Tag Archives: Objectivism

What kind of libertarian are you?

In recent years, the word “libertarian” has been hijacked by the Right, who have transformed the definition of the word from “one who supports the principle of liberty” to “one who supports an idea of liberty that gives license to the elite to continue to exploit others for personal gain”. Personally, I think these soi-disant libertarians suffer from a combination of arrested development and bad parenting. Why do I say this? These so-called libertarians are fond of complaining about “big government” and if you unpack this discourse, it’s no different to a child railing against a parent. Yet, paradoxically and without any apparent sense of irony, they would demand the retention of the repressive functions of the state should their dream of a ‘free’ society come to fruition. So much for liberty.

Among these so-called libertarians, selfishness and greed are celebrated and venerated. Selfishness is one ugly trait that the majority of parents stamp out at the age of 2. “It’s mine”, screams the toddler. Many parents will have witnessed such behaviour and will act swiftly to nip it in the bud, but other parents will cave in as soon as their child starts screaming, stamping their feet and holding their breath.  It’s the children of these parents who grow up to become Right Libertarians. They continue their selfish, greedy behaviour into adulthood and seek to rationalize it with cherry-picked words from Hayek or will hide behind the dull prose of Ayn Rand, whose words are akin to gospel in their eyes.

I saw this amusing cartoon a couple of years ago and I thought I’d share it with you.

The followers of Ayn Rand, who call themselves “Objectivists” (Oh, the arrogance), deny that they are libertarians but their gross misanthropy and their obvious cupidity says otherwise.

Rand dollar signAyn Rand (left) even wore a dollar sign brooch, for crying out loud!

Right libertarians never tire of telling us how much they love freedom and this wide-eyed zeal often seems like nothing more than the veneration of a fetish-object. This is clear in the language they use to promote themselves too. By the way, I’ve never heard anyone say that they “hate” freedom or even love for that matter but love is the last thing on the mind of the Objectivist. I mean, what’s in it for them? If you see what I mean…

As I’ve indicated in previous blogs, the Right’s idea of freedom is narrow and can only define itself against what it perceives as unfreedom. In other words, anyone who isn’t on the Right or doesn’t support a neo-Hobbesian formulation of liberty is, in their eyes, against freedom. If you think the NHS is worth saving, then you “hate” freedom. If you’re a socialist, you “hate” freedom and so on and on it goes.

I support civil liberties and I consider myself to be on the Left – I am a libertarian socialist. To the Right libertarian, this is as bad as admitting to being a Stalinist. Ironic, really, when you remember that many of them gave the thumbs up to General Pinochet and others like him. When you confront them with this truth, watch how they squirm.

Other self-described libertarians will tell you that they are “anti-war”, but will then advocate the use of military force to “open up” markets, often under the rubric of fighting “terror”. Remember Iraq? There were some of these so-called libertarians who saw opportunities created by the invasion and occupation of that country. In fact, they don’t mind sharing a bed with neoconservatives.  Indeed for all their talk about peace between free-trade nations, many of them are ardent warmongers  and some are even members of the Territorial Army (others hold undergraduate degrees in War Studies). What does that say about them and their brand of libertarianism? It says that they lack the capacity for self-reflection and they don’t have the critical skills to interrogate their ideas. It also shows them up for the immature liars they truly are.

2 Comments

Filed under Ideologies, Society & culture

Economic cults are just as bad as any religious cult

Last Sunday I was watching The Big Questions on BBC, a programme that is best described as a Sunday morning shout-fest. The studio audience usually consists of a fair number of religious zealots and assorted weirdos together with sceptics and rationalists who seek to challenge their beliefs. Last week’s discussion was about religious cults and whether they are any different to mass religions. In truth, the mass religions are the same as cults, they just have better PR and more members. This got me thinking: what about those obscure economic cults like Objectivism? What about all those tiresome free-marketeers who slavishly follow the curious fiscal asceticism of Hayek or Friedman? Are they any different to Scientologists or Moonies? Well, no.

