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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Who is Ayn Rand and why does she matter?

Some Republicans and their Tea Party colleagues have adopted Russian born Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum, (aka Ayn Rand) as their intellectual and cultural center of their party.
Russian born and educated Rand (1905-1982) came to the United States in 1926 and developed a philosophy she called Objectivism. On the surface, this philosophy emphasized the basic tenants of a free society including individual rights, property rights and laissez-faire capitalism, enforced by a constitutionally limited government.
In fact, Ms. Rand's philosophy goes well beyond democratic tenants and creates a pseudo-intellectual cult holding 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.
Those holding with Rand's views oppose welfare, unemployment insurance, support for the poor and middle-class, regulation of industry and government provision for roads or other infrastructure. They insisted that law enforcement, defense and the courts are the only appropriate areas for government and that all taxation should be purely voluntary.
Conservative groups such as Freedom Works, the Heritage Foundation, and individuals such as Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, John Stossel and Sean Hannity aggressively push Rand's philosophy to the Tea Party, conservatives and libertarians.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) quotes extensively from Rand's novels at Congressional hearings. His father, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), argues that Rand's book Atlas Shrugged tells the truth. Conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas references Rand's work in his autobiography. Ronald Reagan dubbed Rand as the unofficial "novelist laureate" of his Administration.
Rep Paul Ryan (R-WI), the GOP's budget guru, cites Rand as the inspiration for his 2012 Path to Prosperity budget plan which recently passed the republican controlled House by a vote of 235-193. Nevada Republicans Dean Heller, and Joe Heck joined the Republican majority by voting yea. Every Democrat, including Shelley Berkley, voted no.
Ryan described Social Security as a collectivist system and his Prosperity Plan guts Medicare, Medicaid, and a host of housing, food, and educational support programs, leaving the country's middle-class and most vulnerable citizens devastated. By transforming Medicare into a vouchers system he undoes Medicare's ability to shoulder risk. This approach transfers that risk to individuals while leaving insurance companies with the ability to deny services and raise prices faster than inflation. His plan uses approximately half of the freed money to reduce taxes on the most wealthy Americans.
To support this position, Ryan relies on dubious assertions, questionable assumptions, fishy figures and Rand inspired pseudo-intellectual.
Critics of Rand and her followers point out that such ideas split the population into two groups: The most wealthy, and everyone else and thus rejects the major reason for a constitutional government, i.e. the promotion of the common good.
To achieve Objectivism, Rand's book hero's commit borderline rape, blow-up buildings, and dynamite oil fields which Rand portrays as admirable and virtuous fulfillment of the characters' personal will and desires. Today neo-conservatives push warfare in the Middle-east in the name of oil.
Rand's early diaries gush with admiration for William Hickman, a serial killer who raped and murdered a young girl. Hickman showed no remorse, a trait Rand found admirable. Rand also dismissed the feminist movement as "false" and "phony," denigrated both Arabs and Native Americans as "savages" saying that the latter had no rights and that Europeans were right to take North American lands by force. She expressed horror that taxpayer money was being spent on government programs aimed at educating "subnormal children" and helping the handicapped.
Rand embraced atheism, and opposed anything she regarded as mysticism or super-naturalism, including all forms of religion. She was pro-choice. These views are never mentioned in Rand based propaganda.
In 1953 Rand told Mike Wallace that altruism was evil, that selfishness is a virtue, and that anyone who succumbs to weakness or frailty is unworthy of love. For some, that is current Republican policy.