The Ayn Rand Phenomenon--I'm Shrugging Over Here

Yeah. I read it. I also read the Fountainhead, long before it was newsworthy. I read it for Literature's sake, and because I was intrigued by the author, and because they were well-written (despite the long tedious stretches). I came away with the feeling that they were creepy in the same way that George Orwell is creepy. I don't like when authors hit me with their philosphy of life in a way that makes me feel inferior to them, as if they have figured out something that the rest of us morons have yet to catch onto. I put down those books and walked away with a shrug, literally.
But that is not how all people who read Atlas Shrugged feel. For some of the Republican persuasion this book is a manifesto, a bible, a blueprint for America--the world even!
And they are all the stars.
They identify with the protagonists.
Oh brother.
The philosophy is basically that there are smart people and stupid people and the smart people, say the "top 2%"  "carry" all of the other people--the other poor, ignorant saps that make up the other 98% of the population. They have all the brains--it is not based on circumstance or priviledge or birth order or era in which you are born. It is just that they are special, blessed if you will, with --they will tell you--often! superior intelligence. Watch out for people who claim to know and advertise their IQ based on a grade school test--that's a dead giveaway--they've got the numbers (apparently) to back up their 2% brainpower and their natural ability to look down their noses at all the underachievers and the hapless slobs inhabiting their space!  
And boy do they resent the hell out of them.
And that my friends is what we have in Washington right now. Paul Ryan--boy wonder--he says he has a "knack for numbers." Translation: He thinks he is a genius and he --and only he apparently--not the stupid President--can fix this country. He has all the answers, and you know what they consist of?--obliterating that 98% little by little. Okay, perhaps obliterating is a little harsh. He just wants to de-fund any program that assists the poor, and the elderly and the disabled--oh, and they hate minorities and especially immigrants--they are, after all part of the 98% from some other country, upping the numbers of scoundrels looking to tax and take advantage of the 2%ers.
In their world they are the laborers, only they use their intellect and tax loopholes and Wall Street chicanery--SO smart--NO one even caught on to what we were doing! Ha! Stupid morons! Well--sure, I'll pay a few fines--I've got billions now you idiots!
Anyway, the point of this story is that this philosphy is what is driving Washington politics right now and it is laughable. They are quite full of themselves, believe themselves to be the saviors of this country because if you do not protect the 2% the whole thing--the kingdom (the pyramid actually--they are at the very top they think) comes crashing down--then the hapless masses will just devour each other because they are too stupid to understand how life works, how things were meant to be. The rest of us will be scratching in the dirt eating pebbles, pulling lice out of each other's hair-- without them.

I have a good friend who espoused this philosophy when I met him. Over the years he has softened his stance, mainly because it does not stand up to reason and reality. You can go through this life hating your fellow man, finding the lowest common denominator of what you share with others  putting yourself above them all and blaming them for all that is wrong with this country, but you will be miserable. We are all in this together. There is no hierarchy as they would have you believe. They are no better than us--they've just convinced themselves that they are. They are bitter, nasty, unscrupulous and even hateful at times towards their fellow citizens and it is disgusting to witness, because they will also claim to have a deep love for God and Christianity. Talk to them --any of them--for any length of time and you will be smacked in the face with hypocracy that even they themselves cannot draw back from when cornered.
That's what my friend found out.  It is, in essence, discrimination, hatred and arrogance masquerading as an "ideology."
Paul Ryan insists that his staff read this tome. Small government? Really? How about forced philosophical adherance.
I'm shrugging over here.
Quintesse Quintesse
51-55, F
37 Responses Apr 22, 2011

Look at when this story was written--the date. If anything it has gotten worse since I wrote this, but I am an eternal optimist and I am hoping that considering more recent events that a mandate might make a dent in the "coming together" process. Let's hope.
Thanks for reading and commenting.

Layne. Yeah, I know. This is a pretty controversial subject these days. But it's a really important discussion to have I think. If they get their way, if they yank money out of government programs like they say they will do, when stimulus is what is needed, it's going to be bad. But mostly the attitude that accompanies this mindset is what scares me the most. When I hear people complain, I remind them. I tell them--just be careful how you vote. This stuff matters, and you do NOT want to find out the hard way, like when they slash Medicare. It will be too late then. <br />
Thanks for weighing in. This is fun for me--you have no idea.