Cults are always organized around a charismatic leader. We see this with the Scientologists, the Moonies, the Children of God (now called Family International) and small Healy-ite cults like the Workers Revolutionary Party. The economic cults are no different; they are all obsessed with ideological purity. The leader’s word is supreme.

All cults, like mass religions, require fetish-objects (Islam and Judaism have no fetish-objects). These fetish objects can range from supposed relics like a nail or a splinter from the True Cross  ( in the case of Reaganites,  a vial of Ronald Reagan’s blood) to holy icons; an image of some saint or other. These economic cultists have money, which, as a fetish-object, serves much the same purpose as praying to an icon of the Virgin. “With this money, I am free! With this money I can enslave others and tell them that I am doing it to make them free”! Of course they would tell you that they don’t worship money but that wouldn’t be true because cultists are always in denial about something.

Blinded by their unswerving devotion, right-wing economic cultists will tell you how “flat taxes will benefit us all” and that ‘wealth’ will “trickle down” to those below, even though they produce no hard evidence to support such claims. They will produce the holy icon of the Laffer Curve and, without a trace of irony, proceed to tell you why this curve is so significant and why those at the bottom of the economic ladder must take pay cuts while those at the top award themselves even bigger bonuses. This is voodoo economics. It’s magic, maaan! You will find them reciting passages from The Road to Serfdom, one of the holy books of right-wing economic cultists and they will tell you, with a straight face, that fascism and socialism are the same thing and that only they hold the keys to your freedom. It isn’t and they don’t. But cultists won’t listen to anyone but their cult-leaders. Hayek’s word is holy writ.  He speaketh the Truth and we must listen. Just ask High Priest, Dan Hannan of The Freedom Assocation.

You won’t find the working class or the lower middle class subscribing to these notions  about ‘freedom’ and there is a very good reason for this: they can’t afford them. Only those who have a substantial amount of personal wealth can become cult  members and take part in the liturgy.

These cults also have their priestly caste that is formed from a hardcore of free-market economists who are gathered together in think-tanks like the Adam Smith Institute, the Taxpayers Alliance or the Institute of Economic Affairs. It is within these bodies that the doctrines are formulated and the high priests of late capitalism worship at the clay feet of their dead idols. The Adam Smith Institute, for example, practices a strain of laissez-faire economics that is based on a highly selective reading of The Wealth of Nations , for which they rely on people’s ignorance of Smith’s theories in order to promote “The Invisible Hand” of the free market; the rest of the text is discarded and ignored.

The right will make the counter-claim that the Left (to the Tories this is just anyone who just happens to be vaguely to the left of them) worship John Maynard Keynes and have formed a cult around his ideas. They can make that claim as much as they like, but I have seen little evidence to support this notion. They would also point to Marx and shout “Look! You worship Marxism”!  But that’s only true of a handful of left-wing cults and, at any rate, there is always an ongoing debate about Marxist economics. The same cannot be said for the Right, who are hopelessly devoted to their idols and accept their ‘wisdom’ without criticism. But this deference shouldn’t surprise us: the Right doesn’t like to criticize what they see as unassailable truths; the holy word of Hayek or whichever economic theorist they happen to be praise-singing at that moment in time. This is the truth and all those who deny it shall be cast into eternal darkness!

The problem with economic cults  is that we are forced to live with their mistakes. Privatizations are forced onto us and all social relations are marketized – all for our own good, you understand.  After all, this is the word of the Lord!  He hath spoken! Have faith and enjoy the Kool-Aid!

Postscript

Interesting article from Alternet about Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cultism, Economics

Rand the Moocher

From Alternet. I wonder if Dan Hannan or Dougie Carswell know about this?

Ayn Rand Railed Against Government Benefits, But Grabbed Social Security and Medicare When She Needed Them

By Joshua Holland

Ayn Rand was not only a schlock novelist, she was also the progenitor of a sweeping “moral philosophy” that justifies the privilege of the wealthy and demonizes not only the slothful, undeserving poor but the lackluster middle-classes as well.

