Ayn Rand has become the symbol for today’s right-wing obsession with selfishness. In the half-century since her opus Atlas Shrugged, numerous institutes and societies have sprouted to promote Rand’s philosophy of “objectivism” which teaches the ridiculous ethical egoism and her advocacy of “rational selfishness“.
To a compassionate person, these ideas are truly foreign. In a nation whose Declaration of Independence includes the rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and whose Constitution directs the government to provide for the “general welfare” of its people, the Randian philosophy seems at direct odds.
Yet today’s Republican Party is pursuing an agenda that favors the rich at the expense of the needy. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin chairs the House Budget Committee and, as such, has put forth a budget that, over the next decade, would spend about 16 percent less than the White House on “income security” programs for the poor — that’s everything from food stamps to housing assistance to the earned-income tax credit.
Medicare would be privatized as a voucher program, requiring seniors to find health insurance on the open, for-profit market, and reaching into their pockets to subsidize the wholly insufficient amount of the vouchers with which they are supposed to be able to purchase the coverage. Of course, being forced to buy health insurance on the open market also means buying from a company that would use up to 20% (or more, if not reigned in by the Affordable Care Act) of those premiums on overhead (and profit) as opposed to Medicare’s 3% overhead.
The lines between Rand’s vision of an every man, woman and child for his or her self world and that of today’s GOP and Libertarian visions are quite blurred. Congressman Paul Ryan requires his staffers and interns to read Ayn Rand (though he has recently denied this, the Atlas Society has released video of a Ryan address to their membership in which he stated this requirement quite clearly), and Senator Rand Paul (born Randall) is said to have shortened his name in reverence for the author.
Rand’s philosophies are now so far-reaching that one need not read her massive missives to know what it is she and her followers believe – government is bad, the individual is all that matters.
I don’t pretend to be an expert on Rand. Although I read The Fountainhead when I was younger, I found it long-winded, boring and something which with I didn’t identify. So when my friend Stephen Goldstein (author, journalist, tv/radio host and South Florida Sun-Sentinel Op-Ed columnist) told me he had written a “sequel” of sorts to Atlas Shrugged, I wasn’t initially very excited.
No, I’ve never read Atlas Shrugged, nor have I ever had a desire to. But I’ve been inundated with the “Who is John Galt?” message – even on an ad for a restaurant here in Coral Springs, FL that I had enjoyed – until I saw the ubiquitous question sniped on an ad in a local monthly magazine. Now I no longer frequent that restaurant. (Sorry, if a local business believes it’s important to promote his religious devotion to Rand’s theory of selfishness, I believe it’s important to not be a customer.)
But after Stephen assured me that one need not have subjected oneself to reading her 1,088 pages of drivel in order to enjoy his new novel, Atlas Drugged: Ayn Rand Be Damned!, I jumped in, and was glad I did.
Atlas Drugged picks up where Shrugged left off. Sixty-seven years after John Galt’s “restoration” (revolution for the rest of us). The US has become a Libertarian paradise. No longer the United States of America, we’ve “evolved” into the United Corporations of America.
The divide between the 99% and the 1% is even more pronounced. Tent cities or shanty towns, known as Coopervilles (for then-President Cooper) have popped up in every major city, with the largest having taken over NY’s Central Park.
Government has become today’s right wingers’ wet dream – shrunk small enough to have drowned in a bathtub. The free market reigns so that no longer do governmental agencies exist to protect the citizens. It’s now buyer beware. If a product makes consumers sick, eventually they’ll no longer buy the products. And should a hurricane threaten Florida, there’s a privatized Hurricane center to warn the population … or not.
Atlas Drugged: Ayn Rand Be Damned! should be the warning shot to all Americans to be careful what you wish for.
[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]