws and social safety nets make most libertarians very unhappy.
Uncle Milty put it like this:
“A society that puts equality—in the sense of equality of outcome—ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom.… On the other hand, a society that puts freedom first will, as a happy by-product, end up with both greater freedom and greater equality.”
Well, that turns out to be spectacularly, jaw-droppingly, head-scratchingly wrong. The U.S. is now a stunningly unequal society, with wealth piling up at the top so fast that an entire movement, Occupy Wall Street, sprung up to decry it with the catchphrase “We are the 99%.”
How did libertarians get it all so backwards? Well, as Piketty points out, people like Milton Friedman were writing at a time when inequality was indeed less pronounced in the U.S. than it had been in previous eras. But they mistook this happy state of affairs as the magic of capitalism. Actually, it wasn’t the magic of capitalism that reduced inequality during a brief, halcyon period after the New Deal and WWII. It was the forces of various economic shocks plus policies our government put in place to respond to them that changed America from a top-heavy society in the Gilded Age to something more egalitarian in the post-war years.
As you’ll recall, if you watched the movie Titanic, the U.S. had a class of rentiers (rich people who live off property and investments) in the early part of the 20th century who hailed from places like Boston, New York and Philadelphia. They were just as nasty and rapacious as their European counterparts, only there weren’t quite so many of them and their wealth was not quite as concentrated (the Southern rentiers had been wiped out by the Civil War).
The fortunes of these rentiers were not shock-proof: If you remember Hockney, the baddie in James Cameron’s film, he survives the Titanic but not the Great Crash of ’29, when he loses his money and offs himself. The Great Depression got rid of some of the extreme wealth concentration in America, and later the wealthy got hit with substantial tax shocks imposed by the federal government in the 1930s and ’40s. The American rentier class wasn’t really vaporized the way it was in Europe, where the effects of the two world wars were much more pronounced, but it took a hit. That opened up the playing field and gave people more of a chance to rise on the rungs of the economic ladder through talent and work.