I have gotten into more arguments over Ayn Rand and her philosophy than I can count. It's ridiculous. I can't stand this belief that we don't have to look out for everyone, that the top carrys the rest of us. The free market doesn't work. It just doesn't. Monopolies are bad. And people will take any advantage they can in order to get ahead.<br />
<br />
Remember, we can elect and remove from office politicians. They work for us. Businesses only look out for themselves (and their "stockholders"). And if you truly believe that your "buying power" controls the marketplace, I have some land in Florida for sale . . .

Justme (I get bogged down in the reply boxes sometimes)<br />
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Smart man. I felt compelled to read (Lit major and all) and fascinated at the time (20 years ago), but I'm glad I did read then because I formed my own opinion separate from what the prevailing interpretation is currently--that this philosophy is somehow appropriate and applicable to the way our economy works (or doesn't work) now.

And Wise Historians--Bingo! That is my all time favorite Elizabeth Warren quote (and there are SO many!)--I have it memorized. <br />
She is my hero, needless to say, and I thank you so much for bringing her and it into this discussion, as it is perfect. There is video of it as well which is worth watching because when she uttered these remarkable words it was a totally unsc<x>ripted moment in someone's living room, an impromptu town hall, I believe. <br />
They need to be reminded --constantly-- that we are all in this together, but unfortunately that is a foreign concept to the Ayn Rand proponents. Thank you!

Woman--<br />
The followers all see themselves as the master race as it were--the smart ones who have to "carry" everyone else. It is, in a word--disgusting, but great of you have an ego the size of Texas (they all do by the way--not a humble one in the bunch.) They are just all sick to death of the hanger-oners, the parasites who feed off all of their hard work. If you happen to be born poor and you do not make something of yourself it is your fault, and your fault alone. They all agree that the proverbial playing field is perfectly level and those who do not manage well have no one to blame but themselves. Racism. bigotry and discrimination are not factors according to them. If you fail it is because you just didn't do it right. (It helps if you are born into wealth like most of them though. That makes it much easier--but they will never admit that--ever.)

yes, I have read most of these ideas in connection with Rand ... it does seem disgusting, based on my limited knowledge of her philosophy.

I only really heard of Ayn Rand fairly recently (a couple of years ago I think) and wouldn't claim to know very much about her or her philosophy. My gut reaction (ba<x>sed on the little that I have heard) is that it does seem somewhat creepy ... and has an air of eugenics about it ... that might be completely off target ... but it just feels elitist and quite distasteful. I know that her philosophy has a lot of followers ... but I don't pretend to really get why ... seems like folks are grasping at straws somewhat.

Vendetta and Crazy Water guy--<br />
I think she was a genius--a mean genius. I know nothing of mental disorders or VD--as an author she certainly comes across as perfectly sane --I mean the stories are engrossing in some ways if you can slog through them with out getting a little sick at the blatant discrimination and the excessive sense of superiority that she has going on. <br />
But the concepts the she puts forward, the philosophy, I find intriguing. The problem is that taking it from intriguing and making it into a blueprint from which to form a government or an economy is terrifying in that it, as part of its core tenet, it encourages the disenfranchisement of the majority of the population. The fact that it appeals to so many people occupying higher office is at once laughable but equally terrifying if you think about it too much. Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan have a LOT of power and influence. You put a Republican president in there and we are in big trouble.<br />
Oh! You guys have made my day. I have no one to talk politics with anymore. Thank you.


Excellent. Solidarity, indeed.

Ayn Rand was delusional. Literally. She was suffering through delusions brought on by VD. So it makes me laugh when I encounter members of her cult that worship her writings. It's a bit like choosing to be a disciple to your neighborhood street corner loony, complete with a sandwich sign proclaiming the End is Near.

But the end IS near! Haven't you heard? We are careening off the cliff into full blown socialism.

An ideological difference it is then--agreed<br />
...although, just between you and me--we're not that far apart really.<br />
I am a compromising fool, and I can look at different perspectives and even different ideologies with a decent amount of open-mindedness, believe it or not. <br />
Still...what if it was your grandma? That's all I'm saying.<br />
It's all about wearing other people's shoes, just for a while, even though you have made up your mind that they could never ever fit you.<br />
I appreciate your perspective and your comments.