Her books provided wide-ranging parables of “parasites,” “looters” and “moochers” using the levers of government to steal the fruits of her heroes’ labor. In the real world, however, Rand herself received Social Security payments and Medicare benefits under the name of Ann O’Connor (her husband was Frank O’Connor).

As Michael Ford of Xavier University’s Center for the Study of the American Dream wrote, “In the end, Miss Rand was a hypocrite but she could never be faulted for failing to act in her own self-interest.”

Her ideas about government intervention in some idealized pristine marketplace serve as the basis for so much of the conservative rhetoric we see today. “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand,” said Paul Ryan, the GOP’s young budget star at a D.C. event honoring the author. On another occasion, he proclaimed, “Rand makes the best case for the morality of democratic capitalism.”

You can read the rest here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bad philosophy, Ideologies, Philosophy

Randism

This made me laugh.

Leave a comment

Filed under Humour

From Hayek to Rand: a short stroll through neoliberal thinking

Hayek: the Daddy of Neoliberalism

Friedrich von Hayek was the daddy. He was the Thatcher government’s philosophical anchor. He was one of the high priests of neoliberalism.  Hayek was the man whose book Thatcher famously slammed down on a table and declared “This is what we believe in”! The book in  question was Hayek’s second attack on socialism titled The Constitution of Liberty. His first, The Road to Serfdom is given similar veneration by Conservatives and is no less visceral in its straw man critiques of socialism and liberalism. This is an odd position for a man who was wedded to the ideals of classical liberalism but it is the social aspects of liberalism that Hayek rails against, not its economic message.

In the first chapters of the book, Hayek rails against both liberalism and socialism. He holds Britain (or England as he says) as a model economy and it is through Britain’s free trade policies of the 19th century that his notion of liberty is predicated. he says,

The rule of freedom which has been achieved in England seemed destined to spread throughout the world

He ignores the methods by which the British idea of freedom was exported throughout the world: by the barrel of a gun. The Road to Serfdom was published in 1944. Hayek, an Austrian economist had taken a position at the London School of Economics. In Vienna he had been influenced by Ludwig von Mises, the founder of the Austrian School of Economics whose name has gone on to grace the title of a US right wing libertarian think tank. Interstingly enough for a self-confessed ‘liberal’, von Mises gave his support to Englebert Dollfuss’s Austrofascist regime. Von Mises served as economic advisor to Dollfuss until the latter was assassinated by the Nazis.  The Jewish von Mises would have found it difficult to live under a Nazi regime because of its racial purity laws.

The von Mises Institute ‘scholar’, Lew Rockwell has a selective take on fascism here. He completely rewrites history by airbrushing out von Mises involvement in Dollfuss’s regime.  Indeed apologists for von Mises will brush aside any suggestion of  his collaboration with the “it was a lesser evil [than communism]” defence. We can see the start of a pattern here: those who would describe themselves specifically as classical liberals would go on to offer their support for authoritarian regimes. Hayek and Friedman both lent their support to Pinochet’s Chile – Hayek visited there in 1984. The libertarian rhetoric obscures the reactionary and authoritarian tendencies that are present within their strain of classical liberalism. Von Mises left Austria for the United States and together with Hayek and Friedman they founded the Société du Mont-Pèlerin, which became a sort of anti-Kenynesian think-tank; a hothouse for neoliberal thinkers. You can read their Statement of Aims here.

