Would Ayn Rand Be De-Selected?

I remember when Atlas Shrugged was published in 1957. In the  college dorm of my Jesuit University (St. Louis University) the book was passed about by all the business majors who decided the novel was better than the bible (not that Catholics ever read the Bible!). I attempted to read the book but couldn’t make it beyond the first page. Talk about ‘gag me with a spoon.’

I recently read about the novel (again) in a short and entertaining piece written by Henry Meininger,  the publisher and editor (of all things!) The Berkshire Home&Style.  This is a free give-away publication in western Massachusetts, a  magazine “of home and good living”…I kid you not! Writing about Atlas Shrugged in his magazine shows you where Henry is coming from.

With all the talk by Paul Ryan, who made the novel required reading for his paul_ryanCongressional staff, I picked up the 1,168 page novel over the weekend and attempted to re-read the book. It is easily the worst novel I have ever read.

The central focus of the novel is a 59 page oration by the super-hero, John Galt. He sums up Ayn Rand’s philosophy in that speech. As Meininger writes, Rand (Galt) expounds on every conceivable aspect of human endeavor, much of it in conflict with itself, all of it dedicated to the proposition that selfishness is mankind’s salvation; charity and compassion is for losers. John Galt ends his oration with …”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.”

Bennett Cerf, Meininger points out, published the book back in ’57, wanted the 59 pages cut but Rand randtold him, “Would you cut the Bible?” (yes, if it was written like this crap.) Cerf, I understand, had the good sense to tell her, “I find your philosophy abhorrent.” (But not the good sense NOT to publish the novel.)

Well, that book made (and continues to make) millions, and it has none-literate loyal fans like Paul Ryan (a nice Catholic boy) and aging and ageless former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan (a nice Jewish boy.)

A review in  The New York Times Review of October 29, 2009, Meininger says, compared Rand’s thinking to Friedrich Nietzsche. “Rand’s inclusion of businessmen in the ranks of Ubermenschen helps to explain her appeal to free-marketeers. At bottom, her individualism owes much to Nietzsche.” Rand denied any influence, saying only that Nietzsche ‘beat me to all my ideas.'”

Nietzsche ended up in an insane asylum. Rand founded a cult, the Atlas Society,  found herself a young lover, and lived to a grand old age never doubting her view of the world. Now we have Paul Ryan, Chairman of the House Budget Committee, and VP candidate, carrying a torch for Ayn and her financial philosophy.

If the Republicans win, my guess is that the Peace Corps will be the first agency  they will downsized. The Republicans will protect the military and the wealthy and go after the soft underbelly of the federal government, agencies like the Peace Corps. After all, the Peace Corps helps people! And that, in their view, is certainly the wrong way to run a government.

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  • I remember reading “Atlas Shrugged” as a freshman at CU Boulder in 1959. I loved the arrogance and the defiance and all the adventure that warmed a co-ed imagination. But I was a co-ed and it slowly dawned on me that there were few women in the novel. And those that were there, acted like men. Most importantly, there are no children in Ann Rand’s world. None. In Ann Rand’s world, everyone was sexually active, evidently sterile, but otherwise healthy and in the bloom of young adulthood. Dependency was scorned, because no one was dependent.

    Pregnant women, babies, children, sick people, old people were all erased from Ann Rand’s world. Which of course, is exactly what Paul Ryan’s budget would do for our world.

    Still, wild sex without consequences in the beautiful Rocky Mountains was at times a difficult illusion to give up!

  • Everybody loves a comic book! I did when I was 15 and I read Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, and the short, unreadable one, whazzit called, I Robot or something?
    Hahaha, this stuff is the mother of all dreck. And it’s evil, too! Then I got to college and realized there were clubs, the Objectivist clubs, dedicated to promoting this stuff. And they had members. People who were adults! I remember that as one of those moments when it began to dawn on me that…oh s—!!!!…somebody will believe anything. And sometimes lots of them.
    Rand’s economic model has basically been enacted in her native Russia by Putin and the oligarchs. ‘Who is John Galt?’
    He’s your daddy!!

  • Tut-tut Joey, “women …..who acted like men.” The curtain is lifted there is a clash of genders.

