Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ayn Rand Shrugged...

We seem to be having to deal with more and more rightwingers who are Ayn Rand adherents.  The list is impressive.  You could even say scary.  We have just barely survived the economic advice of Rand-follower Alan Greenspan, but now we have Rand acolytes in Congress.  
Yes, Alan Greenspan was a close associate of Rand and remained so until her death in 1982.  He wrote articles for her newsletters and even a chapter in one of her non-fiction books.
Moreover, we now have one new Senator who was actually named after her--Rand Paul.  Also the new GOP chair of the House Appropriations Committee, Paul Ryan (R, WI) is so smitten by Ayan Rand that he insists that his staff members read her books.  He even gives them out to his fans and supporters.  Are you alarmed, yet?
Digby at Hullabaloo calls Rand the “Cougar Goddess.”  [Here
Those who read this blog regularly know how I feel about adherents of Ayn Rand.  But just to recap, I think they are the most immature political thinkers among us, seduced by Rand's sexy Supermen (and the superwomen who love them) and her celebration of adolescent selfishness.  Indeed, in all the recent eulogies for Salinger, it occurred to me that this country is made up of far too many people who stopped developing after they read Atlas Shrugged or Catcher In The Rye (the latter of which is at least a work of literary genius, unlike the former which is a turgid, overwrought romance novel.)
In any case, one can be sure that anyone past the age of 19 who adheres to the silly notions set forth in Rand's novels cannot be taken seriously.
So who was this Ayn Rand and what did she believe?  

Ayn Rand was born Alisa Rosenbaum in 1905 in St. Petersburg, Russia of non-practicing Jewish parents. [Here]  Her father was a pharmacist, but his pharmacy was confiscated by the Soviets and the family fled to the Crimea.  Later they returned to St. Petersburg and Rand was able to attend Petrograd State University, which had been opened to women and Jews.  She majored in history, studying and influenced by Aristotle, and Plato and Nietzsche.  She later studied film in a state film school in Leningrad. 
In 1925 she came to the United States, ostensibly to visit relatives in Chicago.  One of her Chicago relatives owned a movie theater which allowed her to watch dozens of movies for free.  That helped to fix her sights and she set out for Hollywood.  In a chance meeting she met Cecil B. DeMille and became an extra in his King Of Kings.  She also met her future husband there, Frank O’Connor.
Through the ’30’s she continued to write novels and even a play.  In 1943 her first best-selling novel, The Fountainhead, was published and in 1957 Atlas Shrugged.   The latter novel is set in an anti-utopian society in which the most productive and creative industrialists, scientists and artists go on strike, led by hero John Galt.  In a long monologue  Galt sets out Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism--the purpose of life is the rational pursuit of one’s own happiness.  Unrestrained laissez-faire capitalism is the only rational economic system. 
Moreover, Rand utterly rejected altruism in any form and wrote passionately against it.  I suspect she would view the Golden Rule as a weakness and the Good Samaritan as an immoral fool.
This is who Paul Ryan, the new Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, believes should lead the way for a new America.
What about the poor, the elderly, the disabled, the unemployed?  
I guess Rand just shrugged...

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