Part II, the revenge of the moochers
Yes, Virginia, I had intended to publish it before the election, just as the makers of “Atlas Shrugged Part II” had intended to alter the debate with the release of their film in mid-October. But, frankly, I was delayed by an administrative request and a pre-scheduled trip in late October, and by the time I returned, mere days later, the film was in the midst of doing the tanko de tutti tankos of all tankings.
Sank like a rock. Well, the ideas here are evergreen, but they are especially important in what’s happening in Michigan right now, as the new introduction (Dec 11) indicates.
And I’ve even got the box office results for Part II.
click for Amazon webpage
Yes, it’s a Kindle book. In 90 days, I’ll publish it on other platforms, but for the time being, baby steps.
A slim paperback is about 50,000 words (50K, OK?). ANUG clocks in at slightly over half that, about 26 or 27K.
One chapter, The Seduction of Ayn Rand has never appeared in any other fora and is unique to this book. Ditto the introduction, except that I’m going to reprint the introduction right here:
From a speech at the Atlas Society’s 2005 “Celebration of Ayn Rand” by Congressman Paul Ryan (2012 GOP Vice Presidential candidate), released by the Atlas Society (with transcript) in 2012:
“It’s so important that we go back to our roots to look at Ayn Rand’s vision… I always go back to… the 64-page John Galt speech, you know, on the radio at the end [of Atlas Shrugged], and go back to a lot of other things that she did, to try and make sure that I can check my premises so that I know that what I’m believing and doing and advancing are square with the key principles of individualism…”
Ever since Thomas Jefferson penned the phrase, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Americans, ever cantankerous, have been in an eternal melée concerning all three. No one agrees on what life is, nor what are the proper pursuits of happiness, and I shall leave those gladiatorial arenas to other, more capable hands. What concerns us here is “liberty.”
“Liberty” is a seductive term, generally stated with the blithe confidence that everybody else within earshot sees the same elephant. Liberty is the basis of many national and libertarian movements, the Atlas on whose broad shoulders rests the justification for every kind of political lunacy, from the notion that ‘taxation is theft’ to a fellow in Iowa enraged that the Darth Vader™ Action Figure “Government” should require him to license or vaccinate his dogs. Free fido! Indeed, the post-election secession cry not only has its roots in this philosophy, but closely parallels the original position of the original “lost cause.” Unsurprisingly, there is much overlap between neo-secessionism and what is termed libertarianism, as I have written about at length, elsewhere.
This is the philosophical underpinning of a huge portion of the national debate.
As this goes to ‘press’ the Michigan legislature has stripped collective bargaining rights from workers, or, more colloquially, passed a union-busting “right to work” law that has not yet been signed by its governor. In a vindictive, “lame duck” session containing recently defeated candidates, it ought be noted.
Last year’s “battle of Wisconsin” over stripping collective bargaining rights was centered on Scott Walker and powerful sub-rosa ‘libertarian’ groups backing him. Similar events in Ohio and Minnesota and other states have the same Randian roots–i.e. that extreme Randian interpretation of ‘liberty.’
And, it should be remembered that Atlas Shrugged is, among other things, one of the most virulently anti-union novels ever penned–the original working title was, “The Strike.”
Paul Ryan, the defeated vice presidential candidate has been reappointed to his position as chair of the House Budget Committee, and admittedly sprung from straight-up Ayn Randianism (although he repudiated that stance alleging that he preferred St. Thomas Aquinas instead). And, “individualist” Paul Ryan was selected by his House colleagues in 2010 to single-handedly write the United States’ federal budget, something that has never before happened in the history of the Congress, dating back to 1776. That heavily Rand-influenced budget passed the House three times before dying in the Senate thrice.
Alan Greenspan, the chair of the Federal Reserve from 1987 until 2006, after serving as the 10th Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors from 1974 to 1977. Ayn Rand was present, at Greenspan’s invitation for his CEA swearing-in in the White House. (See next to last page).
