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Sociopathy on the Right: Ayn Rand and the Triumph of Conservative Cultism

At first it seemed little more than a bizarre rant, only slightly worse than those to which we've grown accustomed, given the source. To wit, Rush Limbaugh, who on September 11 condemned President Obama for speaking that day about community service, and encouraging young people to become involved in service projects as a way to help make America a better place. Far from seeing such a call as a positive request to take personal responsibility for improving one's nation, to Limbaugh, it was little more than the "first step toward fascism," intended to conscript the young into a volunteer army, bent on helping to carry out the President's political agenda. 

Community service, Limbaugh explained, was something that should be done by convicts. Specifically, he offered: "Let prisoners do it, let prisoners pick up the trash. Let prisoners mow some highway grass. This -- this community service, folks, it's insidious. It is nothing more than a well-sounding compassionate label. But it means something entirely different. It means turning you into a robot." Yes, of course. That's not insane at all.

The anti-social nature of the diatribe was stunning. Service, according to the gospel of Limbaugh, is for suckers, for society's "losers," for people who have committed crimes. In other words, it should be viewed as punishment rather than as something to be applauded and encouraged. To do for community is a fool's errand. 

Yet as bizarre as his words may seem at first blush, they actually illustrate with bold clarity the fundamental (and increasingly common) core of the conservative belief system. They speak to the sociopathy that is at the heart of the far-right worldview. It is a worldview that holds, quite simply, that doing for others is contemptible; that doing for self is the purpose of human life; that altruism and service are somehow pathologies pushed by collectivists and should be subordinated to selfishness and greed. 

Sound too extreme? Well if so, consider this. Among the most interesting phenomena of the past year--and especially since the inauguration of Barack Obama--has been the explosion of interest in (and sales of) books by the late author, Ayn Rand: most prominently her classic novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Indeed, the latter had an all-time record year in 2008, and 2009 sales are on a pace to shatter even last year's numbers.

Far from a simple believer in limited government and a free market economy, Rand's philosophy--now being endorsed by tea party protesters and anti-Obama minions across the nation (indeed the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights was among the sponsors of the 9/12 march on Washington)--was predicated on one overarching notion: that a commitment to selfishness and a rejection of altruistic behavior were the height of morality. That's not to say that she merely rejected compulsory altruism via taxation, but altruism even privately chosen. To do for others, out of a charitable impulse or out of some faith-based commitment, for example, is morally and ethically suspect, for neither feelings nor faith are rational bases for human actions, according to her philosophy known as Objectivism. Unless one's assistance to another were rooted in some self-interested motivation, it was to be condemned.

It is especially fascinating to see the so-called "average, everyday folks" at the tea party rallies embracing Rand's thinking and literature. After all, Rand's view of the common man and woman--presumably the very Joe Six Packs and Hockey Moms recently enthralled by her--was decidedly grotesque. So, for instance, in her original version of her work,We the Living, Rand had her chief protagonist proclaim: "What are your masses...but mud to be ground underfoot, fuel to be burned for those who deserve it?" 

Rand's disdain for the bulk of humanity was, indeed, so extreme that in the aforemetioned Atlas Shrugged--whose main character and "hero" John Galt has been referenced on numerous tea party signs--she indulges a pseudo-genocidal fantasy, in which virtually everyone except Galt and his few "perfect" producers is vanquished. This happy occurrence results from a "strike of the mind," in which Galt and his superior colleagues of industry withdraw their talents from the nation and hole up in a mountain retreat, rather than submit to things like government regulations. Those whom Galt condemns in the book, and thus, whom Rand is herself condemning, are referred to as "parasites" who are unworthy of life. Indeed, Galt's contempt for the weak of the world prompts he and his colleagues to banish the word "give" from their small utopian "gulch." Giving, after all, much like calls for community service, is for suckers.

Even though Galt feels certain that his strike may well kill the vast majority of the world's inhabitants (because they are simply too stupid to survive without he and the other "perfect producers"), he firmly believes, and thus, so does Rand, that this outcome is moral--more so, than say, taxes or charity. In keeping with his strange morality, he not only withdraws his superior talent, but also sabotages the nation's infrastructure (the roads and bridges) thereby making the transport of fuel and grain impossible, resulting in chaos, starvation and general suffering. 

This is what the Rand-bots are reading, the vision of society they endorse: one comprised of better people, and decided inferiors, sub-humans even, who are worthy of death for their laziness, their sloth, their lack of industriousness. No wonder people imbued with such a truly sadistic mindset as this would oppose health care reform. To this way of thought, those without health care deserve their suffering, and that suffering should be of no concern to the rest of us.