Neoliberalism is essentially a late 20th century variant of classical liberalism. Whereas the the emphasis of classical liberalism was on free trade, limited government and so forth, Hayek and his contemporaries Ludwig von Mises and Milton Friedman, placed greater emphasis on the notion of the individual as a sovereign being who was unimpeded by regulation or ‘red tape’ and free to act as agents consumers within a ‘liberal democracy’. This, they posited, would move human society along a progressive path because competition, they argued, is the natural human condition and the logic was that competition was therefore good for progress. In other words, system that entirely deregulated economic activity would produce greater wealth and thus greater happiness and provide an outlet for natural competition.  To achieve this, all social relations would become market relations: everything that was once publicly-owned would be bought and sold in a market place (Gilbert, 2008). This included the welfare state, much of which was largely dismantled by Thatcher in the 1980’s. Neoliberalism is classical liberalism that has been taken to an extreme.  Everything and everyone must make a profit. Thatcher once declared that she wanted to see a “nation of entrepreneurs”. Everyone would become an entrepreneur, un petit capitaliste, a shopkeeper, a spiv whether they wanted to be one or not.  The former nationalized companies were expected to make profits for their shareholders, the lessons of history were apparently forgotten as the government sold the public a romanticized image of the age of the great railway companies; it was an image that was intended to restore a lost pride in an underfunded rail network that was now re-branded using, in some cases, the names of the Big 4 rail companies (like GWR).

Nostalgia was a new way of selling government ‘products’. But nostalgia is history that has been purged of those discourses that do not conform to the narrative of the dominant ideological class. Gil Scott-Heron says in his beat poem, B-Movie

The idea concerns the fact that this country wants nostalgia. They want to go back as far as they can – even if it’s only as far as last week. Not to face now or tomorrow, but to face backwards.

What the government failed to mention was the fact that all the so-called Big 4 railway companies (Southern, LNER, GWR and LMS) were struggling before they were nationalized in 1945.  LNER never made a profit.  It is impossible for an enterprise that serves the public interest, such as a publicly-owned railway, to turn a profit. They are public enterprises. Such enterprises are necessary for the greater good of the nation because they stimulate the economic growth of which Hayek and his disciples claim to be in favour. Publicly-owned enterprises are therefore  too important to be left to the devices of the market. As we have seen with rail privatization, the situation is chaotic: there are multiple train operating companies, a separate rail infrastructure company and at least 3 different regulators, which includes the Department for Transport.

Material wealth underpinned this notion of the individual and the human being was magically transformed into a rational calculating machine free only to make money and consume commodities. This is best illustrated by Adam Curtis’s examination of Nash’s game theory and its employment in the neoliberal project in his documentary, The Trap – What Happened to our Dream of Freedom? (BBC2, 2007). In the film he says that the theory was employed by the West during the Cold War. It produced the so-called theory of ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’, which was a sort of ‘who blinks first gets annihilated” game. Nash’s theory also filtered into the sphere of economic thought and resonated with Hayek.  It was posited that human beings are irrational beings that act only in their own self interest and that people need to be given targets to acheive that will eventually become benchmarks. In Hayek’s grand vision there is no room for altuism. There is no alternative (TINA). One of the cornerstones of neoliberalism is its insistence on personal responsibility

Freedom to order our own conduct in the sphere where material circumstances force a choice upon us, and responsibility for the arrangement of our own life according to our own conscience, is the air in which alone moral sense grows and in which moral values are daily recreated in the free decision of the individual. Responsibility, not to a superior, but to one’s own conscience, the awareness of a duty not exacted by compulsion, the necessity to decide which of the things one values are to be sacrificed to others, and to bear the consequences of one’s own decision, are the very essence of any morals which deserve the name.

Nietzsche would question the use of the word “morality” here. He said “morality is the herd instinct of the individual”. Morality is imposed on others by those who dishonestly claim that they have some form of moral authority or a superior framework of morals to the Other.

The Tories were in the electoral wilderness for 13 years. During this time they had 4 leaders, 3 of whom offered little different to the standard Hayekian formula that had been fused with romanticism (Hague’s Save the Pound campaign slogan). The election of David Cameron in 2007 was portrayed as a break with the past. He was a fresh-faced old Etonian with some blue blood in his veins. In spite of his evident poshness, Cameron was immediately compared to Blair but the comparison relied solely on the fact that they were both relatively young when they became party leaders. Blair had no philosophical anchor unless you count Giddens. Indeed Blair claimed to be “beyond ideology”. He was neither right nor left (sic).