@Quintesse<br />
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Haha, well, I hope that by the time I'm 65, I'll have saved enough money each year that with interest, it will have accumulated to such an amount that I won't have to rely on a government social program at that time. Who knows if the money will be worth anything if Ben Bernanke and the Fed keep printing new money?<br />
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Anyway, I understand that you're compassionate and believe in helping others in tough economic times. I look at it in a different way. By giving money to the poor, you are essentially taking money from everyone else (and especially the rich, who pay most of the taxes). I don't believe that the government should redistribute taxed money to other groups, no matter how much an individual needs that money. That's just my opinion, and we'll just have to leave it as an ideological difference.

Thank you - the feeling is mutual. :)

I know what you mean. If we look at the uprisings in the Middle East even--those people for the most part were disenfranchised, high unemployment and a general pervasive loss of ...hope for the future.<br />
You have to be able to envision a way out of poverty and depression, especially as a young person. <br />
The violence and the hopelessness is a result of a never-ending cycle of apathy and hard knocks. <br />
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Investing in the future, creating jobs, providing education. Those things are the answer. Cutting people off and saying--well that is what you get for being born poor and underpriviledged is just kicking them in the teeth. How does that help anyone?<br />
I respect you very much.

I volunteer with at risk youth in Los Angeles. One of the things we do is try to give these kids hope that they can escape the cycle of poverty they were born into. We know what happens if we can't do that - they join gangs, get involved in crime, and/or end up bringing more kids into the world that will face the same problems. We can either invest now, or build more prisons. The right seems to favor the latter, while I prefer the former. Just one example.

I like what you said Puck about enabling. The premise I think for those opposed to "helping" those in need is that it is a trap, as you said, that one then cannot escape, that somehow they will get so used to not working, or receiving benefits that it will never end. Although I cannot quote any, I do not believe the facts back up that assertion. <br />
I have been called naive because I believe that the average person wants to be self-sufficient, that providing for oneself and ones family is almost like a basic human need. It is a source of pride to be able to make your own way, strive for a better life, to set an example for your children etc. I do not believe that people choose to be uneducated, or poor or unemployed. I do not believe that people aspire to a "free ride."<br />
But I obviously do believe in helping people when they need it, when they can prove they need it. There are families who receive assistance who live on $13,000 a year, working for minimum wage because that is the only job they can get for whatever reason. I do not believe people like that should be cut from the financial assistance or the medical assistance rolls (which is what has been done in NJ and which is why Christie is so popular among Conservatives now.)<br />
I believe in helping people to help themselves.<br />
I don't happen to think there is anything wrong with that. <br />
I like to think that temporary assistance in whatever form it takes helps enable people to make changes in their lives so that they can improve their circumstances. That is what a compassionate society does for its less fortunate citizens. That is what I believe. <br />
Demonizing them as a way to to cut costs--to belittle them, or as Imabear said--to use them as scapegoats to further your cause that spending must be cut--that that is the only way, is just wrong. Helping people become confident and independent and productive is the answer--cutting them off in the name of fiscal responsibility is not. That will ultimately come back and cause even more money and more social ills and unrest in my opinion.<br />
Thanks you guys.

History is full of people looking for scapegoats. People are justifiably angry about the financial meltdown. The powers-that-be who actually should shoulder the blame want to avoid this (and any attacks on their power) at any cost. This is the alternative. I am actually amazed at the working class attacking itself. Do these people not realize they are shooting themselves in the foot? And, as history has also demonstrated, people will often get behind anybody they think will end their suffering - and they aren't always too concerned about the cost - as long as some other group is paying it. In the end, of course, those "saviors" show their true colors. But it's often too late by that time to avoid major damage.

This is one of those areas where I'm a bit liberal. It's not practical for the bourgeois and the so called elite not to somehow look after the welfare of the proletariat and the helpless. Happy workers make for better productivity, and it's just inhumane not to help those who cannot help themselves.<br />
There are a multitude of reasons to have a welfare system, but it should not be designed to entrap, but to enable.

It is a slippery slope. I wrote in The Segregationist Agenda about this-- divisiveness as a sort of divide and conquer way of getting elected, how pitting people against one another as a strategy works.<br />
This really is no different, in a have vs have-nots kind of way, making the needy seem stupid and lazy--as you said, demonizing them. <br />
It is sad. Very sad.

