I just started Ayn Rand Nation: The Hidden Struggle for America’s Soul by Gary Weiss. Thankfully, and I must have know this when I ordered it, it isn’t another biography. It’s about how Rand has gained so much influence in the exact areas that I spoke about, with some bitterness, in my review of Goddess of the Market – business and politics.
Ayn Rand Nation literally starts with Weiss wondering about why the assholes who wrecked the economy in 2008 were so damn selfish. He goes on to say, “Hey, who is this old woman with Alan Greenspan and the President?” So, he’s not going to try to do anything “balanced”: his plan is to chart out why Rand’s philosophy of greed and selfishness, an inversion of normal values (he says Western, but they’re not – altruism is as universal a human value as exists), is so powerful in actual government and economics. Not important to politically impotent libertarians, upset that we have driver’s licenses (true thing), but in one of the two major parties, and in all business.
I suspect we’ll get on fine, this book and I.
I just finished reading Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right by Jennifer Burns.
As I started to read it, I said I was concerned about its attempt to “balance”. Balance usually means the author won’t say what is obvious and true in order to placate someone, somewhere. After reading Goddess of the Market, I feel confirmed in this.
In particular, Burns doesn’t really talk about the American “right”. She sometimes touches on how awful they are, but only with the briefest of touches and the lightest of hands. So, she mentions “Birchers” without discussing the John Birch Society at all – specifically it’s brand of racism and sexism, co-founded by Fred C. Koch, the father of arch-conservative and profoundly racist, sexist assholes Charles and David Koch (names that should be familiar to anyone following current Republican politics). Likewise, the nativist, intensely racist America First organization is mentioned only as a libertarian organization.
Indeed, Burns barely touches on Rand’s intersection with conservative Republican thought. Burns, instead, focuses her attention on Rand’s association with libertarians. This has the effect of creating a straw man, since the libertarians aren’t in any positions of power and the Republicans definitely are. Even if you don’t have any ideological opposition to the Republicans, hiding Rand’s effect on Republican economic conservatives (such as Alan Greenspan or Timothy Geithner) is just a filthy lie.
Continue reading General review of my disappointment in Goddess of the Market by Jennifer Burns
Reading Goddess of the Market, it is calling back to my mind a previous reading of The Virtue of Selfishness: I find Objectivism very mystical.
Reason, to the Objectivist, is an ideal of Platonic dimensions. Objectivists are likely to regard this as an insult, given how they view Plato as the founder of “collectivism”.
A major problem that Objectivists is that reason is exceptionally difficult to define. In practice, when people talk about reason, they mean, “That which I prefer.” The preferred Objectivist slant is to render that A = A – reason is what reason is. While that might have flown in Aristotle’s time, nowadays? That’s just a plain old tautology that disguises the fact you don’t know what you’re saying.
Continue reading Ayn Rand is mystical with her Platonic use of “reason”
As Goddess of the Market reminds me, one of the key features of Atlas Shrugged dystopia is “corrupt businessmen” who buy favors from the government.
Corruption in these neocon philosophies has always struck me as interesting because they largely ignore it. Some of it is the inevitable distancing from reality that goes along with almost any philosophical endeavor. But despite the significance of corruption to real economics, as far as I know there is no theory of corruption.
So Objectivism doesn’t actually explain why a businessman would become “corrupt” other than personal venality . . . even though selfishness is a virtue. Some might see this as a contradiction. I certainly do.
Continue reading A few thoughts on corruption and neocon economics
I’ve started the book Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right by Jennifer Burns, which is a bio of Ayn Rand. The book focuses on her intellectual influence rather than her artistic influence because, as Burns notes, Rand’s artistic influence is non-existent. Mostly, the people who like her books don’t read for pleasure but as a political exercise.
Burns uses new papers largely unavailable to previous researchers to write the book, and she attempts neutrality. As a researcher who is looking to contextualize Rand’s work into Rand’s life, neutrality is desirable. But, in the end, I have trouble getting behind it.
Continue reading Starting Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right