lissa Rosenbaum ruined America.
She didn’t plan that at age 12, when her well-to-do family was forced from St. Petersburg by the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution. She didn’t think about that when she sailed for New York at age 21, leaving her family forever behind. And that wasn’t even her intent as an aspiring novelist, when she changed her name to Ayn (rhymes with ‘mine’) Rand.
But ruin it she did.
o begin, let’s give the devil her due. For someone whose native tongue was Russian, she developed a lyrical and masterful touch with the English language. Without it, the underlying messages in her novels would never have reached a fraction of their immense audiences. And secondly, the courage and resolve she showed in promoting her ‘objectivist’ philosophy never wavered. She was her own strongest and truest believer.
Rand is best known for her novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Together, they have sold well beyond 10 million copies. In 1991, Atlas Shrugged was named the second most influential book ever (after the Bible) by Reader’s Digest respondents.
The essence of Rand’s philosophy is contained in a voluminous speech by the book’s reclusive hero, John Galt. Here’s part of what he had to say:
“His own happiness is man’s only moral purpose. Do you ask what moral obligation I owe to my fellow man? None.”
“Accept the fact that the achievement of your happiness is the only moral purpose of your life, and that happiness—not pain or mindless self-indulgence—is proof of your moral integrity.”
Empathy, charity and altruism were not just weaknesses; they were sins against reason and nature. Through Galt, Rand warned against, “…becoming a prostitute whose standard is the greatest good for the greatest number.”
For those who believe otherwise, Galt had this message:
“You have sacrificed justice to mercy. You have sacrificed independence to unity. You have sacrificed reason to faith. You have sacrificed wealth to need. You have sacrificed self-esteem to self-denial. You have sacrificed happiness to duty.”
And finally, to those who ask for a helping hand:
“Do not cry that it is our duty to serve you. We do not recognize such duty. Do not cry that you need us. We do not consider need a claim. Do not cry that you own us. You don’t.”
“I’ll warn you now that there is one word which is forbidden in this valley: the word ‘give’.”
Well, that message comes through loud and clear. It’s all about you--only you. What Galt represents is the same idolatry that an impressionable 8-year-old boy feels for Superman. The hero is strong, impassive, resolute, superior. But there’s that one huge, nagging difference in this comparison. Galt’s superman fights not for the common good…only for his own.
Galt’s bottom line is that If you need something, you should just get rich enough to buy it. If you’re not rich enough, it’s your own fault. Too bad.
Please don’t feel any relief in the fact that this is a book that was written in the 50’s. Or that Rand died in 1982. Her destructive teachings live. And thrive.
yn Rand’s “objectivism” shook intellectual circles across the country…generated an entirely new branch of conservative thought…and in the process sanctified much of what ails our country today. Consider the following aberrations of our democracy:
Systematic and persistent attempts to prevent some citizens from voting
Perpetual tax cuts for the very richest
Rolling workers for their pay and benefits in order to boost CEO income and shareholder value
The ‘prosperity doctrine’ version of Christianity
Inadequate or non-existent national health care
Slashed funding for public works, public transportation, public health, public schools
Disregard for the poor
Cruelty to immigrants (including the seizure of infants)
Ayn Rand created millions of disciples. One of her original inner circle was Alan Greenspan, who ran the Federal Reserve for almost 20 years. The business-friendly Fortune magazine once noted his, “…love of free markets, suspicion of do-gooders and righteous hatred of the state apparatus.” His Randian influence at the Fed contributed to both the dot com bubble and the subprime mortgage crisis.
Clarence Thomas, the silent sphinx of the Supreme Court. He is considered the most conservative member of that body.
Former presidential candidate Ron Paul.
His son, current Senator Rand Paul.
Paul Ryan, former Speaker of the House (third in line to the Presidency) who spearheaded the $1.5 trillion tax cut that shoveled virtually all benefits to the very wealthiest of Americans. He also led the fight to abolish Obamacare.
Former Bush advisor Grover Norquist, who strong-armed all candidates for key federal offices to pledge they would never vote to raise taxes—no exceptions. He once famously claimed that his goal was to shrink the federal government, “…to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub.”
And, an entire political party—the libertarians. They argue they are not the same as Rand acolytes…but their agendas virtually overlap.
But most of all, there are the reviled Koch brothers, especially David, who ran as the Libertarian Party Vice Presidential Candidate in 1980. A level-headed man of the people, he has advocated for the abolition of Social Security, the FBI, the CIA and public schools. (He can’t claim full Galt-ism, however, because he is the furthest thing from self-made; he just inherited his petrochemical fortune from his father.) He’s spent more than $100 million of it on political candidates and causes. The Koch brothers also created the Cato Institute, one of D.C.’s most influential think tanks, which is dedicated to promoting Rand’s views.
That’s not all. Separately, the Koch brothers have spent tens of millions of dollars in a villainous way that would make Ayn Rand smile. They’ve signed agreements with more than 150 American colleges to donate to programs and classes that will teach courses in ‘Randism’—sometimes exclusively—and even helpfully suggest the people who might act as instructors. In particular, the vaunted economics department at George Mason University outside D.C. is essentially owned and operated by the Kochs. This is the school that gave America another true man of public service, Karl Rove.
Finally, the Koch’s have paid to donate more than four millions copies of Rand’s books to public high schools. Read and learn, children. Selfish is good.
yn Rand was never entirely stable. After initial reviews for Atlas Shrugged were overwhelmingly negative (the Los Angeles Times said, “…it is hard to find such grotesque eccentricity outside of an insane asylum”), she lapsed into three years of depression and seclusion. Friends were forced to advise her that she really needed to bathe.
The novel’s popular success brought her back to life, but in the final years she lived almost entirely dressed in a bathrobe, self-imprisoned in an apartment that reeked of cat urine.
But for those still in search of a strong, isolated, superior but one-dimensional hero, Rand’s John Galt fills the need. She wrote, “…man—every man—is an end in himself, he exists for his own sake, and the achievement of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose.”
The question that Rand could never answer is this: what if helping other people truly makes me happy?
(Editor’s note: At publishing, the U.S. federal government was still shut down over a dispute on building a wall on the sourthern border. This, in essence, is a Randian utopia: the “bureaucracy” crashing down on itself…no concern over the “moochers” who are buried beneath the rubble.)
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