I know and I usually do to - it's an easy insult that has gotten way out of hand. But in this case it was the image that came to mind - it was so powerful that I decided to mention it. I should say that I have a history degree and have studied Hitler and the Third Reich extensively, which may be why the image came to my mind so quickly. I remember reading about the handicapped (physical and mental) people being institutionalized and euthanized because they were a "drain" on society. It's all tied in with this dehumanizing of others that is so prevalent on the right. This tactic of pitting folks against each other, so that we see enemies everywhere, so that we turn on each other. This was done extensively in the South - pitting poor blacks against poor whites to keep them from joining forces and demanding reforms that would benefit them all. And promoting the superiority idea - telling people it's normal and okay to look down on others, and to treat them as less than human - like the segregation in the South. It's a very slippery slope - people can rationalize incredible things when they think they are receiving a benefit. None of these are new practices, sad to say. And they tend to work, at least for a while (sadder to say).

I try and be careful not to make Nazi comparisons.

What comes to mind for me when I read about this philosophy of a 2% elite who look down on the inferior 98% - especially the poor, handicapped, elderly, etc... I get a mental picture of a bunch of goose stepping brown shirts. The Nazis had no place for the handicapped, etc, either. I wonder how long it will be before the right wing starts championing eugenics. After all, isn't that the next logical step for folks with this mindset?

Oh, I'm well aware that you're serious. <br />
It's just that I'm quirky, I believe in compassion, and in helping those who are unable for some reason to help themselves. All societies have such people, you know, poor, disabled, old--it is unfortunate--but it happens, they are among us, and civilized societies tend to recognize this and address it--that's where the compassion, and dare I say it, the empathy comes in. <br />
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We may indeed experience an economic collapse at some point, but I also believe in the goodness of people and I will never give up on that. If the scenario you envision were to ever take hold, that goodness would have to be totally absent among citizens, and I don't think that is possible, so...I respectfully disagree. <br />
You can wait though. Maybe it will happen right around the time you turn 65. Wouldn't that be ironic?

I wasn't joking, Quintesse. I was being very serious. Anyway, you're right in that under the present conditions, it's not practical at all. Most people will never voluntarily relinquish their entitlements. I'm waiting for an economic collapse as a result of the collectivist, welfare-statist policies in order for true ob<x>jectivist ideals to thrive.

Doesn't go far enough...<br />
Good one.<br />
Philosophy is one thing. Practical politics and real life--quite another.

As a proud ob<x>jectivist (follower of Ayn Rand's philosophy), I can tell you that we ob<x>jectivists have been laughing (and shaking our heads) at Paul Ryan's proposals. ob<x>jectivists don't support Paul Ryan's budget plan...we feel that it doesn't go far enough at all, that it is a joke.

Well I wouldn't say Ayn Rand is philosophically incompetent, --she went to great extent to put forth a unique and interesting concept--even if I don't agree with it. but I will say that blind faith in anything, especially the market, is pretty risky.<br />
I like talking about this stuff because a lot of people only hear part of the story, that is, they hear talking points-- and if you don't question where they come from you run the risk of being sucked in and voting for something that will ultimately hurt you. Knowing where Paul Ryan is getting his ideas from is relevant and important especially when the majority of legislators are agreeing with him.<br />

Yeah well, even the softer gentler version still leaves the reader with the feeling that the 2%ers are quite full of themselves--and it is not so much Ayn Rand herself I am lambasting, but the movement that resulted from her writings. You can interpret the fictional characters any way you want to, but that is not the point I am making. <br />
I always come back to the same thing. It is not new. No one is suggesting that people who are successful should be penalized. And if there was such a thing as a level playing field in our society we would probably not even be having this conversation, but the attitude that all people who are unfortunate or disabled or poor or otherwise unable to provide adequately for themselves are just not trying hard enough is insulting and abhorrent to me.<br />
The reason this is news and story-worthy in my opinion is because of the little tidbit I read about it being required reading. Paul Ryan is a little too full of himself and he is taking a LOT of people down with him on this one. Attitude and philosophy actually matter in politics today. This attitude and this philosophy are not conducive to compromise and understanding and to fixing what is broken with our economy. Period.