There is no such confusion with the Tories, they are right wing. But Cameron

A is A

had to make some kind of break with the past. Hayek was deemed too old fashioned; too closely associated with the Thatcher years. More importantly, they were swept along by the tide of  libertarian thinking in the United States. These libertarians were searching for a new ‘philosopher’ to help them solve the economic mess that they and their associates in the banking and finance sector had got us into. They looked for a new way of justifying their attacks on the poor. So with nary any hesitation, they turned to Ayn Rand.

Last year, I was watching Newsnight, I don’t remember the exact month but they were running an item on Rand. If I remember correctly, Douglas Carswell,  MP for Clacton, whom I had never heard of at the time, came on to talk about her.

That was the first sign of what was to come.

I also noticed that Rand was being talked about more in the quality press. There was talk of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie making a film based on Atlas Shrugs. Pitt and Jolie are self-confessed fans of Rand. There are others too ranging from Oliver Stone to Ronald Reagan. In April of last year, Carswell penned this blog.

Rand ’s ideas are back.  Or more accutrately, Rand’s ideas never went away.  They were simply ignored by that leftist elite that presides over our culture and our institutions.  But now the internet means all those quangocrats, bogus academics and Guardianistas no longer call the cultural shots like they did.

The left are going to hate it.

Not just the left but anyone with a shred of humanity in their soul, Doug. Carswell talks of a “leftist elite” but what is this “leftist elite”?  He assumes that because the UK hasn’t fully embraced the authoritarian libertarianism of Hayek et al, then the country is dominated by these “leftist elites”. To be sure, this is a phrase that Carswell has borrowed from the lexicon of the US Right where Rand is still very big business. Carswell also ignores the fact that his own party, the Conservatives is a party full of elitists – many of them are millionaires and sit in cabinet (there’s 22, count them).

Rand, like Hayek, placed the individual at the centre of her philosophy. The Noble Soul was the habitus for her ideas of rational self-interest or, as I would suggest it be called, rationalized  selfishness. This selfishness was further rationalized as ‘freedom’. For Rand, freedom could only be achieved through unbridled laissez-faire capitalism which she described as “the unknown ideal”.

When I say “capitalism,” I mean a full, pure, uncontrolled, unregulated laissez-faire capitalism—with a separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.

The sudden fetishization and appropriation of Rand’s philosophy by some Conservatives is odd. On the surface, there is little to choose between Hayek and Rand. In both cases, the arguments against collectivized activity by Hayek and altruism by Rand ignore the complexities of human existence which reduces humanity to its most bestial level; an unfeeling lump of flesh that only has the capacity for making money . Emotions, community and family ties, empathy, sympathy and kindness are all erased by Rand. If one should show kindness to another, she would argue, then it is done entirely out of self interest. She does not say why.  Regarding emotions, she wrote,

Emotions are the automatic results of man’s value judgments integrated by his subconscious; emotions are estimates of that which furthers man’s values or threatens them, that which is for him or against him—lightning calculators giving him the sum of his profit or loss.

This is a rather strange rationalization of emotions, which are in themselves, hard to pin down.  What this passage certainly reveals to us is Rand’s coldness. Perhaps it is because she thought of relationship with other people as a means to an end. So cold was she that she rationalized emotions as products in a system of exchange, profit and loss. Her coldness is further revealed in her pronouncements on humour.

Humor is the denial of metaphysical importance to that which you laugh at. The classic example: you see a very snooty, very well dressed dowager walking down the street, and then she slips on a banana peel . . . . What’s funny about it? It’s the contrast of the woman’s pretensions to reality. She acted very grand, but reality undercut it with a plain banana peel. That’s the denial of the metaphysical validity or importance of the pretensions of that woman. Therefore, humor is a destructive element—which is quite all right, but its value and its morality depend on what it is that you are laughing at. If what you are laughing at is the evil in the world (provided that you take it seriously, but occasionally you permit yourself to laugh at it), that’s fine. [To] laugh at that which is good, at heroes, at values, and above all at yourself [is] monstrous . . . . The worst evil that you can do, psychologically, is to laugh at yourself. That means spitting in your own face.