Those who have written biographies of Rand--including former acolytes--paint a uniformly disturbing picture. Rand, according to Nathaniel Branden's My Years with Ayn Rand, Barbara Branden's The Passion of Ayn Rand, and Jeff Walker's The Ayn Rand Cult was narcissistic in the extreme, incapable of empathy, often cruel--going so far as to have an affair in full view of her husband--as well as paranoid, addicted to amphetamines, and obsessed with her belief that average people were "ugly, stupid and irrational." 

Interestingly, despite her general disdain for humanity, there were people she seemed to admire greatly, such as William Edward Hickman, whose credo, "What is good for me is right," she described in her Journals as, "The best and strongest expression of a real man's psychology I have heard." But Hickman was no simple expositor of personal greed and self-interest; no mere modern day libertarian; no pedestrian practitioner of excessive self-love. No indeed. He was a sociopathic murderer. In 1927 he kidnapped a 12-year old girl from a school in Los Angeles by the name of Marian Parker, chopped off her legs, cut our her internal organs, drained all of her blood and then spread parts of her body all over the city. 

Of Hickman, this sick murderer, Rand had almost nothing but positive things to say.

She indeed critiqued those who would condemn Hickman's actions for having committed "worse sins and crimes," such as those she ascribed to his jury. Among those "greater" crimes--greater than mutilating a child--she included being, "Average, everyday, rather stupid looking citizens. Shabbily dressed, dried, worn looking little men. Fat, overdressed, very average, 'dignified' housewives." Their ordinariness, in other words, placed them below Hickman, in Rand's mind. "How can they decide the fate of that boy? Or anyone's fate?" she implored in her Journals.

It was Hickman's willfulness, his disregard for others, which so seems to have resonated with Rand. It fit perfectly with her own developing philosophy, which she would articulate perfectly in her original notes for The Fountainhead, wherein she wrote, "One puts oneself above all and crushes everything in one's way to get the best for oneself. Fine!" Thus Hickman's crime, to Rand, was "a daring challenge to society," rather than the act of a seriously deranged person from whom the society should seek protection.

Indeed, Rand speculates that Hickman's real crime may have been merely that he was "too impatient, fiery and proud" to accept the slow, soul-crushing death that his life had become. She even went so far as to blame the crime on Christianity, which she described as "ludicrous tragic nonsense," capable of turning this "bad boy with a very winning grin, that...makes you like him the whole time you're in his presence" into a sadistic killer.

And so, interestingly, the right is increasingly cleaving to the words and philosophy of a woman who was not only, in all likelihood, mentally disturbed, but the functional equivalent of those who fell in love with say, Charles Manson or Ted Bundy, even after their crimes were exposed.

This is what the right is coming to. This is what they really mean when they call themselves "values voters." The values of which they speak, far from being "Christian," and far from being rooted in concern for the country, are--at least for many--firmly grounded in selfishness, applied narcissism and operationalized, organizational sociopathy. That they would seek to make a hero of Rand, and forge a movement based even in part on her thinking is all the evidence one should need that the patients are running the asylum known as the American right. Only, their kind of craziness is not nearly as sympathetic as that displayed by the typical person suffering from mental illness. Theirs is a special kind of crazy, not organic as is the case with so much mental illness, but rather, rooted in anti-social, almost cult-like propaganda. Sadly, it is a propaganda that, even with its horrific message is currently being read by more than a million high school students across the country: probably more than a few of whom are the very ones whose principals and teachers, or parents, refused to let them hear the President speak for fear he might indoctrinate them into such awful projects as community service (or, as it turned out, merely staying in school).

They want their country back, they tell us. And the country they want, so far as their reading habits would suggest, is a nation based on greed, me-firstism and an utter disregard for the well-being of the community. As for me, I will gladly stand with the opposite tradition. Do we want a culture of compassion or contempt? That is the choice. And we should proclaim our answer, compassion, boldly and without apology.

Tim Wise is the author of four books on race. His latest is, Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama

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There's Always Been...

A fundamental contradiction in the conservative Right in their embrace of radical Christianity and, well, anything else.

Contempt for the masses? Not only does that contradict the position of the Right as a "Main Street" type of party, based in this absurd idea of a white American rural proletarian and entrepreneur class pulled straight from the decidedly radical Thomas Jefferson, but it also contradicts Jesus' claims that the meek would inherit the Earth.

Support for capitalism? Jesus despised mass wealth and moneychangers, and the Catholic Church sharply limited usury.

Support for war? Duh.

