According to my dear friend, Dan, he and his buddy, Doug, have had an influence on the last Conservative Party Manifesto. The manifesto, published in hardback, was a break with the more traditional way of publishing manifestos which often appear in paperback or pamphlet form. Hardback books cost considerably more than paperbacks and thus remain outside the reach of readers with shallow pockets. But a hardback manifesto? That was some kind of statement, it said “We can afford it. We have the money. So f*ck you!”. Yeah, you had Ashcroft’s money and some from that Goldsmith fella…which reminds me, he’s a bit quiet these days…
Hannan and Douglas Carswell, the MP for Clacton, co-authored a book titled The Plan: Twelve Months To Renew Britain. The book, according to the pair, is influenced by the work of Ayn Rand, the Russian-American emigré, free-market radical and libertarian ‘philosopher’. Rand called her ‘philosophy’, “Objectivism”, which is a peculiarly right-wing strain of libertarianism. Adherents to the Objectivist creed proclaim her idea of ‘rational self interest’ the natural state for humankind. Rational self interest = me first. No prizes for guessing why Dan the Man is a fan.
He’s referring here to a tee-shirt printed with the question “Who is Dan Han?” Subtle, clever and witty as I’m sure you will all agree. But for those of you who aren’t familiar with the question’s source, it is a reference to the oft-repeated line, “Who is John Galt”? in Rand’s turgid tome, Atlas Shrugged. Who is John Galt indeed. But this is a question that means something only to those who have been touched by the spectral hand of Rand, to the rest of us – including those of us who were forced to read the dire Atlas Shrugged at school – it either means absolutely nothing or it is something to mercilessly ridicule.
In short, John Galt is a sort of cipher; a metaphor for unbridled individualism, it is the sort of individualism that rightwing libertarians like Hannan and Carswell have wet dreams about. Galt is the symbolic embodiment of what Rand referred to as “the Noble Soul”; a purely selfish being, free from any ‘taint’ of altruism and a servant to no one (not everyone has this luxury, by the way). There it is in a nutshell, now you don’t have to read the book; I’ve saved you from a fate worse than boredom. However Rand is no Camus, her characters are wooden and her attitude to women is often strangely misogynistic. The dullness of her prose style is surpassed only by the genius of utility that is the telephone book. I prefer the telephone book – any telephone book!
Ayn Rand was a cult-leader who was pathologically self-obsessed; she was also a heavy smoker and had a fondness for dextroamphetamine (which probably goes some way to explaining the rationale behind her ‘philosophy’). Rand insisted that, in order to understand her philosophy, you had to read her fiction. This is the typical behaviour of a cult leader on a par with, say, L. Ron Hubbard. I often get the impression that all she was doing was hawking dodgy stories disguised as serious ‘philosophy’. She claims philosophical descent from Aristotle and was possibly influenced by the young Nietzsche. Indeed some of her thought on the individual appear to be derived from Nietzsche’s ‘free spirit’. But Rand is no Nietzsche either: there is no irony, no sarcasm, no spirituality; the human being is reduced to a rational calculating machine that is incapable of warmth, empathy or, indeed, humanity. Altruism is evil. Selfishness is good. A is A. If you like your binaries half-cooked, you’ll love Rand. If you want philosophy, look elsewhere.
Back to the manifesto. It seems that the Tories were desperate to find some meaningful philosophical anchorage to their policy-making – something that didn’t sound too much like Thatcherism… Remember, they don’t have Marx to fall back on and they’ve previously filleted some of Adam Smith’s economic ideas to suit their agenda, so they can hardly be considered deep-thinkers – though David Willetts enjoys giving the impression of being a serious philosophical character – so they plumbed for Ayn Rand. And who better to inject a Randian discourse into the Tories’ political bloodstream than those bad boys on the right of the party, The Free-marketeers, MC Mad Dan and DJ Dizzy Doug? You give those lefties hell!
Remember when Cameron told us how he wanted to “hand power back to the individual”? You’ve guessed it, straight out of Rand. You see the way The Quiet Man is attacking those on benefits? Uh huh, Rand again…though Rand wouldn’t have approved of IDS’s Catholicism – she was an atheist and she would have hated his advisor, Philippa Stroud, whose ‘church’ claims to ‘cure’ gays and lesbians. How about when IDS said, “work will set you free”? Er…let’s not go there…
It must be a frustrating time for some Tories; sitting on the government benches with the Lib Dems; the Christians having to keep schtum about the atheism of Rand and the libertarians claiming that the measures ‘don’t go far enough’.
On a lighter note, one of the characters in Atlas Shrugged says that “A lit cigarette symbolises a fire in the mind”.
No, I beg to differ, a lit cigarette symbolises ashtray breath, lung cancer and heart disease!
Desperate Dan claims another “page from The Plan” has become policy.