@ Bluecar76<br />
Thanks for presenting a more balanced view of Ayn Rand. Yes, there is some elitism in her writing, but I think, as you, that Qunitesse has over-interpreted that portion of her novels.<br />
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It should be noted that elitism pervades socialism too, with its practices of central planning by a specially trained technocracy. They also decide for the little people, proletariat in Marxist parlance. The difference between the elite in Rand's ob<x>jectivism and in Socialism is that there is no unseen force disciplining the socialist technocracy. Only the ultimate failure of the socialist nation serves as corrective. The market disciplines the ob<x>jectivist elite. If they are wrong, incompetent, or otherwise fail to serve society, they fail and the market ruthlesslessly shuts them down. But the impact on the nation as a whole is minimal.<br />
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@ mewold<br />
err, human resources are technically infinite. They're only limited by human creativity. Only natural resources are limited. Guess what? Some of the richest nations on earth have little to no natural resources. Think Singapore, Israel, Taiwan, Korea (South, of course...North just proves the point), and Japan (even after the earthquake). None have significant extractive industries. Some of the wealthiest in natural resources are basket cases (Nigeria, Conga, to some degree Russia, most of the middle east).

The problem is that resorses are not infinent. The 2%ers are taking more than their fair share.

I happen to love Ayn Rand and I would like to present a softer, more loving interpretation of her philosophy. The heroes in her books love what they do for a living. Yes, many are rich and powerful but there are still many positive characters that represent the everyday hardworking guy and gal. Eddie Willers (Dagney Tagger's competent assistant) and Ms. Ives (Hank Reardon's secretary) are very solid, respectable people who do thei job very well. <br />
Dagney Taggert loved the railroad ever since she was a little girl. She dreamed of tracks and engines, not getting rich. Albert Einstein spent his youth thinking about light and energy, not on getting rich. Hank Reardon spent 10 years creating his metal. Thomas Edison had countless failures before he invented the lightbulb. <br />
All I am trying to say to the Ayn Rand "haters" is try to understand that there are people in the world who advance civilization by creating and inventing. The top 2% as you say. Ms. Rand basically says to stay out of their way and let them create. Then we will all benefit. If you are not in the top 2% then just do your best everyday and don't ask for a handout.

I just re-read it and now I am all fired up again, haha.<br />
Everyone is entitled to their own philosophy--but when you are enacting legislation ba<x>sed on a premise like this one--well, that is bad. And that is what some of the Republicans are trying to do--that is the whole "we can never tax the wealthy" thing. What if the insanely rich get mad at having to share some of their wealth with the government that allowed them to amass it in the first place?! The nerve!<br />
If we had been taxing income all along the way we should have been (See Bush Tax Cuts)--we would not only not have a deficit right now--we would have a surplus, despite the wars. Think about that. A government cannot run with no revenue. <br />
Sorry. Got a little carried away again.<br />
Thanks for commenting.

This is a very interesting story. It says the same things I have been saying for a long time, but it I different way. Thanks for posting it.

It just bothers me. Hence the shrugging, and eye-rolling. Still I don't like what they're trying to pull, and I think that it is weird that Ryan makes his staff read. <br />
I think we're a better country when we see each other as having the same goals, but perhaps going at them in different ways. But when you introduce an ideolgy like this, in which the greater portion of the citizenry is villified, well, I think that is divisive and counterproductive. <br />
Thanks Doug

You are correct, it makes very little sense. I know a few Atlas Shrugged toting Tea Party individuals myself. What I really don't get about them is they are all hourly workers who barely earn more than minimum wage. All of them earn below the median and are surely part of the large percentage that pay little or no income tax and yet the feel oppressed.<br />
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The other thing I don't understand is that they all seem very happy to stay in those low wage jobs. One man in particular has passed up two different oppurtunities to move up the company ladder.<br />
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I have little doubt that when I next pay them a visit I'll find that Paul Ryan is their latest hero and best friend for life.

Oh there's definitely a bully aspect to all this if you ask me, especially if you consider that the victims are the old, poor and disenfranchised. <br />
As I said--they are quite full of themselves.<br />
And always calm one--I do not see this as politics as usual. I mean of course it is--but with a twist--her books have been selling like crazy over the past couple of years--like right around when the Tea Party started picking up steam. Go figure. If you convince a enough people that it is a conspiracy to deprive them of their hard earned wealth --well, that's how the lines become drawn and the division becomes <br />
more stark--just in time for elections.<br />
Thanks you guys for talking to me about this--other wise it is just me blowing off steam, which I will do regardless, but it is more interesting to have someone to talk to.<br />

From what I have read of Ryan he is a career politician with no real experience outside the beltway and from what I have read of his 'roadmap' it is nothing more then politics as usual.