Support for a strong national government, at least in the areas that they like? Jesus was deeply and radically anti-statist in many ways, as was Paul, and early Christian philosophy emphasized a "City of God" that united humanity above a mere city. Christianity has always accepted that governments are below God. Indeed, even the "divine right of kings" was based on the idea that God had granted kings the right to rulership, and could take it away. Similarly, the Crusades united normal rivals at least ostensibly on a mission to take back the Holy Land.

Hating public service and charity? Duh.

Despising a "welfare state"? Insofar as Jesus and the early Christians supported a state, it was exactly for things like breadlines.

Refusing to pay taxes, or trying to evade it? Despite his anti-statist positions, Jesus did say "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's".

It's not that Americans just don't believe these things, not even totally warped conservative Christians. It's not that Protestantism or some other movement has rejected these fundamental values. Oh, sure, their theology has been screwed up by their horrible values. For radical Christians, God is actually less important than Satan. Check out those hilarious Chick tracts: You see Jesus and God on occasion, but you see the Devil in virtually every one of those publications. Their recruiting cry is not based on superior ethics, or on the beauty of a community, or on the lessons that the Bible can teach; it's based on avoiding the furnace. God may have given us free will, but for radical Christians the Devil can suspend it, taking away our will to avoid gay sex, drugs or whatever else.

No, it's that the conservative movement speaks out of two mouths. It suffers an incredibly sharp cognitive dissonance. The tragedy is that in combining old-school conservativism and the new radical conservative Christianity, they've distilled the worst of both.

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I think people

I think people misunderstand/understood Ayn Rand, who is probably rolling in her grave at many interpretations of her work. I don't see where The Fountainhead ENDORSES selfishness anywhere...but simply acknowledges that that has been the primary incentive for innovation. We live in a fallen world. If people were inherently good, pure Communism would be the ideal economic system. But we aren't and in light of Man's inherent selfishnness, a Constitutional Republic works best to mitigate the natural human bent. Likewise, The Fountainhead simply is a good analysis of human nature...not an endorsement of it.

The very concept of copyright and patent (which are establiehed in our very core of our Constitution, well ahead of the Bill of Rights) acknowledge that the profit motive is behind all progress, for better or for worse. The fact is, if the profit motive is removed, a lot of people would stop creating.

As a maker myself, I've given away a lot of free writing. I am also a member of the Free Software Foundation. I do these things because they're fun, and right. For the same reason, I'm heading into Burma this winter...for the sixth time...to work with Karen Hill Tribe refugees. However, I wouldn't be able to do these things without the resources I've earned through old fashioned Capitalism.

Is writing for me ever an ego trip? Of COURSE it is...and I doubt if there's a successful writer on this forum or elsewhere, where, at least sometimes, ego is the main incentive. We're ALL mixed bags of motives.

Would I like to live in a world where altruism is THE only motive for anything? Of course I would....we ALL would. But most of us have locks on our doors and have police departments because people are inherently not nice.

There's a wry-yet-fond expression in common use amongst Alaskan Natives..."White Man's Toys." This is particularly relevant because it was only in VERY recent history that we moved out of a subsitence economy in Alaska. Could it be argued that "White Man's Toys" have brought harm and destruction, as well? Certainly, I'd allow for that. I know many people, both white AND Native who live subsistence lifestyles. I find it rather easy and attractive to "go Native" for periods of time, as well....both in Alaska, and in the jungles of Burma. But I also like coming back to indoor plumbing and electricity....all products of The Fountainhead....like it or not. Just two days ago, my next door neighbor...a guy who's sort of a cross between Redd Foxx and Red Green, asked me if I could get his digital TV converter box working for him. He was mildly pleased that I could help him out...but his wife...an Athabaskan Indian woman who was raised on the Yukon River, without ANY modern amenities...was absolutely ELATED. Nobody appreciates White Man's Toys more than someone who was raised without them. (She paid me for my service call with some fabulous smoked salmon...I'm sure I got the better deal out of the transaction!)
Greed has done a lot for progress. We shouldn't tnrow the baby out with the bathwater. It isn't the BEST motive...but it's always worked. The only alternative is to go Native. Not everyone can do that.

Eric

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A Lot of Myths

"I think people misunderstand/understood Ayn Rand, who is probably rolling in her grave at many interpretations of her work. I don't see where The Fountainhead ENDORSES selfishness anywhere...but simply acknowledges that that has been the primary incentive for innovation. We live in a fallen world. If people were inherently good, pure Communism would be the ideal economic system. But we aren't and in light of Man's inherent selfishnness, a Constitutional Republic works best to mitigate the natural human bent. Likewise, The Fountainhead simply is a good analysis of human nature...not an endorsement of it."