The Ron Paul candidacy was a serious candidacy in the GOP nominating primaries in 2012, and many noted how much youth support it was getting. Leave aside for a moment that Ron Paul was the 1988 Libertarian Party candidate (LP founded 11 December 1971 in Westminster, Colorado) and consider that the parliamentary stunts pulled to shut Paul’s delegates out of any meaningful role at that RNC convention—which only reinforces the “never trust big government” meme that runs through modern libertarian thought.
The ‘Tea Party’ not only has deep Randian roots, but during its emergence in 2009, the phrase “Going Galt” from Atlas Shrugged was one of its rallying cries. Add to that the support of Koch Brothers-funded Freedomworks and Americans for Prosperity (and perhaps Tea Party Patriots and the Tea Party Express, both for-profit political enterprises) and you see a deep strain of Rand’s thought cutting right through modern American politics and policy. Several ‘senators from Koch’ have been elected since 2010: Rand Paul, Kelly Ayotte, Pat Toomey, Marco Rubio, Mike Lee and Ted Cruz. (And, arguably, Ron Johnson, Tom Coburn and recently resigned Jim DeMint fall into this philosophical school as well.)
And, as the Republican party in congress finds itself in a quandary about honoring the “no new taxes ever” pledge of Grover Norquist, it ought be remembered that Norquist himself comes from Randian roots, as reflected in his famous quote that he’d like to make government so small that it could be “strangled in a bathtub.” This notion of “liberty” as “I get to do most anything I want” and that “taxation is theft” is as widespread as it is deeply felt by its modern adherents … many of whom do not even know from whence their rage at that action figure “Big Government” derives.
But the notion of liberty itself is not as blatant and easy to grasp as might first appear. And, as a worldwide movement of formal “libertarianism” has sprung up and insinuated itself into the deepest recesses of our American government, it seems a good time to take a look at the root of that movement, in its most public face.
That would undoubtedly be Ayn Rand — who, while not necessary to be a dyed-in-the-wool libertarian, is certainly sufficient. She is the Atlas on whose shoulders rests the most passionate expressions of absolutist liberty. But let’s back up a moment.
Two interesting and parallel events occurred in the United States in 1957.
First, the US Motto—which was changed from e pluribus unum to “in God we trust” in 1956 after “under God” was added to the pledge of allegiance in 1954—was printed on US currency, as it has been ever since.
Second, Ayn Rand published Atlas Shrugged.
Both were fearful responses to what was perceived as the Communist menace, and both were based in a paranoia about what would happen to America in the hands of the evil collectivists.
The motto change is a shift from a secular democracy to a (mono)theistic view of America—the only thing that could save us was God His-Own-Self.
And Ayn Rand’s novel represents a shift from a social perspective to an athiestic view, with the ego, the “I” at the center of the naked universe.
And yet, both were responses to our fear of the Soviet Union and Communist China, or as Ronald Reagan(’s speechwriter) called it, “The Evil Empire.”
God or no God, we enshrined “capitalism” as almost sacred, and the long “cold war” was endlessly based on the continual indoctrination that the commies were evil no matter how you wanted to slice it, and would slither up from under your bed to slit your throat in the middle of the night if you didn’t have a bomb shelter, NRA rifle training, a strong military with gargantuan budgets and that old “military-industrial complex” that President Eisenhower warned about in his farewell address in 1961.
The money change quickly became non-controversial, but the Ayn Rand book became a perennial bestseller, attracting a rabid coterie of devoted fans, and its philosophy was dismissed with a sneer and a sniff, without ever bothering to debate or refute it on its own terms.
In the essays that follow, I talk about what Ayn Rand believed and why it doesn’t work. But I accept her ideas as valid, without denigrating her personal life or finances. Her modern apostles may not come in for such even-handedness, but the way that you disagree with Rand is through reason and ideas, and not through snark and dismissiveness.
I tell the story of the first time I ran across the phenomenon, even though I was not a Randian, but those in a position to approve refused to accept the proposition that she had serious ideas which deserved serious discussion.
This, hopefully, is what has been done herein.
If you are unfamiliar with her ideas, you will find that unfamiliar territory here, with a partial map and a guide.
If you are familiar with her philososphy, you will probably find some territory of which you were previously unfamiliar.
And so to terra incognita, incognito.
11 December 2012
See? I haven’t been idle while I’ve been away from the blog.