Ayn Rand is attacked from the left for a number of reasons, most of which are based on a questionable book by Barbara Branden. Rand’s enemies love to point out that she took Social Security after calling it evil (she and her husband Frank O’Connor took a total of $145 a month over a period of 8 years) – however; I do not see the inconsistency: I think that it is perfectly logical to receive a return on money spent, especially given the coercion used to collect the resources for such programs.
Rand’s themes promote the supremacy of the individual mind over the collective and she described the philosophy of Objectivism thus: it is “the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” While Rand uses wealth, steel, railroads, and mines as examples, she is excoriated for glorifying materialism…but it isn’t about materialism. These examples combine to form an allegory for the productive nature of the human mind. Rand’s message is about the danger of the enslavement of the human mind to the will of the collective and she succinctly illustrates that enslavement must occur in order that collectivism/Marxism/communism may be implemented, the success of so called “progressivism” must necessarily begin with the surrender of the individual intellect.
Thinking of this, I was reminded of a few exchanges in Rand’s masterpiece, Atlas Shrugged. There is a discussion about the Equalization of Opportunity Act at a dinner party at Hank Rearden’s home. This act was ostensibly promoted as a way to “give everybody a chance” in business by outlawing ownership of multiple businesses. In reality, it was a thinly veiled attack on successful industrialist, Hank Rearden, and his company, Rearden Steel. The discussion is a pretext to a path for the government to take over his business and therefore wrest the productivity of Rearden’s intellect from him.
From Chapter VI, The Non-Commercial:
Dr. Pritchett picked a canape off a crystal dish, held it speared between two straight fingers and deposited it whole into his mouth.
“Man’s metaphysical pretensions,” he said, “are preposterous. A miserable bit of protoplasm, full of ugly little concepts and mean little emotions—and it imagines itself important! Really, you know, that is the root of all the troubles in the world.”
“But which concepts are not ugly or mean, Professor?” asked an earnest matron whose husband owned an automobile factory.
“None,” said Dr. Pritchett, “None within the range of man’s capacity.”
A young man asked hesitantly, “But if we haven’t any good concepts, how do we know that the ones we’ve got are ugly? I mean, by what standard?”
“There aren’t any standards.”
“It is this insistence of man upon meaning that makes him so difficult,” said Dr. Pritchett. “Once he realizes that he is of no importance whatever in the vast scheme of the universe, that no possible significance can be attached to his activities, that it does not matter whether he lives or dies, he will become much more . . . tractable.”
He shrugged and reached for another canapé, a businessman said uneasily, “What I asked you about, Professor, was what you thought about the Equalization of Opportunity Bill.”
“Oh, that?” said Dr. Pritchett. “But I believe I made it clear that I am in favor of it, because I am in favor of a free economy. A free economy cannot exist without competition. Therefore, men must be forced to compete. Therefore, we must control men in order to force them to be free.”
“But, look . . . isn’t that sort of a contradiction?”
“Not in the higher philosophical sense. You must learn to see beyond the static definitions of old-fashioned thinking. Nothing is static in the universe. Everything is fluid.”
Dr. Simon Pritchett is the prestigious head of the Department of Philosophy at Patrick Henry University and is considered the leading philosopher of the age. He believes that man is nothing but a collection of chemicals, reason is a superstition, it is futile to seek meaning in life, and the duty of a philosopher is to show that nothing can be understood.
“Certainly, I approve of it. Our culture has sunk into a bog of materialism. Men have lost all spiritual values in their pursuit of material production and technological trickery. They’re too comfortable. They will return to a nobler life if we teach them to bear privations. So we ought to place a limit upon their material greed.”
“But, Mr. Eubank,” asked the young girl in the white dress, blushing desperately, “if everything is frustration, what is there to live for?”
“Brother-love,” said Balph Eubank grimly.
Balph Eubank is called “the literary leader of the age”, despite the fact that he has never sold more than three thousand copies of his books. He complains that it is disgraceful artists are treated as peddlers, and that there should be a law limiting the sales of books to ten thousand copies because “This would throw the literary market open to new talent, fresh ideas and non-commercial writing. If people were forbidden to buy a million copies of the same piece of trash, they would be forced to buy better books.”
Hmmm…sounds a little like ignorant people buying those “substandard” insurance plans from those “bad apple” insurance companies, doesn’t it? Could be Common Core, too – methinks there is a theme developing here…
The themes set forth in the words of Rand’s characters are realized in our political and social world today:
- Life is suffering; Man only exists to serve the collective, there is only “brother-love”.
- Man must be controlled to be free.
- There are no rules, everything is fluid and relative.
- Limits must be placed on Man’s ability to consume to force “wisdom” via shared privation.
- The collective must tell man what to believe via restriction of ideas because, like children, most citizens cannot adequately direct or manage their own lives.
- People like Pritchett and Eubank, who would be abject failures in productive life, are elevated to positions of influence and power.
Do you hear these themes in the current liberal theology of social and economic “justice”, Keynesian economic policies, anti-capitalism, health insurance “reform”, financial “regulation” and “progressive” tax policies? What about the elevation of incompetents to positions of authority? Could Frank Rich, Tom Friedman, Paul Krugman, “Timmy the Taxman” Geithner, Ken “Kill the Oil Industry” Salazar, James “Muslim Brotherhood = Community Organizers” Clapper, Lois “Tea Party” Lerner, Hillary “Benghazi” Clinton, Kathleen “The Website is Working” Sebelius and Obama “The Lightworker” himself, be examples?
Rand’s detractors assert that Objectivism is evil, selfish and wrong. To view Objectivism as evil requires that it be viewed through the rose colored lens of collectivism. Agree with Objectivism or not, the accuracy and transcendence of Rand’s depiction of the collectivist looters is absolutely striking given what we have witnessed in the genesis and failed implementation of President Obama’s “signature legislation”, Obamacare.
Far from being some sort of a “conservative fantasy” (as an acquaintance of mine calls it – although she has never read the book), Atlas provides a window to the dark soul of the modern “progressive” in America. Our collectivist/Marxsist/communist countrymen hate Rand, not due to Objectivism, rather due to her sharply focused picture of their true intent and modus operandi.
It must hurt to look in a mirror.