"Greed is good". That doesn't say, "Greed, while destructive if it's let languish to turn to murder or theft, is good if it is harnessed usefully". That may be a polemical argument, but her followers have routinely interpreted it quite literally. I'm reminded of Zorg's similar argument that destruction and chaos are good from The Fifth Element.

If The Fountainhead may be a description of human nature, Anthem is a description of what she WANTED, and it was roughly the same.

Also? I don't know what people you hang around, but those are sociopaths and terrorists. Even if I hated the society I was leaving, like many people do when they leave their home country, I wouldn't sabotage their food and water distribution systems. That also sort of puts the lie to the idea that they can't do well without you (which I think shows that Rand herself subconsciously knew that society could get on just well without her, as it had for centuries).

People are not intrinsically greedy. True, I think there's a reasonable argument to be made that people will look out for their own rational self-interest. But there is also an unarguable position that human empathy and compassion are omnipresent. Mothers care for children irrationally. Were families governed by the rules of the market, whoever made the most money would eat the most and the children would starve. We evolved compassion, empathy, trust and social instincts just like we evolved individualistic instincts and enlightened self-interest. The question is, what social institutions do we want? Do we want those that elevate greed and devastation, so that the greediest people are encouraged to get worse; or do we want those that elevate solidarity and compassion, so greedy people learn to contain it from harming everyone else?

Also, competition has not been the primary incentive for innovation, ever. The vast majority of innovation occurs within cooperative institutions. Modern science just can't be done by one guy sitting in a lab, and even in the Enlightenment people read each others' papers and worked on each other's ideas. The market leads to Leibniz and Newton both creating calculus. In our society, the Internet, aeronautics... all the major innovations of the last century that created brand new markets were state-funded, and most came from within the Pentagon.

The reason why is simple. True, competition encourages me to come up with an idea. But it also encourages me not to share it, nor even to share WHAT I am working on. People rush for profitable areas to research that can be turned to marketable developments and leave other areas behind of questionable profitability, even though science doesn't cleave itself nicely into "money-making science" and "unprofitable science". Science and innovation require people sharing, so that they spend less time duplicating others' work and more time starting from the shoulders of giants. Even Newton, famously arrogant, admitted that.

"We live in a fallen world. If people were inherently good, pure Communism would be the ideal economic system."

No, it would be an easy economic system to initiate.

The problem with this mythos is that we see basically pure Communism among tribal societies. One sees very little material inequity, very little private property (certainly not defined in that abstract of a manner - sure, someone may have their favorite tomahawk, but it's not the same as believing they own a parcel of land and have the "right" to its fruits in perpetuity, an idea that simply perplexed the Native Americans), very little status distinction. I don't want to say these are ideal societies, but it clearly indicates that in fact human nature CAN be like that, and more. Which makes us wonder, why isn't it? Are we different genetically? Or have different institutions hobbled us?

Also, Rand's logic radically undermines a Constitutional Republic, which is based on the idea that the state CAN do things besides military defense.

"The very concept of copyright and patent (which are establiehed in our very core of our Constitution, well ahead of the Bill of Rights) acknowledge that the profit motive is behind all progress, for better or for worse. The fact is, if the profit motive is removed, a lot of people would stop creating."

I don't know what people you're observing, but there are millions of people who don't expect EVER to have their little garage band, or their choir, or their essays, or their poetry, to see the light of day. They do it to create. This is undeniable, and I think it shows how powerful the grip is of this insane ideology that it leads people to make statements that just require not paying attention to your neighbors or even your own life!

Copyrights and patenting are reasonable, within limits (not the explosion of rights that producers have gotten thanks to the Digital Millenium Act, GATT, etc.) in a predatory market society to provide some initial shielding. But remember, copyrights and patenting are an anti-market intervention. Rand would be AGAINST copyrights and patenting, if she could argue consistently out of a wet paper bag, because that requires the government to come in and prevent Indian pharmaceuticals from producing AIDS drugs cheaper than Merck can. So your choice here is highly illustrative: It's something she'd reject, because greed is good.

But in a rational society, one wouldn't need copyrights or patenting. A parecon, for example, has producers of intellectual content be paid like every other worker: For effort and sacrifice. (That could be per unit, like per page or per song; it could be per hour; the exact scheme varies per industry, but the point is to choose a scheme that honestly represents the effort one puts into things). Then their products are released. They don't get sales from it: They worked to produce it. They do still get the prestige of having created something that people like in addition to making as much money as anyone else, which a lot of artists would take right now in a heartbeat even if it meant losing the right to make millions later, myself included. It's particularly galling with the Internet, where one could make incredibly nominal fees or have it be free to download since each new marginal unit that you download is virtually free.

