By Collin Kee, 99GetSmart
Ayn Rand in America:
In such economically turbulent times as these, one would think that the attention of the world and the philosophy of those experiencing such a crisis would turn to a mode of reasoning that seeks to reclaim the lost dignity of their fellow man.
Driving the masses lower and lower on the economic ladder, thoughts that challenge the current system of things are expected, for those who are at the bottom (and those sinking toward it) tend to lose faith in such a mode of operations that continues to drag out any sort of financial rescue.
However, when one looks at the U.S. for one of the popular philosophy of the times, one needs not look further than Ayn Rand’s book sales for Atlas Shrugged. Rand seems a less likely candidate for the times, granted our condition, although it is worth some peering into to really examine the resurgence of this woman who made such an impact on the philosophical and economic world.
Rand is most known for her work on the philosophical mode of thought Objectivism, which she carries over into her view on subjects ranging from ethics to economics and politics. Objectivism is summed up by Rand as “…with his [mankind’s] own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.”#.
This idea of Rand’s objectivism is seen as a counter-argument to the modern views of western altruism, wherein people set out to do things for the good of one another and are taught to focus less on the self and rather on communally beneficial acts. That being said, it should come as no surprise that Rand promotes a total free market system of perfect capitalism#. She is also known for speaking out against things such as taxes, government regulation, and a variety of social welfare programs.
Hopefully, based on that, the similarities between Rand’s principles and modern conservative thought in the U.S. should be obvious. The popular ideas for economic improvement amongst the Republican party have been attributed to such things as cutting taxes and funding for welfare programs, (arguably when they are needed the most) as well as promoting an even freer market that we currently have and opposing any means of government regulation on institutions and industries. This idea is seen most clearly in Republican opposition to ever popular “the welfare state”#.
With views such as these, Rand has been criticized by many intellectuals in the west for her beliefs and promoting an ideology which is seen in real world examples only in such places as the serfdoms of medieval Europe and ironically in the bureaucratic government enterprise that is Russia today. One of the most perplexing things about the new popularity of Rand’s work, is why people feel a need to defend selfishness when we are currently suffering from such selfish tendencies.
Simply, Ayn Rand’s philosophy concerning the market, and subsequently the GOP’s, works just as other conservative thoughts of the time and that is on fear, specifically here, the fear of government control of prosperity. Conservative’s seem to be gravitating toward Ayn Rand, because if taxes at all rise or social programs are funded any more than they are it is to be followed by an irrational chain of events, which leads to total government control#.
Despite Rand’s similarities with economic theories, such a philosophy is one that has already been disproved many times over, most recently in 2008.
Accepting that Rand is correct and the free market is the best system, cannot be sustained simultaneously with the state of our current economic system, with such examples as current facts about the U.S. such as the lack of upward mobility compared to increases in the cost of living.
In addition, such ideas of politics which seem to follow Rand’s examples are not one’s which any rational individual would strive to replicate, (such as medieval Europe, modern Russian politics, or even past Fascisms). These systems of the past are in stark contrast to the ambitions of today, and to the needed institutions of a functioning society. One such example and arguably most important institution being that of democracy, which it has been seen to be inevitable when democracy is oppressed by the few it is fated to be born anew by the many, (such examples are those of the Arab Spring and Occupy movements).
Although Rand has some points which all people can agree with, such as the fact that no one wants to be controlled by their government, it is still important to recognize that the works of Rand can be manipulated to undermine rights of individuals. Rand’s popular idea that government control of production is a means of repression is one that she claims we should see coming, however we have the knowledge to know that it was what Rand did not see coming that did the most damage to her country of origin and arguably western world as a whole. In conclusion, it is imperative that we do our part to keep decisions in the hands of the people if there is to be any hope for our future.
Garofalo, P. (2012, August 1). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2012/08/01/625741/house-republicans-tax-vote-080112/?mobile=nc