It is arguable that Rand had no sense of humour because it does not figure in the calculus of profit and loss.

Ayn Rand has been portrayed as a philosopher. Her philosophy, which she named Objectivism, has become the template for those who are either unfamiliar with Hayek or have been persuaded to read her fiction because it is supposed to be some sort of rite of passage.  It is possible to argue that Rand was deeply misanthropic, seeing only the potential for making money and rejecting human complexities as an almighty inconveniences – which she categorically ignored. She once said,

Money is the barometer of a society’s virtue.

It is not clear what she means by the word “virtue” but she employs the word in the title of her book The Virtue of Selfishness. When Rand died her followers placed a wreath in the shape of a 6 foot high dollar sign beside her grave. It was an oddly pertinent symbol of her cupidity, though her supporters thought otherwise. Here she declares her selfishness

I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.

Other people are simply there for their usefulness. Not because there is any desire for companionship or anything like it. Rand had no use for companions. She had disciples. She was a cult leader.

It is easy to see where phrases like “socialized medicine” come from too,

Socialism may be established by force, as in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics—or by vote, as in Nazi (National Socialist) Germany. The degree of socialization may be total, as in Russia—or partial, as in England. Theoretically, the differences are superficial; practically, they are only a matter of time. The basic principle, in all cases, is the same.

The alleged goals of socialism were: the abolition of poverty, the achievement of general prosperity, progress, peace and human brotherhood. The results have been a terrifying failure—terrifying, that is, if one’s motive is men’s welfare.

Of course this presupposes that capitalism has never been responsible for countless deaths, the loss of liberties or the imposition of an authoritarian regimes that were wholly supportive of the idea of unfettered capitalism as a ‘cure’ for all ills. I am thinking here of Pinochet’s Chile.

As this article from Mother Jones suggests, the world of Rand is an upside down one. In an deliberate inversion of logic, Rand’s thesis is that the rich and powerful are the oppressed, while the poor, the vulnerable and the low-waged – whom she labelled “looters” and “moochers” – are the oppressors. It is now easier to recognize the source of the coalition’s policies in relation to those on the lowest income scales. Those who receive state welfare benefits (including those on Disability benefits) have been consistently painted as “scroungers” regardless of their circumstances. The Tory press has been at the forefront of this war against the subaltern classes by printing a drip-feed of stories about “chavs”, “dole cheats” and so on. They have acted as the Conservative Party’s unofficial information service. It is arguable that the only reason the Conservatives have adopted Rand’s philosophy is to legitimate selfishness and greed. Rand’s ideas provide and instant justification to the false premise that the poor and the unemployed are stealing money directly from their pockets through taxation.

A better world is out there.

Bibliography

Duggan, L (2003). The Twilight of Equality? Neoliberalism, Cultural Politics and the Attack on Democracy. Boston: Beacon Press

Gilbert, J (2008). Anticapitalism and Culture. Oxford: Berg

Hayek, F. A. (1983). The Road to Serfdom, London: Routledge Kegan Paul

Nietzsche, F (2008). Beyond Good and Evil. Cambridge University Press

Rand, A (1975). The Romantic Manifesto. London: Signet

Rand, A (1964). The Virtue of Selfishness. London: Signet

Filmography

Curtis, A (2003). The Trap – What Happened to our Dream of Freedom? (BBC2)

UPDATE: 30/1/11 @ 0102

Tidied up blog and made some clearer connections

UPDATE: 23/2/11 @ 1957

Made some additions to the text and did some further tidying up.

Leave a comment

Filed under Government & politics, Ideologies, Society & culture

The Conservative Party Manifesto and the Ayn Rand connection

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.

As an Ayn Rand fan, I was touched to see this tasteful piece of merchandise, brought to you by that master blogger Tory Bear.

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!

UPDATE:

Desperate Dan claims another “page from The Plan” has become policy.

2 Comments

Filed under Government & politics