"As a maker myself, I've given away a lot of free writing. I am also a member of the Free Software Foundation. I do these things because they're fun, and right. For the same reason, I'm heading into Burma this winter...for the sixth time...to work with Karen Hill Tribe refugees. However, I wouldn't be able to do these things without the resources I've earned through old fashioned Capitalism."

Which has never been and never will be like what Rand argued. We've never played by the copyright rules, for example: Had America and Europe had to play by anything like the rules we used now, we'd see a lot less industrial societies on the planet. (Makes one wonder why the industrial societies craft these rules. Couldn't be a desire to keep the Third World the Third World). And the state has always been there, from the beginnings of capitalism to now. For example: Of the top 100 companies in the Fortune 500, all have benefitted at one point or another from state intervention. (This data is somewhat old, but I can't imagine it's changed sharply). And 20 were saved from total collapse, like Goldman-Sachs when the peso collapsed thanks to their speculation, or like Detroit right now, or like the banks right now. (In fact, that 20 number may get somewhat larger at the end of this recession).

You're able to do those things because you have wealth. It's arguable how much capitalism per se had to do with that. We can't imagine a hypothetical world where the US was market socialist like Europe, or had lower inequity like Japan, or was a parecon, or even was a state socialist society like Soviet Russia. What is inarguable is how much that DOESN'T have to do with capitalism. America is wealthy and the Third World is poor because of colonialism and imperialism, period.  That has nothing to do with the market and only has something to do with "capitalism" insofar as capitalists are okay with flat-out theft.

"Is writing for me ever an ego trip? Of COURSE it is...and I doubt if there's a successful writer on this forum or elsewhere, where, at least sometimes, ego is the main incentive. We're ALL mixed bags of motives."

But that ego is satisfied by having your name on something that people like. GREED is satisfied by copyrights and patents. Two totally separate things.

There's nothing wrong with an ego trip, per se. As a Buddhist, I have an issue with it, but from an economic perspective I don't care what people's motivations are at the first level of approximation, I care what their output is and if it's socially acceptable in means and result. In a capitalist society, it almost never is; in a parecon, I believe it would be. 

The point is that capitalism is not the only way to preserve people getting credit for their work or having their ego stroked. Not by a long shot.

"Would I like to live in a world where altruism is THE only motive for anything? Of course I would....we ALL would. But most of us have locks on our doors and have police departments because people are inherently not nice."

As Michael Moore pointed out: Canadians don't seem to lock as much as we do.

Most of us also don't walk to the grocery store armed with an assault rifle or prepare to loot it when we arrive because we know people aren't sociopaths. Protecting yourself from the not nice people is okay. That's no excuse to create an economy that REWARDS you for being not nice and indeed utterly brutal. Indeed, that is the OPPOSITE of a solution.

"There's a wry-yet-fond expression in common use amongst Alaskan Natives..."White Man's Toys." This is particularly relevant because it was only in VERY recent history that we moved out of a subsitence economy in Alaska. Could it be argued that "White Man's Toys" have brought harm and destruction, as well? Certainly, I'd allow for that. I know many people, both white AND Native who live subsistence lifestyles. I find it rather easy and attractive to "go Native" for periods of time, as well....both in Alaska, and in the jungles of Burma. But I also like coming back to indoor plumbing and electricity....all products of The Fountainhead....like it or not. Just two days ago, my next door neighbor...a guy who's sort of a cross between Redd Foxx and Red Green, asked me if I could get his digital TV converter box working for him. He was mildly pleased that I could help him out...but his wife...an Athabaskan Indian woman who was raised on the Yukon River, without ANY modern amenities...was absolutely ELATED. Nobody appreciates White Man's Toys more than someone who was raised without them. (She paid me for my service call with some fabulous smoked salmon...I'm sure I got the better deal out of the transaction!)
Greed has done a lot for progress. We shouldn't tnrow the baby out with the bathwater. It isn't the BEST motive...but it's always worked. The only alternative is to go Native. Not everyone can do that."

Too bad the choice isn't tribalism or unfettered American-style brutal super-capitalism. We know this can't be true, because even in the modern world Europe and Japan look VERY different.

Greed may be part of the motivation. As you yourself noted, so's an ego trip, which is NOT the same thing. Then there's the fun of creation. The desire to see something of value be produced (and ALL of the evidence indicates that THAT'S the big motivation, the big satisfaction). The fun of doing something you love. Einstein didn't ever become filthy rich from his intellectual creations. He did it because he had no choice: That's who he was, what his mind was best at doing. Science and innovation existed before people could use it to buy gold-plated swimming pools. It is absurd to think that it couldn't exist after that insanity ends.