    I really don’t cre what Paul Ryan reads. He is the only person in the US Congress who understands the national budget, which the Democrats have failed to provide in four years, the national deficit and the national debt. Fortunately he is the Chairman of theBudget Committee and is so because of his knowledge. Making government budgets “sustainable” (a word I truly abhor) does not mean cutting them out but insuring their future. I would assume anyone concerned about future viability of a needed program would understand this. Here in Europe they don’t talk aobut it but are cutting health care services like crazy to prop up their economies. Come see the doctors, nurses and old folk demonstrating in the streets about declining health care services.

  • The writing of Ayn Rand really turned my head when I first read Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead in the early 80s, when I was in my 20s.
    I attended some Objectivist meetings, where Ayn Rand fans discussed her books and ethos in depth.

    It was the first time that I’d read of the “ego” as a good thing, and I liked the idea. I still do. After all, we don’t have much more.

    Because of the way I interpreted her work, I still can’t think of many development workers as very different from sad-sacks whose egos have been squashed – to the betterment of none.

    AND I can’t see plastic faux-Greek adornments on buildings without thinking what a waste that is. Vive Paris’s Centre Pompidou!

  • Dear Leo,

    It probably is my “little girl brain,” but I don’t understand your admiration for Ryan. I thought that you argued the key to economic growth was debt. Did I miss something…maybe when I was playing with dolls.

  • Joey. I preach personal debt not government debt. But since consumers are still scared of incurring more debt my formula does not work. I applauded Obama when he pumped out federal funds to kick start a recovery and those were borrowed funds. However, after spending on one program, the Stimulus Plan, the equivalent amount of money we spent in 8 years of war in Iraq he did not achive the goals he set for himself. Th economy is limping along with a groth rate that will not cut thoes unemployment numbers. Time for a new approach. Enter Paul Ryan.

  • Again, you must excuse my “girly” brain; but, I thought that the economic collapse was caused in large part by inadequately secured consumer debt that was then sold and resold and when the consumer defaulted, mainly on first and second home mortgages, there was a cascading effect.

    When the buying power collapses in the private sector, then it is the government’s job to step in and spend money to put buying power back in the private sector as well as fund a safety net, that also puts buying power back into the hands of the consumer and thus the economy. Such influx of money creates demand in the private sector that “stimulates” the economy, and ultimately increases revenues to the government to “pay back” the money “borrowed” for the stimulus.

    Now, Ryan’s plan takes money out of the public and private sector.
    The latter by cutting the safety net and the former by drastically reducing government funding so demand collapses. It is the lagging consumer demand, that you have been lamenting low these many months.

    So, I guess I just don’t know how you can champion Ryan or Ayn, for that matter. Collapsing demand is the “new approach?”

    My, my, I think I have the vapors.

  • Great discussion going here! I must step in to defend Ayn Rand and ask what other 20th century woman philosopher are they reading in high school, that has become a best seller again a generation later? There is much more to her and the book and when you see that all she wrote about is in fact coming true in our choosing Collectivism over Sovereignty as our political and social path–she lived The Department of Homeland Security in Russia and predicted it for us, was trying very hard to wake us all up. She wrote a NOVEL with a PURPOSE! No wonder she’s so criticized in our age and mentality of wanting nothing but Art for Art’s sake.

  • Joey. YOu have not read my over 400 blogs on the cause of the “Great Recession.” The financial panic that led to the recession was not caused by non-payment of debt and specifically mortgages. he panic was caused by analysts who used their algorythms based on home prices to predict foreclosures that did not occur. The foreclosure rate in 2006, 2007 and 2008 was the historic 2% per year. Foreclosures did double to 4% in 2009 because 8 million people lost their jobs because of the financial panic caused by analysts using faulty algorythms.

    President Obama spent almost $1 trillion in 2009 to pump up the economy an amont euqal to what we spent for 8 years of war n Iraq. It did not produce the results he promised. In fact, the economy is “recovering” at a rate of growth less than our normal rate of growth.

    If you are in a hole the first thing to do is stop digging. Time for new ideas.

  • Leo,
    It was all a mirage? Based on “algorithms” that predicted foreclosures that did not happen? I do not follow. How were “brokers” going to make money on foreclosures?

  • Joey. The analysts use the wrong measure, housing prices, not mortgage performance to predict foreclosures. They viewed homes as investments that the investor would drop when the price went lower than the mortgage. The forgot that a home is first a place to live and second an investment. Believe it or not we destroyed our economy because we feared something that did not happen. Foreclosures did not rise until 2009 when people started losing their jobs because of the falling economy caused by erroneous analysis of mortgage backed securities. We shot ourselves in the foot.

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