But the point is that we can have a society that encourages people to work hard, indeed pays them for doing so, but does NOT incentivize and reward greed and anti-social behavior, does not warp personalities into mockeries, does not force people into a rat race where even the winners are rats.

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Perhaps not "The Fountainhead" ...

"I don't see where The Fountainhead ENDORSES selfishness anywhere...but simply acknowledges that that has been the primary incentive for innovation. We live in a fallen world. If people were inherently good, pure Communism would be the ideal economic system. But we aren't and in light of Man's inherent selfishnness, a Constitutional Republic works best to mitigate the natural human bent. Likewise, The Fountainhead simply is a good analysis of human nature...not an endorsement of it."

Rand wrote a book entitled Virtue of Selfishness.This link is the Objectivist apologetic, if you ask me, because the writer maintains that "selfishness" is not meant in the usual sense of "to hell with everyone else."  Well, that is indeed the behavior of the Objectivist.  If your thinking cannot be reformed to match whatever Truth(TM) you are expected to believe, to hell with you.  Altruism?  No room for it.  If it doesn't benefit one's self, one should not take an action.

Sad, really.

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Honestly

As anti-religious as I am, I have slightly more respect for the Religious Right than I do for the Objectivists. At least the former believe in SOME kind of morality, even if it's an archaic, bigoted one. The Objectivists, on the other hand, don't believe in any kind of morality higher than selfishness.

This whole Objectivism thing reminds of a type of psychological mindset called "Social Dominance Orientation", or SDO for short. Research has shown that people ranking high on SDO tend to be highly competitive on a personal level and also highly amoral and manipulative. SDO sounds to me like something a lot of these Objectivists have.

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Ayn Rand has been a joke for as long as I can remember.

I thought the shallowness, glib answers, and intellectual pretentions of Ayn Rand had been disposed of long ago. Apparently, we live in an age when some part of her message resonates with some people. I would give it another look, to see if I missed something, but I found it soul crushingly boring the first time around. Her ideal man would be, I think, someone like Gordon Gekko. He knew how to eviscerate a company and sell off the parts, but couldn't run a one camel caravan as an actual business. He was not in the business of creating at all, but depended upon people who actually made something for his sustenance. Without them, there would be nothing to eviscerate.
Regarding the idea of public service, all I can say is that the two years I spent in the Army (draftee, two years and out) were exactly what a kid from the sticks with very little sense of who he was needed. I found myself in a barracks with African Americans, Hispanics, guys on a college track, and people who had never had it so good. They were, in short, America in all its mixed up glory, and it did me good to find out that we could all work together, and damn well better, if we wanted to avoid the wrath of our common enemy, the drill instructor. I think all Americans would benefit from a year or so of living in a dorm and serving society in humble ways. If Jesus can wash someones feet, the least the rest of us can do is pick up some trash.

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David...

Gordon Gekko is commonly cited by market libertarians and Objectivists as a role model. They seem to miss that his numerous character flaws make him a bad one. (And not just character flaws they lionize, either).

Regrettably, I have to say the same thing about the Army that you say about Gordon Gekko: It's great for those in it, but at the cost of harming the world and Americans  by making them less safe and spending the money that could be put into making them healthy.

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I was "excommunicated" (to

I was "excommunicated" (to use the Randian objectivist term) by the many who was my best friend because I refused to "reform my thinking" about the need for health care reform in this country. That's the other Randian thing that should scare people: if you aren't willing to buy into whatever groupthink they have decided is The Truth (TM), you will be shut out.

Prior to said "excommunication," my "friend" started telling me what the boundaries were for me to discuss things in my own blog or Facebook page, because he did not agree with them. My refusal to be censored in my own space to satisfy his biases led to the note that said "Our friendship no longer meets my needs." (He has subsequently stalked me all over a local newspaper website and tried to tell people that they should not discuss things with me, etc. Dude, if you don't want to talk to me, why can't you leave me alone?)

Anyway, it astonishes me that people are unable to see through the nastiness and psychopathic behavior that results from this "Objectivist" philosophy. Seeing the kind of person my "friend" has become makes me very sad for him, and makes he hope that he obtains professional help.

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Yeah...

"

I was "excommunicated" (to use the Randian objectivist term) by the many who was my best friend because I refused to "reform my thinking" about the need for health care reform in this country. That's the other Randian thing that should scare people: if you aren't willing to buy into whatever groupthink they have decided is The Truth (TM), you will be shut out.

Prior to said "excommunication," my "friend" started telling me what the boundaries were for me to discuss things in my own blog or Facebook page, because he did not agree with them. My refusal to be censored in my own space to satisfy his biases led to the note that said "Our friendship no longer meets my needs." (He has subsequently stalked me all over a local newspaper website and tried to tell people that they should not discuss things with me, etc. Dude, if you don't want to talk to me, why can't you leave me alone?)

Anyway, it astonishes me that people are unable to see through the nastiness and psychopathic behavior that results from this "Objectivist" philosophy. Seeing the kind of person my "friend" has become makes me very sad for him, and makes he hope that he obtains professional help."

It's all this that has led many to call Objectivism a cult. It's all the same: Shutting off contact, groupthink conformism, "excommunication", boundaries for personal decisions, assaults against those who left beyond the excommunication, etc.

That doesn't mean, POLITICALLY, that they're right or wrong, though it does make you wonder about their motives or judgment. They're wrong because their ideas of freedom are terrible.

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Isn't it odd

Isn't it odd that 'objectivists' would have to resort to strongarm tactics with anyone who disagreed with them? Most of this Ayn Rand revivalism seems to be emanating from the hard right, where Nativists, Birthers, and Radio Blowhards question how 'American' those of us who are just middle of the road really are. It would be hard for me to come up with a set of ideas that are more fundamentally unamerican.

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If you want to see Rand's

If you want to see Rand's ideas taken to their logical conclusion, have a look at this article, written shortly after 9/11, whose sheer sociopathy is astounding:

"Our American leaders find our current war with terrorism to be a complicated a...nd confounding affair. That is because they don't understand the principles that have made America the most moral nation in history. America is based implicitly on the morality of rational selfishness.
...
After our nuclear and other overwhelming attacks, we must demand the total surrender of these evil regimes. We must confiscate all oil properties of all Arab nations, even so-called moderate ones such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. These properties include the oil fields themselves plus all assets worldwide, such as real estate, bank accounts, and all other financial holdings. The oil fields were robbed--nationalized"--from Western oil companies. All of the Arab military and terrorist power comes from this stolen wealth.
...
The U.S. should confiscate the stolen oil properties, and then return those properties to their rightful owners--Western oil companies--if those companies agree to pay the cost of waging this war. The U.S. could then continue occupying and defending these oil-rich territories if the oil companies agree to pay for this protection. And we must surround the evil nations to keep them absolutely cut off from Western civilization.
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Our standard of value must be: The rights of one American, whether a soldier or a civilian, are worth more than the lives of all men, women and children in all these nations combined. Over time, pioneers, with the paid support of our military, can go into these isolated territories, subdue the remaining savages, install a civilized, colonial government protecting the rights of both the pioneers and the savages, and settle the land--as American pioneers subdued the savage, murderous American Indian tribes and settled America."

http://www.capitalismmagazine.com/war-peace/1117-why-and-how-to-conquer-...

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Someone please tell this is a hoax

I read Ron Pisaturo's screed and find it difficult to believe anyone with any intellectual pretenses at all could spout such ignorant drivel. If it's not some twisted sort of satire, maybe it's proof of the validity of the old joke: War is God's way of teaching Americans geography" though most of still can't find Afghanistan on a map if non of the countries are named.
Also, anyone who names four nebulous occupations and then list management consultant IS a management consultant, and, judging by his product, hasn't earned a dime out of any of the other occupations he listed.

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too late

I was carefully composing some comments on the above exchanges on Ayn Rand and her objectivism when I noticed that all of the posts including Tim Wise's initial blog were four years old. Although David Beemer did check in again in 2011. Wisely, I should add.

Well, in case anybody is still interested, Tim Wise's essay does hold up. How anybody could brush aside Rand's view of the trial of the deranged torturer, butcher, murderer William Edward Hickman is in itself incomprehensible. Rand, it seems, was Mary Poppins with a little more attitude.

But Tim Wise's piece did answer a question that had bothered me for some time and I even wrote some short blog-type comments on another site in an attempt to inform some neo-Randists of what she was about. Her popularity had dissipated around 50 years ago, I had thought, and suddenly here she was again, everywhere. Was it really a reaction to the election of Barack Obama?

I sat in on a radio interview with Nathanael Brandon some years ago. The host-interviewer was a woman with whom I was seriously involved at the time. After I had walked Mr. Brandon to his car and returned to the booth my friend told me I should learn from him. I was afflicted and conflicted with such inconvenient mental quirks as conscience, compassion and even guilt. My friend was Jewish but I refrained, maybe mistakenly, from reminding her that the attitudes that she was suggesting I take on led to the extermination of millions of her people plus the "others". Things are just things, and that includes human things.

As for the comments that Rand never openly endorsed selfishness in her fiction, it would be a poor novelist who would intrude a literal explanation of her themes on her reader. "Show, don't tell."

--------------- Charlie   

 

  

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Ayn Rand is a Communist Trojan Time Bomb

Rand Paul and Paul Ryan are Ayn Rand's most prominent disciples today. Who is she? She studied philosophy and screenwriting in the USSR under communist dominance. She was granted a visa to visit the United States at a time when such travel was generally restricted to the most loyal and well-connected communists. Have Neo-Randists considered how the philosophy she engineered can undermine democracy by turning people against their government?

Look at the results when Wall Street financeers lobbied to remove the protective controls of the Glass-Steagall act and Greenspan-the-Rand-worshiper in charge of the Federal Reserve Bank sat on his hands watching the sub-prime mortgage-charged derivatives dynamite grow hotter and hotter until it exploded. (And our corporate controlled congress gave him a slap on the wrist.)

Now the big banks have stopped lending money because they can make more playing Wall Street roulette with our savings. When banks don't lend, the economy doesn't grow.

Money has to move for an economy to grow. Wealth concentration causes economic constipation.  It's all in Switzerland, the Grand Caymans, Monaco.

Go to Williams-Sonoma and buy a package of bamboo skewers. Open the package and try to break the bundle. You cannot but you can break any of them easily. A nation is strong only when it is unified.

Randism is divisive. It's against the principles upon which our nation was founded--love thy neighbor, do unto others... . Randism is a toxic elitist cult movement with allegiance only to power and money. You can almost feel the foundation crumbling beneath our feet. 

It was indifference by the Russian ruling elite to the plight of the working class that threw open the gates to communism in that country. In America it's democratic principles that ensure against this ever happening here. Communists know this and Rand's Objectivism is their corrosive tool for destroying it.

The uber-partisan US Congress of recent years is Randism in action.

Despite her lack of literary skill, there's no denying Rand's high intellect. Was she Lenin's long shot, a Kremlin time-release Hail Mary with the perfect anti-communist cover story?

The quickest way to ensure the success of a spy is to believe what they're saying. Would you expect Ayn Rand to do anything but condemn communism? She doesn't have to even mention the word. That's the frightening beauty of her toxic philosophy--the poison comes wrapped in a candy coating of hyper-capitalism and anti-communism.

Rand's Objectivist philosophy drives an elitist wedge between the classes that says to the economically privileged, "You are entitled to whatever you can wring from this country and 'meh' to the rest of them." The weakening of America has been because of Randist principles not in spite of them. Sophisticated tools like credit default swaps enable the 2-percent to exploit recessions. Let the economy tank. Goldman Sachs proved they can make billions on the way down, where a buying opportunity awaits.

If Ayn Rand were merely a philosopher, why didn't she publish her philosophy and let the chips fall? Why was it necessary to put so much into promoting her "philosophy"? Why hype with fiction what should speak for itself?

Her continuing public relations campaign is designed to fundamentally change this country. Why? Out of a concern for mankind? That would be altrusim, which her "philosophy" rejects. So why the fanatical desire to change the world? For profit? She's dead, but the fanaticism continues.

Rand mania is growing. There are nonprofits today promoting Randism to grade-schoolers like mind candy. It makes Scientology look like kindergarten. 

Today, Rand has been reincarnated in political figures like the Paul political duo. If you want to believe Rand Paul's nickname is unrelated to his and his father's devotion to Ayn Rand, I've got some dry land in West Texas you can buy.

The Rand/Ron Paul duo like to point out that America is a republic, not a democracy, when the fact is America was founded on democratic principles such as equality and one-person-one-vote, terms classified by Mama Rand as "collectivism." Our politicians and government promote dmocracy abroad as if America were the world's greatest example. Randists like to use the term "Republic" to confuse the issue, thinking people too stupid to see through their facade.

Randism is fascism in drag, and when it fails, communism will be there to tilt the table and watch the balls roll into their corner pocket.

Watch the Pilger documentary for a picture of how the fascism we sponsored in Latin America opened the door for communism: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oeHzc1h8k7o

 

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update

I know, or at least I'm fairly sure, that Tim Wise is still active on this site. So I won't worry about my comment being untimely. I just want to point out that since all of the above were written and as recently as a few days ago Rush Limbaugh and a flock of his followers accuse Pope Francis of being Marxist because he voiced concern for the poor of the world. In Nigeria a popular pastor called the Pope the antichrist and Catholicism a religion of evil. The thing that bothers me the most is that all these paranoids gain large followings. Even among Americans. The "people" are scarier to me that any politician. Of course we always have the  One Percent to turn their weapons on the compassionate few if they start to threaten their domains. And for the sake of clarity I need to say that I don't believe all billionaires or multi-millionaires are evil. But those who aren't are despised by the Ayn Rand types. The lunatic fringe has taken charge. ------------- Charlie